Bees move within a win of Midwest title
Giavotella homers in support of Caldera for 2-0 series edge
Johnny Giavotella can smell the champagne-soaked clubhouse already, but he and the Bees have been all business thus far.
Giavotella homered for the second straight day and Alex Caldera combined on a four-hitter as the Burlington Bees blanked the visiting South Bend Silver Hawks, 12-0, to take a 2-0 lead in the Midwest League Championship Series on Thursday.
Giavotella went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer and an RBI single to bring the Bees closer to the league title. Burlington will get a chance to end the chase Friday at South Bend.
"We just wanted to come out swinging a high stick and jump on top early," Giavotella said. "And that's what we did."
The Bees scored five runs in the first inning off South Bend starter Christian Beltre. David Lough led off the frame with a homer to right field and Clint Robinson plated a second run with an RBI grounder.
"Lough's home run especially set the tone for us," Giavotella said. "We built off that."
Nick Van Stratten hit an RBI double and Jamar Walton followed with a two-run homer to cap the inning.
"We're hitting on all cylinders," Bees manager Brian Rupp said. "It's a combination of everything. The offense been very good and everything is coming together at the right time."
Giavotella popped his second homer in as many games, a two-run drive to left in the second. He and Rupp said the power was a rare but welcome sight.
"It feels different. I'm not a power hitter, so to hit two homers on consecutive days is pretty big for me," said Giavotella, who hit only four all season.
"I was just trying to make good contact, have a good at-bat," he added. "It's very exciting to see the team come together, it's been an awesome experience."
"He came in swinging the bat. He's come in from the Draft and done a great job," Rupp said of his second baseman. "He's hit a couple over the boards, so that's nice to see. He's getting some big hits for us."
The Bees scored five more runs in the third on RBI doubles by Ryan Eigsti and Van Stratten, run-scoring singles from Giavotella and Jason Taylor and an RBI grounder by Mike Moustakas.
Caldera (2-0) held the Hawks to three hits and three walks over six innings for the win. He struck out six and lowered his postseason ERA to 1.64.
"He's been huge all year, he's had a great season," Rupp said. "It's been fun to watch."
Joe Augustine and Jacob Rodriguez each fired perfect frames before Zach Peterson allowed a fourth hit in a scoreless ninth to seal the win.
Rupp and Giavotella said the buzz in the clubhouse was building as they boarded a late-night bus to South Bend.
"I think there's kind of a good vibe in the clubhouse, the boys can see the end in sight," Rupp said.
"It's just totally exciting to be one win away," Giavotella added. "We can't wait to come out tomorrow and play the best we can and hopefully come out with a victory."
South Bend managed just two hits in their 6-0 Game 1 loss Wednesday.
"This is what we've worked for all year, especially the second half," said Rupp, who's never won a championship as a manager in nine seasons. "To be one win away, it's been exciting, but we need to focus."
Beltre (0-2) was tagged with five runs on six hits and recorded just two outs in the first to suffer the loss. Tom Layne allowed seven runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings.
Rupp said 18-year-old Kelvin Herrera will get the start in Game 3. It will be just the second start and fourth appearance for Herrera this season.
"He's only thrown three or four times, but he's done a great job," Rupp said. "If we get five innings, that'll be a good outing."
Danny Wild is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.