Hagerstown Falls To Savannah In Sally League Finals

The Sand Gnats pitchers stifled the Suns for a second straight night, shutting them out 2-0 to take the South Atlantic League Championship, three games to one.

Hagerstown actually outhit Savannah 6-2, but the difference was the walks. Losing pitcher Dakota Bacus gave up three in the space of four batters in the Savannah 4th to load the bases, then Savannah’s Stefan Sabol doubled to left to score the game’s only runs.

Bacus would finish with a line of two runs on two hits and three walks over four innings while striking out four. Ronald Pena followed him on the mound and delivered four perfect innings of relief: 12 up, 12 down with one strikeout.

Hagerstown’s best threat came in the third as Stephen Perez led off with a single to left and two infield hits loaded the bases with nobody out. Sand Gnat starter Stephen Matz escaped the jam by striking out Shawn Pleffner and “Help Me” Wander Ramos and inducing a popup from Mike McQuillan. The Suns 3-4-5 hitters would combine to go 0-for-11 with one walk and nine strikeouts.

Despite the Pena lockdown, Hagerstown would not get another runner into scoring position until the 9th, when Estarlin Martinez pinch-hitter Bryan Lippincott doubled with one out. The 21-y.o. outfielder 23-y.o. infielder would go no farther as Khayyan Norfork became the 13th Sun to whiff for the second out and Pedro Severino popped out in foul territory to end the game.

Savannah’s title is its first as an affiliate of the New York Mets. The Sand Gnats previous title was in 1996. Hagerstown has never won a championship since it joined the Sally League in 1993.

Burns, Jordan, Renda Named Nats’ Minors Players of the Year

The Washington Nationals have announced that Billy Burns and Taylor Jordan have been named the organization’s 2013 Player and Pitcher of the Year while Tony Renda will be the inaugural Bob Boone Award winner.

Burns and Jordan were teammates in Potomac for about a month before the latter began his unexpected and meteoric rise from High-A in April to the Majors in July. Burns was promoted in August and was a key cog in the Senators run to the Eastern League Finals that ended last night. Renda has been a stalwart in the Hagerstown Suns lineup, playing in 135 of 137 games in the regular season and all six in the postseason thus far.

Burns, who turned 24 in late August, was an All-Star for Potomac in both the midseason game in San Jose and the postseason all-league team. He hung a combined line of .315/.425/.383 in 121 games between High-A and AA with a whopping 74 steals in 81 attempts. Burns was originally drafted by the Braves coming out of high school in Marietta, GA but the diminutive speedster opted for college and played 154 games with Mercer University. He signed with the Nats after being drafted in the 32nd round in 2011, playing sparingly for Auburn before moving up to Hagerstown in 2012.

Burns broke out in 2012, returning to switch hitting after abandoning it in college, and hit .322 with “only” 38 steals in 113 games. If there’s a knock on Burns it’s that he’s a “slash and burn” type hitter that often gets caught on his front foot (H/T to Zach Mortimer) which could be troublesome because he has very little power to begin with.

Jordan came into 2012 as a question mark. He had his 2011 season cut short by Tommy John surgery and didn’t exactly light a fire in 2012, going 3-7 with a 5.13 ERA in 15 starts between Auburn and Hagerstown. Still, the first season back from TJ is generally considered a success simply if a player doesn’t reinjure himself and given his relative youth (24) and the promise he showed in 2011, he became part of this site’s M*A*S*H unit for the 2013 watchlist.

Instead, Jordan blew through two levels of the minors — going 2-1 with a 1.24 ERA win six starts for A+ Potomac, then 7-0 with an 0.83 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) for AA Harrisburg. After comically trying to pretend they weren’t, the Nats recalled Jordan on the last day in June. Jordan then went 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA in nine starts for the “Big Nats,” becoming one of two four farmhands to graduate (Anthony Rendon, Ian Krol, and Chris Marrero were the others).

Finally, the Nats have created a new honor — The Bob Boone Award, which goes to the player “who best demonstrates professionalism, leadership, loyalty, passion, selflessness, durability, makeup, intangibles and a tremendous work ethic.” No word on the requisite of “grit.”

