Potomac sent nine men to the plate in the first two innings to rack up nine runs en route to a 10-1 win over the first-place Lynchburg, the third straight win for the Woodbridge nine.
Much of the damage was self-inficted. Hillcats thrower A.J. Holland walked the bases loaded to start the game, then gave up a one-run single to Jason Martinson and a two-run safety to Adrian Nieto. A wild pitch brought in the fourth run, a fourth walk ended Holland’s night after just six batters faced.
Veteran reliever James Hoyt got out of the first inning with a flyball, groundout and a strikeout. But the second inning was nearly a repeat of the first. A pair of walks sandwiched around a Jayson Werth single (you did know he was playing, right?) got the bases drunk and Jason Martinson sobered ‘em up with a three-run double.
Adrian Nieto doubled in Martinson, Kevin Keyes got a hometown single as the Hillcat third baseman waved at it and missed for an unruled error to move up Nieto and Caleb Ramsey capped the rally with sacrifice fly to left field.
After two it was 9-0.
The unfortunate side effect of the two crooked numbers was the time Robbie Ray spent cooling on the bench. After the four-run first, it didn’t seem to faze him as the 21-year-old struck out the side. But following the five-run second, his command wavered badly as turned in a Nuke LaLoosh inning of three walks and three strikeouts that ended his night early — the second time this month he was done after just three innings with seven strikeouts.
Colin Bates took over for Ray in the 4th got the win with four innings of scoreless relief, followed by single frames by Rob Wort and Richie Mirowski. After Hoyt, the Lynchburg ‘pen matched their counterparts five goose eggs, but the pressure will be on tonight’s Hillcats starter to go deep.
That’ll be the task for Ryan Weber (3-1, 2.61), with Sammy Solis (0-0, 1.50) making his third trip to the hill since missing 2012 after elbow surgery.
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With the end of the first half in sight (two weeks from tomorrow), the Carolina League North is in for yet another photo finish.
Lynchburg leads Potomac and Frederick by a half game but is in the driver’s seat in that they play those two teams for the next six games, then finish with 10 games against the Southern Division’s second- and third-place teams.
Frederick is playing last-place Wilmington tonight and tomorrow, but it doesn’t get easier for them as they play first- or second-place teams the rest of the way, including eight games against Potomac, though the last five will be at Harry Grove.
On paper, Potomac’s schedule is a little easier than Frederick’s but just five of the next 17 games are at the Pfitz. Whatever “break” they get from playing last-place Carolina for three on June 10-13 is more than offset than four games against the first-place Myrtle Beach.
Which leads us to Wilmington, which could sneak up on everybody by simply splitting with Frederick, then making hay against the Southern Division’s also-rans while the rest of the Northern Division plays each other.
Stay tuned to this space as we track the stretch run.