Perhaps it’s fitting that the only pitcher that was any good this afternoon got the win as Potomac outlasted Salem, 12-11 for their fourth straight win.
In a game where the two teams combined for 23 runs and 31 hits, only Wander Suero was anywhere close to effective as a pitcher with one run allowed on three hits over three and 2/3rds innings of relief. Sporting a 10.05/5.97/1.81 pitcher’s line in six previous appearances, you could say Suero’s performance was rather unexpected.
The two starting pitchers were both chased in the 5th, giving up 12 runs and 14 hits combined (surprisingly, no home runs) while walking seven. Potomac’s Ian Dickson opened the game with a four-pitch walk and was in a 2-0 hole within two batters after Salem’s Ryan Dent singled and UVA product Reid Gragnani tripled.
He would retire the next seven batters in a row, giving hope that perhaps it was just the proverbial “one bad inning.”
Dent, who went 5-for-6 on the afternoon, struck again for a double then Dickson loaded the bases with a walk and hit batsmen, then gave up another three-run extra-base hit, this time to journeyman backstop Carson Blair, who doubled to center to clear the bases and turn what had been a 5-3 lead for Potomac into 6-5 deficit.
On the other side of the scorebook, Salem’s Luis Diaz wasn’t much better. Staked to a 3-0 lead before he took the mound, he gave up one run in the first and four in the second, including a three-run triple to Tony Renda. Though he would come just one out of possibly qualifying for a win — Salem was leading 7-5 when he was lifted — it would become academic when the Salem firemen brought gasoline instead of water to put out the fire.
Potomac put the game away with three straight crooked numbers in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, highlighted by homers by Cole Leonida and Justin Miller in the 7th to take the lead for good at 10-8.
A pair of unearned runs in the 8th, which extended the P-Nat lead proved to be critical as Derek Self became the latest victim of the GBI curse, dinged for three runs on five hits in the 9th over an inning and a third total. Because Potomac was only leading 10-8 when he arrived with two outs in the top of the 8th, he still qualified for the save, his third of the season.
The two teams wrap up the four-game series tomorrow night. Potomac shoots for the sweep with RHP John Simms (0-3, 4.50) on the hill, while Salem looks to stop its five-game slide and return to .500 with RHP Pat Light (1-2, 5.06) getting the ball.
PENNANT RACE UPDATE:
Lynchburg, which leads the Carolina League North, also won to remain a ½-game ahead of Potomac and 2½ ahead of Wilmington, who will host Potomac on Tuesday through Thursday, then come to the Pfitz for three more this coming weekend. The Hillcats will not face another Northern divisional opponent the rest of the first half but will play six against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, who lead the Southern Division by 10½ games over Salem.