As aforementioned, that honor went to Tony Renda, the Suns second baseman. Like Burns, Renda was a both a midseason and postseason All-Star. He led the Sally League with 43 doubles 99 runs scored while going .294/.380/.405 with 30 steals and 51 RBI. Renda was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 First Year Player Draft out of the Univ. California.

Friday’s News & Notes — Playoff Edition

Thunder Win 2013

Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Harrisburg Lost, 11-4 END OF SEASON N/A
Hagerstown Lost, 6-0 @ Savannah, 7:05 p.m. Bacus (1-0, 0.00) vs. Matz (5-6, 2.62)

Trenton 11 Harrisburg 4
• Karns (L, 1-1) 2⅔ IP, 4H, 5R, 5ER, 3BB, 2K, HBP, WP
• Grace 2IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 2K
• Hague 3-4, R, BB, RBI
• Burns 2-4, BB, SB

It’s a painful sight to see — the opposing team celebrating on your home field — but tip your caps to Trenton, who beat Harrisburg 11-4 to win the Eastern League Championship Series. They swept the two division champions by a composite score of 35-16 over six games. The Senators briefly led 1-0 after an RBI single by Justin Bloxom in the 1st, but an epic third-inning meltdown sealed the deal for the Thunder. Nathan Karns worked around walks in the 1st and 2nd innings but couldn’t get the third out in the 3rd, allowing six straight to reach base with two outs beginning with a hit batsman. A single (one run), wild pitch (2nd run), triple (3rd run), double (4th run), and a walk followed to chase Karns. Matt Swynenberg walked a pair to complete the five-run 3rd, then surrendered a two-run shot in the 5th. Harrisburg plated two in their half of the 6th to pull within four at 7-3 but Trenton piled on with another homer in the 8th and three more in the 9th. Harrisburg answered with one in the last of the 9th but it was way too little and way too late.

Savannah 6 Hagerstown 0
• Turnbull (L, 1-1) 5+ IP, 9H, 6R, 6ER, 2BB, 3K
• Harper 2IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 0K, 2-0 IR-S
• Lippincott 1-3, BB
• Pleffner 1-4, 2B

Gabriel Ynoa lived up to his billing as the Sally League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher, tossing seven scoreless innings as Savannah shut out Hagerstown, 6-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five Sally League Finals. The slender 20-year-old allowed just four hits and one walk, striking out five for the win. Suns pitcher Kylin Turnbull was touched for all six Sand Gnat runs on nine hits and two walks over five-plus innings. Bryan Harper and Justin Thomas combined for three innings of no-hit relief, but the offense, which threatened early with a pair of doubles in the first two innings, stagnated after Isaac Ballou’s two-out single in the 5th with nine up and nine down until Tony Renda reached on a two-out error in the 8th. Bryan Lippincott was only other Hagerstown batter to reach base twice, drawing a walk in the 1st and singling in the 9th.

Thursday’s News & Notes — Playoff Edition

Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Harrisburg Lost, 5-4 vs. Trenton, 7:00 p.m. Karns (10-6, 3.26) vs. Greene (8-4, 3.18)
Hagerstown OFF DAY @ Savannah, 7:05 p.m. Turnbull (6-5, 3.58) vs. Ynoa (15-4, 2.72)

Trenton 5 Harrisburg 4
• Cole 4IP, 7H, 1R, 0ER, BB, K
• Mirowski (BS, 1; L, 1-1) 1⅓ IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 2K
• Head 2-4, 2B, 2RBI
• Burns 1-3, 2R, 2BB, SB

The Senators are on the ropes after a 5-4 loss to the Thunder that gives Trenton a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Eastern League Championship Series. A.J. Cole walked just one and struck out just one, but labored through four innings (87 pitches) to scatter seven hits and allow just an unearned run in the 1st. Harrisburg took a brief 2-1 lead with single runs in the 4th and 5th innings. Trenton answered the first salvo with two in the bottom of the 5th to recapture the lead at 3-2, to which the Sens matched in the top of the 6th for a 4-3 Harrisburg lead. The Thunder plated the tying and game-winning runs in the last of the 7th as they capitalized on a pair of one-out walks with two singles and a slow roller to second. Harrisburg got two runners on with one out in the 9th with singles by Jeff Howell and Billy Burns, but neither Brian Goodwin nor Steve Souza Jr. could connect off Trenton closer Tommy Kahnle to send in pinch-runner Sean Nicol or Burns.

