BY DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY — Marcus Nidiffer had to be sorry to see the Joliet Slammers leave town.
For the third consecutive game, the Traverse City catcher delivered at the plate, belting a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth Thursday to give the Beach Bums a hard-fought 6-4 Frontier League win over the Slammers.
"I knew it was gone when I hit it," Nidiffer said of his shot down the line in left.
Sean Gusrang, who doubled when Joliet shortstop Brad Netzel misplayed his towering pop-up to short left, scored in front of Nidiffer.
"It was a fastball away," Nidiffer said. "I just turned on it. I told myself going up there, 'Look, you've got a runner on second, you don't need anything special, just get it out there and let Goose (Gusrang) score and we win the game.'"
But he did do something special, ripping Rey Cotilla's 2-0 offering to give the Beach Bums a three-game sweep.
"He got in a good hitter's count," Traverse City manager Gregg Langbehn said. "If he (Cotilla) had thrown a ball on that pitch I was probably going to let (Nidiffer) swing 3-0 anyway, given the way he's swinging. He's seeing the ball well. He got a pitch up and he didn't miss it. That's what we tell these guys. Don't miss when you're in a good hitter's count."
Unlike the first two games in the series, which the Beach Bums won by a combined 27-2 count, this was a scratch and claw type comeback after Joliet seized a 3-0 lead in the third off starter Jacob Clem. Two of those runs came on a Abel Nieves homer in the first.
"Clem gave us a great outing," Nidiffer said. "He gave up two quick runs before we could blink, but when you sit back down in the dugout you think, 'It's Clem. He's going to give us a great outing and we're going to be right in this thing.'"
That's what happened.
Traverse City scored once in the third on Kyle Eveland's bunt single that Slammers third baseman Kyle Maunus threw away, allowing Eveland to reach third. He came in on Ryan Still's single.
Chase Burch then homered in the fourth to draw the Beach Bums to within one, 3-2.
Still doubled and scored on a Jose Vargas single to knot it in the sixth.
Then Gusrang, who nearly homered in a previous at-bat, put a charge in one that easily cleared the fence in right to give Traverse City a 4-3 lead in the seventh.
Joliet, however, used two walks and an error to tie the game in the eighth, setting the stage for Nidiffer's ninth-inning heroics.
"We always battle," Gusrang said. "We always feel we're in the game as long as we have outs left."
Traverse City, now 25 games over .500 at 53-28, pounded out nine hits, two apiece by Still, Gusrang and Eveland.
Matt Miller, who pitched the final two innings, earned the win. Miller came on with two on and no outs in the eighth. An error led to one run, but Miller shut the door after that.
Joliet had 10 hits, four by Netzel, who finished with eight in the series.
The win puts the Beach Bums 4.5 games up on Southern Illinois with 15 games to play. The Miners were rained out against Evansville on Thursday. That will not be made up.
The Beach Bums will now host River City, starting tonight. Scott Dunn (5-3, 3.34) will get the call for Traverse City, Liam Ohlmann (0-3, 10.97) for the Rascals.