For six innings, things were looking real good for the Potomac Nationals. Taylor Jordan was dealing, retiring 10 batters in a row before Kevin Keyes made a kick save for an error in the top of the 4th. But back-to-back doubles with two out from Cutter Dykstra and Adrian Sanchez, plus a three-run rally in the next “ups” put Potomac ahead 5-0.
And then the wheels come off the bus in the 7th.
Christian Meza gave up a solo shot to the first batter he faced, ending a streak of 14 scoreless innings for Lynchburg. Then he allowed a single. And another single, then a two-run double. Four batters faced, none retired, three runs in.
Colin Bates was summoned to stop the bleeding, but the circling of the drain continued with an infield single, then an error on a sacrifice bunt to load the bases, then a walk to plate the fourth Hillcat run. Three batters faced, none retired, bases loaded.
Matt Grace became the third pitcher of the inning and for just a brief moment, looked like he was going to get the pitcher’s best friend — a double-play ball to Jason Martinson who stepped on second then fired to Keyes, but the inexperience of the newly converted 1B showed as he couldn’t keep his foot on the bag. Tie game at 5-5.
Grace struck out the next batter, but the Hillcats took advantage of the “extra” out to plate three more on a walk, an infield flare that Francisco Soriano turned an ankle getting to as it backspun in the grass between second and the mound, and a two-run single.
The fourteenth batter of the inning ended the misery with a grounder from Martinson to Blake Kelso, Soriano’s replacement at second.
Burns tripled to lead off the P-Nats response to the Lynchburg barrage, but stood there for the next three batters as the 10 m.p.h. breeze out to left gusted to 11 three times on whiffs by Michael Taylor, Martinson, and Keyes.
Seven of the 14 Potomac batting strikeouts came in the final three innings, killing a bases-loaded rally in the 8th and stranding another runner at third in the 9th, as Martinson tripled in hit-by-pitch Taylor for the sixth and final Potomac run.
It’s a Sunday matinee for the rubber match of the series as A.J. Cole takes the hill for the P-Nats against Mark Pope for the Hillcats.