Potomac turned to Whit Mayberry on two days’ rest and the 26-y.o. veteran responded with seven monster innings as the P-Nats clinched a second-half title with a 3-1 victory.
The midseason pickup threw 79 pitches, 56 for strikes, and struck a career-high nine, getting Cuban cleanup man Yasiel Balaguert three times after the Prince Fielder doppelgänger had tortured Potomac pitchers for eight hits and four RBI over the past three games.
Early on, the P-Nats racked up the hits — three in the 1st, two in the 2nd, one in the 3rd — but the clutch hit was absent as they had just one run to show for it.
They finally broke through in the 5th with a little “help” from the Pelicans pitcher who threw past first base to allow Victor Robles to turn a bunt single into a Little League double, though he might have been able to make it a “triple” had he not done his best imitation of Deion Sanders by spinning around halfway past first base and backpedaling into second base.
Austin Davidson followed with a single to left to send in Robles. MLB rehab Stephen Drew did his best imitation of Robles with an HBP to push Davidson to second and Osvaldo Abreu completed the two-run rally with another single to left.
The two teams traded donuts in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, with Gilberto Mendez following Mayberry and working around a single before giving way to closer (and postseason All-Star) Ryan Brinley in the 9th.
Maybe it was nerves, but the defense was less than steady in the 9th for Brinley, with Bryan Mejia booting a grounder to second for his 26th miscue to open the innings and Austin Davidson bullfighting a two-out grounder to the 5/6 hole that was ruled a single. A subsequent safety to right plated the lone Myrtle Beach run and brought up the go-ahead run.
Light-hitting Jesse Hodges put a charge into the final out but a warning-track flyball is the same as a can of corn in the scorebook as the P-Nats celebrated their third second-half title in the past four seasons.
The win earned Woodbridge nine one less road game, as the Lynchburg Hillcats will have to come to the Pfitz on Wednesday to open best-of-three Carolina League North Divisional Series. Unofficially, it’ll be Matt Esparza (2-4, 3.92) facing off against Potomac’s Boone Whiting (11-3, 3.45).