Hillcats clinch playoff spot with first half title
After hitting a franchise-record six home runs Saturday night, the Hillcats belted four Sunday afternoon. However, Frederick built an early 9-1 lead with three home runs of its own and led comfortably the rest of the way to defeat Lynchburg 11-5 at Nymeo Field.
Because Salem dropped both ends of a doubleheader at Wilmington, both Lynchburg and the Red Sox finished with identical 40-29 records at the All-Star Break. With a 7-6 head-to-head record favoring the Hillcats, Lynchburg claimed the first-half title to secure a playoff berth for the sixth straight year.
Two Frederick players had multi-homer games before the contest ended. Austin Hays went 5-5 with two doubles and two home runs, recording six RBIs and scoring four runs. Ademar Rifaela finished 2-5 with a pair of homers and three RBIs.
The Hillcats scored all five of their runs on the long ball. Ka’ai Tom had a solo homer to lead off the third inning, but the Hillcats trailed 7-1 at that point. In the seventh, Anthony Miller blasted a two-run homer over the center-field fence for his second homer of the year, making it a 9-3 game.
Back-to-back home runs in the ninth made the final score 11-5. Sam Haggerty hit his second of the season, while Claudio Bautista had a pinch-hit home run immediately afterward.
Triston McKenzie (5-4) struggled on a hot, humid day with the wind blowing out to left field. He surrendered seven runs on six hits, which included three homers to left. He exited after 1 2/3 innings. Ofelky Peralta earned the victory with eight strikeouts, holding the Hillcats to one run in five innings.
Brock Hartson received good news during the game when he learned he had been added to the Carolina League All-Star Classic, giving Lynchburg a total of seven representatives on the Northern Division roster for Tuesday’s game. The Hillcats will also send McKenzie, Shao-Ching Chiang, Argenis Angulo, Sam Haggerty, Sicnarf Loopstok, and Willi Castro to Salem.
Lynchburg plays Frederick upon its return from the All-Star Break Thursday at 6:30 p.m. The Hillcats will host the Keys at City Stadium for a four-game series. Shane Bieber (2-1, 3.86) is expected to start for Lynchburg. The game can be heard live atwww.lynchburg-hillcats.com, beginning with pre-game coverage at 6:20 p.m.