Early deficit too much as P-Nats fall to Woodpeckers

Potomac NationalsThe Potomac Nationals (16-16, 46-53) fought through rain to play their series and homestand finale against the Fayetteville Woodpeckers (15-17, 46-55) on Monday night, but a furious rally on the other side of a third inning delay came up just a bit short in a 7-5 loss.

Fayetteville’s five-run third inning, coming just before an hour-long rain delay, proved to be the difference in the game as the Woodpeckers salvaged a series split in the final regular season matchup between the two clubs.

Potomac LHP Tim Cate (L, 2-3) hadn’t allowed an earned run in either of his last two starts, but quickly allowed a solo home run to SS Jeremy Peña in the first inning to put the P-Nats behind. He worked a 1-2-3 second before running into trouble in the third, giving the Woodpeckers a lead they wouldn’t give up.

RF Ross Adolph led off the top of the third with a single, and LF Corey Julks followed with a chopper to short that escaped the reach of Potomac SS Gilbert Lara. Peña then hit an RBI single to extend the lead to 2-0, and CF Jacob Meyers hit a bad-hop grounder to third that skipped into left field for an RBI double. 1B Jake Adams singled home another run before 2B Enmanuel Valdez capped the five-run frame with a two-run double down the first base line.

With severe weather in the forecast throughout the afternoon, the Potomac tarp crew was ready to move in the middle of the third. A delay of 1:04 put the status of the game in jeopardy, but heavy rain pushed to the north to allow the game to continue. Both Cate and Fayetteville RHP Austin Hansen departed in lieu of long relief help.

The P-Nats jumped out of the delay with a rally off RHP Leovanny Rodriguez, who struggled with his control and barely survived the inning. LF Jack Sundberg started the action with a one-out bunt single, and CF Cole Freeman hit a deep fly that glanced off the glove of Julks in left field for a two-base error. With two outs, Rodriguez walked three consecutive batters to force home two runs before allowing a two-run single from C Alex Dunlap to cut the deficit to 6-4.

A similar Potomac rally was squandered in the fourth as 2B David Masters grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and one out. RHP Devin Conn (W, 1-0), who coaxed the inning-ending grounder in his Woodpeckers debut, allowed a leadoff triple to RF Gage Canning in the fifth and Dunlap singled again to make the score 6-5.

RHP Jorge Pantoja pitched admirably in long relief for the P-Nats, retiring the Woodpeckers in order in the fourth and fifth. In the sixth, however, Valdez hit a one-out single and eventually scored on a Peña sacrifice fly to give Fayetteville a 7-5 cushion. RHP Jhonatan German was similarly effective, striking out three over 3.0 hitless innings of relief, but the P-Nats couldn’t come through against RHP Cesar Rosado (S, 4) in the final frames of the game. The Fayetteville reliever left the bases loaded in the seventh and didn’t allow a hit over 2.2 innings to close out the game.

The P-Nats hit the road on Tuesday as they begin a six-game road trip in Wilmington and Frederick. RHP Malvin Peña faces off against Blue Rocks LHP Austin Cox in the opener of a three-game set. First pitch from Frawley Stadium on Tuesday night is set for 6:35 pm, with the P-Nats Leadoff Show beginning at 6:20 on the Potomac Nationals Baseball Network. You can listen to the Potomac broadcast at potomacnationals.com or on the TuneIn Radio App.

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