Hagerstown vs. Savannah — Game 3 Sally League Finals
The Sand Gnats achieved what the Senators could not: a split on the road to turn the series into a best-of-three at home. Tonight, Hagerstown faces the Sally League’s Pitcher of the year, 20-year-old Gabriel Ynoa, who won Game 1 in the Divisional Series and five of his last six starts in the regular season. Things don’t get any easier for Hagerstown after Ynoa, as Savannah has tabbed Steven Matz (2.62 ERA, 2.63 FIP) and former position prospect Jacob Kuebler (2.76 ERA, 3.16 FIP) as its Game 4 and 5 starters. Kylin Turnbull gets the ball for the Suns tonight, hoping to celebrate his 24th birthday with a “W.” The Suns have not announced potential starters for Games 4 and 5, but with Jake Johansen having made zero starts with less than five days’ rest this season and an reportedly injured Austin Voth, it’s likely to be two of the following three pitchers: Dakota Bacus, Ian Dickson, and Pedro Encarnacion.

Wednesday’s News & Notes — Playoff Edition

Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Harrisburg Lost, 8-2 @ Trenton,
7:05 p.m.
Cole (4-2, 2.18) vs.
Mitchell (0-0, 1.93)
Potomac Lost, 6-4 END OF SEASON N/A
Hagerstown Lost, 6-2 OFF DAY N/A

Trenton 8 Harrisburg 2
• Treinen (L, 0-1) 2⅔ IP, 4H, 5R, 5ER, 2BB, 3K, WP
• Gilliam 3IP, 2H, 1R, 0ER, 0BB, 3K
• Howell 2-2, 2B
• Bloxom 2-4, R, 2B

An early 2-0 Senators lead was erased with a five-run 3rd as the Thunder struck for an 8-2 win in Game One of the Eastern League Championship Series. Blake Treinen took the loss, charged with all five runs on four hits and two walks over two and 2/3rds innings. Matt Swynenberg stranded one in finishing the 3rd but gave up two of his own in the 4th as Trenton scored eight unanswered runs. Harrisburg mustered just six hits and drew three walks, with Justin Bloxom and Jeff Howell combining for four hits and hitting both doubles. The Senators went 1-for-8 with RISP and stranded eight.

Salem 6 Potomac 4
• Solis (L, 0-1) 3⅓ IP, 6H, 5R, 5ER, 2BB, 4K
• Dupra 3IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 2K, HBP
• Nieto 2-4, 2B, 3RBI
• Sanchez 2-4, 2B, BB

The P-Nats broke out for playoff highs of four runs and 10 hits, but the Red Sox would not be denied, winning their 11th straight game by a 6-4 count to sweep the 2013 Mills Cup. It’s the first Carolina League Championship for the franchise since 2001. Sammy Solis was the losing pitcher, knocked for five runs on six hits and two walks over three and a 1/3rd innings while striking out four. The Adrians Nieto and Sanchez both went 2-for-4 with a double with Nieto driving in the first three Potomac runs — all with two outs.

Savannah 6 Hagerstown 2
• Voth (L, 1-1) 1⅓ IP, 1H, 3R, 3ER, 3BB, 0K
• Meza 2⅔ IP, 2H, 0R, BB, 5K, 2-1 IR-S
• McQuillan 3-4, R
• Lippincott 2-4, 3B, 2RBI

Savannah evened the Sally League Championship Series at 1-1 with a 6-2 win over Hagerstown. The Sand Gnats scored three in the 2nd, two in the 5th, and one more in the 8th before the Suns were able to respond with a pair in the last of the 8th. Austin Voth, who left the game with an undisclosed injury (redundant, yes, I know) got the “L” and was dinged for the first three runs on three walks and one hit with no K’s over an inning and a 1/3rd. Mike McQuillan and Bryan Lippincott combined to go 5-for-8 with a run scored (McQuillan) and both RBI (Lippincott). The series resumes on Thursday in Georgia for Games 3 with Kylin Turnbull as the Hagerstown starter.
Roster moves: LHP Jake Walsh added to playoff roster; RHP Pedro Encarnacion removed from it.

