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The smell of champagne and beer filled the visitors locker room inside Fifth Third Field shortly after Columbus defeated the Mud Hens 3-1 on Tuesday night.
The victory clinched the International League West Division championship for the Clippers (76-62) as the champions overtook the hallways in celebration.
Toledo (67-71) came up short in denying the Clippers from securing a playoff berth.
“Our guy threw well, but the other guy was a little better,” said Hens manager Larry Parrish, referring to Mud Hens starter Derek Hankins (7-14) and Clippers starter Zach McAllister (7-1).
The Columbus right-hander delivered the kind of timely outing his team needed to secure the division title. McAllister pitched seven solid innings, limiting the Hens to one run on four hits while striking out eight.
“He pretty much dominated us tonight,” Parrish said.
Hankins, a right-hander, lasted six innings, allowing three runs on six hits while fanning two and walking two.
The Clippers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Jesus Aguilar tagged his 19th home run of the season, a solo shot off Hankins with two outs in the first inning.
McAllister held the Mud Hens without a hit through four innings before Wade Gaynor broke up the no-hitter with a one-out bloop single to right. Gaynor ended up moving into scoring position when he stole second with two outs for his 12th stolen base of the season.
Gaynor’s offensive spark ultimately led to a tie ballgame after Manny Pina connected on a blooper to short-center for a run-scoring base hit that allowed Gaynor to score from second to make it 1-1.
The Hens threatened to take the lead in the sixth inning when they were able to get two men on base. Hernan Perez and Jordan Lennerton hit back-to-back singles.
However, Mike Hessman hit into a double play when Columbus second baseman Ryan Rohlinger caught a liner and flipped it to first base to catch Lennerton off the bag.
Columbus reclaimed the lead for good in the seventh by rallying for two runs on a single hit.
The Clippers took advantage of three walks during the frame.
After walking Carlos Moncrief to begin the inning, Hankins gave up a single to Matt Carson and walked Elliot Johnson to load the bases. Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish went to the mound and Hankins’ work for the night was done.
Ian Krol came in for Hankins only to walk Luke Carlin — the No. 9 batter in the lineup — with the bases jammed to bring home a baserunner and give the Clippers a 2-1 advantage.
Krol struck out leadoff hitter Francisco Lindor for one out and he was replaced by Evan Reed, who came in and gave up a run-scoring sacrifice fly to center by Ryan Rohlinger to make it 3-1.
The Hens never threatened to score another run the rest of the way.
Toledo will face Columbus today in its final home game of the season at Fifth Third Field. Left-hander Robbie Ray (6-3) will be on the mound for the Mud Hens.
Parrish expects the Hens to be ready to play.
“We’ve got [left-hander] Robbie Ray pitching and it would be nice to see him sort of get back on track and throw the ball well,” Parrish said. “We would like to finish up at home with a win.”