LOUISVILLE - Eleven runs and an eight-run lead were not enough for the Toledo Mud Hens bullpen last night.
After building a 9-1 lead, Toledo watched an almost certain win dissipate when Louisville scored four runs with two out in the ninth against closer Franklyn German for a 12-11 victory in the opener of a four-game series.
German (2-1), who leads the International League in saves with nine, could not stop Louisville s ambitious comeback.
Toledo led 11-8 in the ninth when German walked two Bats with one out. After Ray Olmedo was retired on a long fly ball for the second out, Jermaine Clark smoked a 3-1 fastball deep into the right-field stands to tie the game. Two pitches later, Bats shortstop Felipe Lopez hammered a fastball into the stands in right-center to give Louisville the win.
While the Hens flogged starter Brandon Claussen early, the Bats had a more difficult time solving Toledo left-hander Andy Van Hekken. After allowing a run in the first, Van Hekken allowed just three hits over the next four innings.
Toledo manager Larry Parrish removed Van Hekken after the fifth inning when Louisville scored two runs against him. After Van Hekken departed with a 9-3 lead, the Hens bullpen gradually let Louisville back into the game.
The Bats scored three runs off reliever Brian Schmack in the seventh inning and two against Jason Karnuth in the eighth.
Toledo s Joe Vitiello continued his offensive tear. The first baseman went 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs. Vitiello has a hit in 14 of his last 17 games and entered the game with a .349 average.
Toledo trailed 1-0 when its bats awoke in the third.
The Hens tied the game 1-1 on a two-out RBI single by Marcus Thames. His hit plated Nook Logan who had singled with one out and stolen second. Two pitches later, Vitiello gave Toledo a 3-1 lead with a line-drive homer to left off Claussen.
Toledo broke away with six runs in the fourth. Rich Gomez opened with a single to center and moved to second when Claussen walked Brant Ust. Gomez scored when Warren Morris singled to right and Austin Kearns misplayed his liner for an error. Logan followed with a three-run homer to left to make it 7-1.
Claussen retired Eric Owens, walked Thames, and then surrendered a long two-run homer to Vitiello, his second of the game, to push the lead to 9-1.
NICHOLSON TO HENS: The Detroit Tigers have announced that Derek Nicholson was promoted from Double-A Erie to replace Jason Smith on the Mud Hens roster. Nicholson, who played for Toledo in each of the last two seasons, hit .215 in 19 games for the SeaWolves.