Hillcats benefit from sloppy play from Rocks, win 10-4

The Hillcats scored five runs in both the fifth and sixth innings tonight on their way to a 10-4 victory over the Wilmington Blue Rocks. The Blue Rocks committed five errors which led to seven unearned runs. RHP Aaron Northcraft turned in another gem, tossing six innings, allowing just one run and striking out a season high eight on his way to his fourth win of the year.

The Blue Rocks took an early lead in the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff man Whit Merrifield doubled to start the frame. After an infield single moved Merrifield to third base, Brian Fletcher grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice to bring Merrifield home. Wilmington led 1-0 after the first.

The game took the pitcher’s duel route through the first four frames, until some poor defense and timely hitting by the Hillcats broke the game open.

RHP Tyler Sample committed an error to start the fifth inning. Kyle Rose reached first on an errant throw after grounding a ball back to the mound. Matt Lipka then singled with a hit and run called, and Rose advanced to third. A wild pick-off attempt at first let Rose jog home from third, and Lipka advanced from first to third. Nick Ahmed then grounded out to second base, driving in Lipka. After another ground out from Tommy La Stella, the offense heated up with two outs. Tim Smith and Edward Salcedo both singled before Chris Garcia homered to left field. The three-run shot was his second of the season. Five runs scored in the inning making it 5-1 Hillcats. All five runs were unearned off the starter Sample.

Lynchburg kept things going in the sixth. After eight Hillcats saw came to the plate in the fifth, ten batted in the sixth. Five more runs scored, two more of which were unearned as the third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert and second baseman Whit Merrifield both committed errors in the inning. Ahmed delivered the big hit with a two-run double. Ahmed finished the night 1-for-5 with three RBI, extending his current hit-streak to eight games which matches Robby Hefflinger for the team’s best streak this season.

The Hillcats led 10-1 after six innings. Wilmington didn’t go down quietly, adding a run in the eighth and two in the ninth, but eventually fell 10-4. ANgel Franco recorded an RBI-double in the eighth. A single, double, wild pitch, and an RBI ground out plated two more runs in the ninth.

Northcraft (4-1) earned the win with another great start. The one earned run he allowed is the only earned run he has given up in his last three starts, spanning 17.2 innings pitched. Sample (0-4) took the loss. He allowed eight runs, three earned, on nine hits, while walking two and striking out five.

The Hillcats are now 17-12 and winners of their last three. They remain in first place in the Northern Division.

The Blue Rocks host the HIllcats again tomorrow for game two of the three-game set. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35pm. RHP Cody Martin (3-3, 2.86) will start for Lynchburg against RHP Jason Adam (1-3, 2.14) for Wilmington. The Hillcats On-Deck Show powered by Honda/Suzuki of Lynchburg will go on the air at 6:10pm. Listen live to all the action on 105.5 FM KD Country and online at lynchburg-hillcats.com


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