Thursday night, the Hitmen were leading the Bulldogs 6-0 after two innings, but the defending champions clawed back to force the game into extra innings, largely on the strength of a five-run sixth inning.
The Hitmen took the lead when Justin Gill scored in the top of the ninth — the second extra inning — but the Bulldogs replied with two runs in the bottom of the frame, both on passed balls, to get a 9-8 win in the opener of the best-of-five series.
Despite all the runs, there was some power pitching in the game, with Sean Cleary striking out 19 in going the distance for the win, and Hitmen starter Robbie Greene and reliever Lee Cose (who took the loss) combining for 17 Ks.
Game 2 in the series is 1 p.m. Sunday at Lions Park.
That will be followed by a 3 p.m. contest between The Bigs and 3 Cheers Pub Bud Light Dodgers. The Bigs leads that semifinal series 1-0 after a 9-2 win Thursday, a game that saw Peter Kavanagh hit a homer and drive in three runs for the victors, while winning pitcher Mark Power struck out nine in a game that was shortened to six innings by the mercy rule.