Tuesday’s News & Notes — Playoff Edition

Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Harrisburg OFF DAY @ Trenton,
7:05 p.m.
Treinen (6-7, 3.64) vs.
Turley (11-8, 3.88)
Potomac OFF DAY @ Salem, 7:05 p.m. TBD vs. Cuevas (8-9, 5.05)
Hagerstown Won, 6-1 vs. Savannah,
7:05 p.m.
Voth (1-0, 3.38) vs.
Lugo (2-2, 2.53)

Harrisburg @ Trenton — Game 1 Eastern League Finals
Great pitching can cover up a very poor offense. Same thing goes for Harrisburg, too. Of course, that’s all fine and dandy in the long run but the playoffs are about who’s hot now. Trenton just swept the league’s best team in the regular season (86 wins, #2 offense, #2 pitching), which ought to fit that description. The Senators and Thunders played nearly to a draw, Harrisburg taking five of nine, but Trenton winning two of three in their final series at home. Apparently, rest means more than rust, as both teams are opting for a pitcher who didn’t appear in the first round and last pitched nine days ago.

Potomac @ Salem — Game 3 Carolina League Finals
The P-Nats were the only team in the Carolina League with a winning road record (37-32) and they did sweep the Red Sox in a road series (in April). So yes, there’s a chance and it may even be better than 3,720 to 1… if the team can snap out of its offensive funk. Tonight’s Game Three starter for Potomac continues to be the indecisive “TBD,” though the smart money is for the team to stick to its rotation with Sammy Solis.

Hagerstown 6 Savannah 1
• Johansen (W, 1-0) 5IP, 3H, 0R, 2BB, 2K
• Dickson (H, 1) 3IP, 1H, R, ER, 2BB, 3K
• Renda 1-3, 2B, 3RBI
• Ramos 2-4, R, 2-2B
• Lippincott 2-4, R, RBI

Nats top draft pick Jake Johansen was reactivated and was none the worse for wear, tossing five shutout innings for a 6-1 Suns win over the Sand Gnats in Game One of the Sally League Cahmpionship Series. Johansen allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out two to pick up the win. Tony Renda drove in the first three Hagerstown runs with an RBI groundout in the 3rd and a two-run double in the 5th while “Help Me” Wander Ramos and Bryan Lippincott both went 2-for-4 to lead the Suns offense, which put the game away with a three-run rally in the bottom of the 8th.
Roster moves: RHP Jake Johansen added to the playoff roster; LHP Jake Walsh removed from it.

Sunday’s News & Notes — Playoff Edition

Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Harrisburg Won, 5-1 OFF DAY N/A
Potomac Lost, 5-3 vs. Salem,
6:05 p.m.
Mooneyham (0-3, 13.50) vs.
Aguilera (9-6, 4.23)
Hagerstown Won, 6-2 OFF DAY N/A

Harrisburg 4 Erie 1
• Ray (W, 1-0) 6⅔ IP, 3H, R, ER, 2BB, 6K
• Mirowski 2IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, K
• Souza 4-4, 2R, 3-2B, 2RBI, 2SB
• Burns 2-5, R, SB

Robbie Ray pitched into the seventh while Steve Souza Jr. racked up seven total bases in a 5-1 win over Erie that breaks the Terry Byrom curse and puts Harrisburg into the Eastern League Championship Series for the first time since 2002. Ray went six and 2/3rds innings, letting in just the lone Seawolves run on three hits and two walks while striking out six. Souza went 4-for-4 with three doubles, two runs scored, and two stolen bases. Harrisburg never trailed, scoring twice in the 1st and once in the 2nd to take a 3-0 lead then added two more in the 7th for the game’s final tally. Next up: Games 1 and 2 in Trenton on Tuesday.

Salem 5 Potomac 3
• Purke (L, 0-1) 5+ IP, 6H, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 4K
• Rauh 2IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 4K
• Dykstra 3-5, RBI
• Keyes 2-4

Too little, too late Last Night In Woodbridge.

