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DURHAM, N.C. -- After suffering two walk-off losses in the Governors' Cup Finals, the Durham Bulls returned the favor Thursday night.
Nathan Haynes ripped a one-out RBI double in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Bulls avoided elimination with a dramatic 3-2 win over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
It was another tense game in a series that is quickly shaping up to be a classic.
Eric Duncan's walk-off single in Game 1 gave the Yankees an 8-7 victory before Bernie Castro won Game 2, 1-0, with a 13th-inning base hit. But Haynes made sure the Bulls would be the last team standing in Game 3.
Elliot Johnson started the decisive rally with a one-out walk off Oneli Perez (1-1) before Haynes ripped an 0-1 offering into the gap in right-center field. Johnson raced around third and slid in safely at home without a throw, sending 2,552 Durham fans into a frenzy.
"It's nice that we can throw a walk-off win back at them," Johnson said.
Haynes had just missed a homer to center in the seventh, settling for a double when the ball hit off the top of the wall. A second two-bagger was all he needed in the ninth.
"It was a slider. I just got a good part of the bat on the ball," Haynes said. "Now we just have to come out, fight tomorrow and see what happens."
Bulls manager Charlie Montoya couldn't remember if this one went extra innings, as well.
"Was it nine or 10 [innings]? I don't even know," he said.
Durham starter Jeff Niemann came up with a clutch performance with his team's season on the line. Tampa Bay's first-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft allowed a run on five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
"When I took him out, I just wanted to give him a hug," Montoya said. "His last three outings have been lights-out. He's throwing every pitch for a strike, so nobody can look for anything."
Niemann was more or less matched, however, by Yankees southpaw Kei Igawa, who yielded two runs -- one earned -- on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 frames.
After Niemann exited in the seventh to a rousing ovation, the Durham bullpen surrendered the one-run advantage. Jeremy Cummings gave up a leadoff double to Justin Christian in the eighth and Heath Phillips yielded an RBI single to Juan Miranda two batters later, forging a 2-2 deadlock.
Christian went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two runs scored and three stolen bases for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, while Johnson proved to be Durham's offensive catalyst. He opened the scoring with a solo blast, his second of the postseason, in the second inning.
"I got a nice hanging curveball over the plate," Johnson said. "Got just enough of it to get it over the Monster [in left field]."
Johnson led off the fifth with a walk and was moving to second on Haynes' sacrifice attempt before Igawa threw late to first and fired the ball into right field. Running all the way, Johnson scored on the error to give the Bulls a 2-0 lead.
That was all Durham would muster until Haynes' big hit in the ninth, but it was enough to survive for another day.
"Our pitching staff and bullpen have been outstanding the last two days," Montoya said. "We're not swinging the bats too well, but the pitching has given us a chance. And that's why we won tonight."
Bulls closer Scott Dohmann (1-1) picked up the win after striking out four in 1 2/3 perfect innings.
Game 4 is Friday in Durham.
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.