After scoring just three runs in the previous 20 innings, the Potomac Nationals tripled that output in one game in a wild 9-6 win over Wilmington.
The offensive resurgence featured 12 hits, including three doubles, a triple, and a Justin Miller home run that bounced halfway up the LF light tower that served as an double exclamation point (a two-run shot, natch) as the P-Nats scored the last seven runs without an answer from the Blue Rocks.
The highlight of the night was the 7th inning, in which Potomac rallied from four down to score five. It began with a whimper, not a bang, as Randolph Oduber took one off the left ankle and had to leave the game in favor of Wilmer Difo. Michael Taylor followed with a rocket to right-center that easily pushed Difo to third.
A wild pitch pushed across Difo and moved up Taylor, but a shallow flyout by Miller and a strikeout by Cutter Dykstra left it up to cleanup man Jason Martinson. The two-time Carolina League Player of the Week delivered Taylor with double to dead center, the second in as many nights, for the fourth Potomac run.
Kevin Keyes continued his walking ways with his seventh BB of the homestand while Caleb Ramsey delivered the fifth P-Nat run with a single to left. Adrian Sanchez capped off the rally with two-run triple to right-center, reminiscent of Taylor’s shot six batters earlier.
Unfortunately, the comeback was made necessary by another uneven outing by A.J. Cole. The 21-year-old was torched for six runs on six hits and two walks and just three strikeouts. The latter matters because it’s his go-to when the going gets rough, and the escape route wasn’t there last night.
That’s because Cole couldn’t get his breaking stuff over enough to keep hitters honest. Too much gets made about velocity nowadays and it cannot be repeated too often: Even in single-A, a batter can hit a 95 m.p.h. fastball when he knows it’s coming.
Hence, a pair of two-run home runs that accounted for four of the six runs Wilmington hung on his pitching line, one preceded by a double, the other by a walk. He would be lifted with no outs in the sixth.
Tyler Herron came to relieve Cole and promptly loaded the bases with a walk and two singles. He cleaned up his own mess with help from Dykstra on a tapper to third for a force at home, then two strikeouts.
Greg Holt would get the win for his two innings and also a little help from the 23-y.o. third baseman as he raced across the diamond to corral a slow roller and gun down the Blue Rocks leadoff man to end the 8th inning, helping Holt strand two runners in scoring position.
Derek Self tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.
With the win, Potomac returns to second place, a game behind Lynchburg in the Carolina League North. Jayson Werth, who went 1-for-2 with a sharp single to center and threw out a runner at the plate as part of a 9-2 double play to end the 2nd, is expected to rehab for a second night.
The rubber match of the series will feature a matchup of “northpaws,” with Taylor Hill (3-1, 2.21) going for Potomac and Kyle Zimmer (0-2, 4.09) pitching for Wilmington.