Minor League Roundup: P-Nats shut out, ‘Cats win pitchers’ duel
P-Nats shut out in Wilmington For the second time in three games, the Potomac Nationals were shut out by the Wilmington Blue Rocks in a 3-0 loss this morning. The Blue Rocks held the P-Nats to just two runs in the three-game sweep.
Potomac had chances early against winless Wilmington starter Tyler Sample. They put runners on base in five of the six innings against Sample but couldn’t get a runner to third totaling just two hits against the Rocks starter.
The Blue Rocks scored their first run in the fourth inning against P-Nat starter Matt Grace. Brett Eibner walked to open the inning. He advanced to second then third on a pair of groundouts. Jose Bonilla just beat out an infield single to the hole at short to score Eibner giving the Blue Rocks a 1-0 lead.
Wilmington added insurance in the eighth with two runs. Eibner knocked a single scoring Whit Merrifield to increase the lead to 2-0. Cheslor Cuthbert knocked a double that easily scored Eibner from first and opened the Wilmington advantage to 3-0.
Sam Runion came on and tossed a scoreless ninth to seal the 3-0 win for Wilmington. It was the first save in the first chance of the year for Runion.
Sample (1-5) got his first win of the year striking out six over five-plus innings. Grace (2-6) took the loss tossing a career-high seven and a third innings. Grace has earned a decision in all eight of his starts.
In the series, the Potomac offense was anemic. The Nationals scored just two runs on twelve hits being shut out twice. They did not hit a home run. Today, they failed to move a runner to third after sending just one runner to third in game one of the series on Monday.
After a day off tomorrow, Potomac starts a three-game series in Lynchburg on Friday night. Trevor Holder (2-0, 6.00) makes his second spot start for the Nationals with first pitch at 6:05 PM. The P-Nats return home on Monday to face Myrtle Beach at 7:05 PM. For tickets, call 703-590-2311.
Graham win pitchers’ duel A battle of top pitching prospects was everything it was billed to be and more. J.R. Graham and Cody Buckel went toe-to-toe in the Hillcats 2-1 win. It was a Adam Milligan homer and Nick Ahmed RBI single that were the difference in a tight ball game.
The Hillcats struck first in the top of second inning much to the crowd’s surprise. It was the first pitch of the frame and Adam Milligan wasted no time with a blast over the right-center field wall to give the ‘Cats the early 1-0 lead.
J.R. Graham’s first hiccup was in the fourth. Two consecutive singles by Tomas Telis and Jared Hoying had runners at the corners for Brett Nicholas. With a 1-0 count, Nicholas ripped a fastball back towards the second baseman Tommy La Stella, but Base Umpire Aaron Larsen couldn’t move in time and took one off the left shoulder. The ruling is a dead ball and each runner advances only if necessary. Although the Pelicans would have scored a run, shortstop Nich Ahmed would have got the runner at second. However, the run was discounted and the runner Hoying was awarded second. With the bases loaded, Graham would walk Odubel Herrera to score Telis and tie the game at 1-1. Graham would buckle down and not allow another run.
With each pitcher cruising, neither would bend let alone break. It wasn’t until the top of the eighth that the Hillcats could deliver another blow. Robby Hefflinger started the inning off with a double to right-center; Kyle Rose would pitch-run. Then, Buckel was his own worst enemy with consecutive walks to Chad Comer and Matt Lipka to load the bases. The walk to Lipka was the last batter of the day for Buckel, he was replaced by Zach Osborne. Ahmed was the first batter to face Osborne and Ahmed made him pay with a flair single to center to break the 1-1 tie. Rose would score and each runner advanced. However, the Hillcats were put on lock by Osborne who didn’t allow another run. The run would be added to the line of Buckel because he allowed the hit to Hefflinger.
Graham would come back for more in the eighth as well. He would give up a hit to Santiago Chirino, who would be pitch ran for by Josh Richmond. Cafe Martinez would be the last batter Graham would face. Graham got Martinez to fly out to the second baseman La Stella. Chasen Shreve would come in for Graham after 7.2 innings. Shreve–the league leader in holds–threw one pitch and got out of the inning.
Shreve was given the opportunity to get his first save of the season, but after getting Hoying out, he walked Nicholas and was quickly replaced by Juan Jamie for Christian Villanueva’s plate appearance. Jamie would deal heat and fan Villanueva. Herrera would single to put runners at the corner’s. But Jamie was throwing too much gas for Vinny DiFazio to handle and he was set down with three straight fastballs to end the game.
J.R. Graham (5-0) stayed perfect on the season. He went 7.2 innings, gave up one run on eight hits, while walking one and fanning two. The tough luck loss went to Cody Buckel (3-2). He went 7.0+ innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. He walked two and sat down five.
The series finale is scheduled for 7:05pm tomorrow. Aaron Northcraft (4-2, 2.82) will look to continue the solid starting pitching run for the Hillcats. Roman Mendez (2-3, 4.43) toe the rubber for the Pelicans. Tune in and listen live to all the action on 105.5 FM KD Country and online at lynchburg-hillcats.com starting with the Hillcats On-Deck Show coming on the air at 6:40pm with Erik Wilson and Mike Viso.