Hagerstown 6 West Virginia 2
• Turnbull (W, 1-0) 5IP, 6H, 2R, 2ER, 2BB, 3K
• Pena (S, 1) 4IP, 1H, 0R, BB, 3K
• Ballou 4-5, 3R, 2B
• Renda 3-4, R, 2RBI, BB

Hagerstown broke open a one-run game with a three-run 6th that secured a 6-2 win and the first trip to the Sally League Finals for the Suns as Nationals affiliate. Every starter hit safely, led by leadoff man Isaac Ballou, who went 4-for-5 with a double and three runs scored in a 16-hit overload on Power pitching. Kylin Turnbull allowed both West Virginia runs on six hits and two walks to get the win. Ronald Pena finished the game with four scoreless innings of relief, giving up a hit and a walk. The Finals begin tomorrow as the Savannah Sand Gnats visit for Games One and Two on Monday and Tuesday.

Saturday’s News & Notes — Playoff Edition

Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Harrisburg Won, 4-1 vs. Erie,
7:00 p.m.
Ray (5-2, 3.72) vs.
R. Garcia (2-4, 4.79)
Potomac OFF DAY vs. Salem,
6:35 p.m.
Purke (5-3, 4.43) vs. TBD
Hagerstown Lost, 6-3 (11 inn.) vs. West Virginia,
7:05 p.m.
Turnbull (6-5, 3.58) vs.
Heredia (7-3, 3.05)

Harrisburg 4 Erie 1
• Karns (W, 1-0) 7IP, 5H, 0R, 0BB, 8K
• Herron (SV, 2) 1IP, 0H, 0R, BB, K
• Goodwin 2-3, R, BB, RBI, SB
• Bloxom 2-4, 2B, RBI

Nathan Karns shut down the Seawolves for seven innings as the Senators won, 4-1 and took a 2-1 lead in the ELDS. Karns walked none and struck out eight and needed just 79 pitches to lay the seven goose eggs atop the scoreboard. The shutout was broken up in the 8th when Christian Garcia walked two of three batters faced and Erie connected for a two-out RBI single off Richie Mirowski. Tyler Herron closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth. Brian Goodwin reached base three times with a walk and two singles and scored on an RBI double off the bat of Justin Bloxom (2-for-4) as Harrisburg notched seven hits, including a solo HR by Jason Martinson.
Roster move: RHP Christian Garcia reassigned from Potomac to Harrisburg for MLB Rehab.

Potomac — OFF DAY
After eliminating the 2012 Mills Cup Champs, Potomac starts its quest for its third Carolina League championship as a Nats affiliate with two games against Salem. The Red Sox come to Woodbridge as winners of 19 of their last 22 games — a streak that includes seven wins against the defeated playoff teams, Lynchburg and Myrtle Beach. During the regular season, the P-Nats won 10 of 18 games, but haven’t played the S-Sox since late July, when the two teams split ten games over a three-week period. Matt Purke* who beat Salem for his first High-A win on July 29, is the probable for Potomac but Salem has yet to show its hand as to which of its remaining three starters — Mike Aguilera (9-6, 4.23), Heri Quevedo (6-5, 4.18), William Cuevas (8-9, 5.05) — will oppose him in Game One.
* Psst… new PA guy: it rhymes with turk, not turkey.

West Virginia 6 Hagerstown 3 (11 inn.)
• Encarnacion 4+ IP, 5H, 2R, 1ER, 2BB, 5K
• Bacus 4IP, 1H, 1R, 0ER, BB, 4K, 2-1 IR-S
• Thomas (L, 0-1) ⅓ IP, 1H, 2R, 2ER, BB, K
• Harper ⅔ IP, 2H, R, ER, 0BB, K, 3-2 IR-S
• Ballou 2-3, 2R, 2B
• Renda 3-5, 2B

Josh Bell powered West Virginia’s 6-3 win with a two-run double in the 11th to force a deciding Game Three in Hagerstown tonight. The switch-hitting outfielder had four RBI total, tying the game in the 5th with a sacrifice fly and again in the 7th with an RBI groundout. This was in stark contrast to the Suns, who went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left on seven men. Isaac Ballou (2-for-3), Tony Renda (3-for-5), and Pedro Severino (2-for-4) scored all three runs and combined for seven of the eight Hagerstown hits. Pedro Encarnacion went the first four innings and allowed the first two Power runs on five hits and two walks while fanning five. Dakota Bacus and Gilberto Mendez combined for six innings of one-run relief before the fateful 11th. The final frame began with Justin Thomas for three batters and one out, Cody Davis for one batter (single), and ended with Bryan Harper giving up the bases-loaded double to Bell (could have been worse: the runner from first was gunned down on a 7-6-2 play at the plate) and a single before striking out the final batter.

