The first-half winners of the Carolina League matched up on the 4th of July — a possible preview of the 2014 Mills Cup? — with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans besting the hometown Potomac Nationals, 4-2 before a reported crowd of 7,993.
The Pelicans boast the league’s second-best pitching staff, in large part because they don’t have to face the league’s best lineup (Myrtle Beach, natch). The P-Nats, however, are second as measured by the only stat that matters: runs scored (though they are second in strikeouts and third in HRs hit).
But as the old saw goes, good pitching beats good hitting. For three innings and a 1/3rd, burly lefthander Chad Bell was perfect against Potomac, setting down the first 10 batters he faced before Stephen Perez sliced a line drive down the left-field line for a clean double to break up the perfect game.
Alas, the one-out double wouldn’t equalize the 1-0 score that Myrtle established on the second pitch of the game by Dakota Bacus as leadoff man Chris Garia cleared the right field fence for his second HR of the season. Bacus, who had struggled with his command in his previous outing, righted the ship and found his groove to shut down the Pelicans through four innings.
But this is the best offense in the league, and in the 5th they got to Bacus for three runs, leading off with a double and closing out with a double and making him pay for a walk and a hit batsman with one out. At the midpoint, the Pelicans led 4-0.
Bell left after five innings and Potomac jumped on his replacement in the 7th, with Oscar Tejeda, Shawn Pleffner, and Randolph Oduber going back-to-back-to-back with singles to break up the shutout. Myrtle Beach left fielder threw strike to the press box but the netting blocked the throw and enabled Oduber to take second on the throw.
Khayyan Norfork plated the second and final run on a sacrifice fly that required Myrtle Beach centerfielder Garia to make what may have been the game-saving catch as he leapt while running back towards the warning track to snag a liner that if not caught was a definite triple and a possible inside-the-park job.
Instead, it went in the scorebook as an SF-8 with an RBI. After a scare when Will Piwnica-Worms was dropped and bloodied by a pitch that ricocheted off his helmet (he walked off the field under his own power, but left the game) Justin Miller struck out to the end the inning.
Potomac would go in order in the 8th and 9th innings to suffer their fourth straight loss and fall into third place in the C.L. North.
It’s faux doubleheader tonight, with a completion of the game suspended last Friday night scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and a seven-inning game to follow. Blake Schwartz (1-0, 6.43) will get the ball when the Pelicans come to bat in the 5th. Austin Voth (1-0, 0.69) is scheduled to pitch the second game, which will reportedly start 30 minutes after the first game is done.