Sammy Solis continued his latest rehab tour with another win, as the P-Nats edged the Hillcats 3-2 in the opener of a true doubleheader on Wednesday.
Solis, who went on the DL with back problems after just two spring-training appearances, consistently hit the low 90s on the gun while showing both his change and curve with mixed success. He didn’t pile up the Ks but induced weak contact — two of his first three singles allowed were of the ‘tweener flyball variety, falling short of outfielders that others may have caught.
He walked one in the first and worked around those two singles with a popup to short, a groundout, and the first of four strikeouts. Lynchburg scored the lone run off him in third when Lynchburg shortstop Daniel Castro singled to left followed by a Josh Elander double — a truly hard-hit shot down the left field line.
The offense, which was held to an infield hit by Tony Renda in the 1st and an opposite-field safety by Pedro Severino in the 3rd, gave Solis the lead with two in the 4th.
Oscar Tejeda led off with a double and took third on a single by red-hot Shawn Pleffner (.314BA in last 10G). Randolph Oduber was hit by pitch to load the bases, setting up Khayyan Norfork, who ripped a double to right to plate Tejeda and Pleffner. Estarlin Martinez whiffed and Oduber got caught in a rundown to kill the rally.
More importantly, Solis responded to the two runs with his first (and only) three-up and three-down frame in the 5th. After striking out the first batter in the 6th, he would give up back-to-back singles and be lifted for Robert Benincasa.
The Potomac closer stranded both runners with tapper to the mound and a popup to second after a long struggle with pinch-hitter Eric Garcia, who worked the count full and fouled off several pitches.
Renda and Tejeda would team up for an insurance run with a single and double respectively, and it would prove necessary as Benincasa, who has had just one outing with zero baserunners in 14 appearances, was touched for a run in the top of the 7th on two hits. He would get a key strikeout of Hillcat cleanup man Kevin Ahrens and after an intentional walk to lefty Levi Hyams, then retire DH David Nick on a liner to short for the inning’s third out and notch his 8th save.
The P-Nats would lose the second game, 3-2, which coupled with another Wilmington win (four in a row), reduces Potomac’s lead in the Carolina League North to two games over the second-place Blue Rocks. Lynchburg and Potomac conclude the five-game series tonight with a matchup of Sim(m)s as John (0-1, 3.68) takes the hill for the home team against Lucas (4-3, 4.07) for the visitors.