Friday’s News & Notes — Playoff Edition


Team Yesterday Today Probable Pitchers
Harrisburg Lost, 2-1 (12 inn.) vs. Erie, 7:00 p.m. Karns (10-6, 3.26) vs.
Crouse (9-10, 4.47)
Potomac Won, 3-2 OFF DAY N/A
Hagerstown OFF DAY vs. West Virginia, 7:05 p.m. Encarnacion (10-9, 3.58) vs.
Kuchno (9-5, 4.01)

Erie 2 Harrisburg 1 (12 inn.)
• Hill 6IP, 5H, 1R, 0ER, 2BB, 2K, HBP
• Grace 2⅓ IP, 1H, 0R, BB, K
• Swynenberg (L, 0-1) 1⅔ IP, 3H, 1R, 0ER, 0BB, K
• Goodwin 3-5, OF assist at 3B
• Howell 0-3, SF, RBI

Back-to-back two-out singles plus an error plated the gamewinner in the 12th as the Seawolves edged the Senators, 2-1 to tie up the ELDS at 1-1. Matt Swynenberg took the loss, giving up three hits total over an inning and 2/3rds. Starter Taylor Hill went the first six, allowing an unearned run on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Both Erie runs were unearned, however the home team outhit the visitors 10-5. Brian Goodwin went 3-for-5 but the sole Harrisburg run scored in the 8th, as Sean Nicol led off with a double then took third on a wild pitch and came home a Jeff Howell sacrifice fly.
Roster moves: C Brian Jeroloman placed on the DL; C Cole Leonida reassigned from Potomac.

Potomac 3 Lynchburg 2
• Schwartz 8IP, 8H, 2R, 1ER, 0BB, 5K
• Holt (W, 1-0) 1IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 0K
• Keyes 2-5, R, 2-2B
• Piwnica-Worms 1-3, R, BB, RBI

Blake Schwartz accepted the challenge, while the “new guy” delivered the walkoff Last Night In Woodbridge.

Hagerstown — OFF DAY
Pedro Encarnacion, Hagerstown’s leader in innings pitched, gets the start against West Virginia, which sends its workhorse John Kuchno. The Suns lead the best-of-three series 1-0 and will host the deciding game tomorrow night… if they don’t clinch tonight.

Last Night In Woodbridge

No pressure, Blake, but we kinda need you to go all nine innings tonight.

OK, so maybe nobody said that to the Potomac ace last night, but this morning, that’s what P-Nats fans are thinking after last night’s 2-1 win in 14 innings over Lynchburg. At least this one.

Potomac rallied with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to tie it, as Randolph Oduber grooved a 1-1 pitch into the right-center gap to score pinch-runner Will Piwinica-Worms all the way from first base. Michael Taylor won it with a two-out RBI single in the 14th, ending the four-hour-and-30-minute marathon.

But where the game was really won was in the nine shutout innings that the quintet of Travis Henke, Colin Bates, Robert Benincasa, Rafael Martin, and Brian Dupra turned in. As a group, they walked four, struck out eight and allowed just four hits. As noted yesterday, these guys had been worked hard in the final week of the season but you’d have never known it if you seen ’em in action last night, Colin Bates in particular (nine up, nine down in innings seven through nine).

Both teams, truth be told, pitched a hell of a game. Sammy Solis nearly lost despite giving up just a run over five innings on three hits and a walk (care to guess which was the run that scored?) while fanning five.

Lynchburg’s Greg Ross struck out 10 P-Nats, primarily by pitching backwards: throwing change after change then spotting an average fastball once he’d gotten ahead. No doubt Hillcats fans are wondering why an almost 24-y.o. journeyman wasn’t asked to go an inning or two longer after giving up just two infield hits and a walk over six shutout innings.

As the lede suggests, Blake Schwartz takes the hill tonight for Potomac with a chance to advance to the Mills Cup Finals. Schwartz was 3-0 vs. the Hillcats during the regular season, including a pair of wins 10 days apart in July. He’ll be opposed by veteran southpaw Ryan Hinson, coincidentally, the opposing pitcher in Schwartz’s last two starts against Lynchburg.