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Lynchburg clinches first-half division title

The 2012 Southern Division First Half Champs are the Lynchburg Hillcats. The division was sealed with a doubleheader sweep of the Carolina Mudcats on Tuesday. A walk-off 2-1 win in game one and a 8-1 rain-delayed and blackout delayed game two victory clinched the divison for the Hillcats.

The usual first inning woes continued for Mudcats’ starter Will Roberts. Entering the day, Roberts had a 6.43 ERA in his seven first inning appearances. The trend continued with three consecutive singles from Nick Ahmed, Tommy La Stella and Adam Milligan. The final single scored Ahmed to give the Hillcats a 1-0 lead.

With Roberts keeping the Hillcats in check, the Mudcats were able to answer back in the top of the fourth inning. Two singles led the inning off for Carolina, then Giovanny Urshela showcased some heads-up base running by tagging on a Jeremie Tice fly out to left field and reaching third. Just one batter later, Ronny Rodriguez would sky one out to deep center. Plenty of opportunity for Urshela to score to knot it up at 1-1.

Roberts continued to deal in his appearance at one point retiring 14 straight from the end of the first to the sixth.

Delgado was nearly as good; he allowed just one run through 6.1 innings. Juan Jamie would come on in relief for Delgado and get out of the inning with a 8-3 double play, when Anthony Gallas assumed a ball was going to the right-center field gap and Mycal Jones made a catch on the run. Jones then delivered a throw Chris Garcia at first to double up the runner.

The bottom half of the inning got started with a La Stella triple off Roberts. Carolina’s Manager, Edwin Rodriguez, brought in Gallas from right field as the fifth infield to try to cut down the run. However, Milligan hit a deep fly ball out to left field and the mob started at home once La Stella crossed the plate for the 2-1 victory.

Juan Jamie (1-2) got the win in his 0.2 inning of work. The tough-luck loss went to Will Roberts (3-3). Despite retiring 14 straight at one point, the two runs were all the ‘Cats needed. Roberts scattered four hits, while walking one and fanning two.

With the ‘Cats magic number at one, rain-delayed game two started with plenty of zeros as both J.R. Graham and Michael Goodnight retired the first six batters they faced. The first dent was made by the Hillcats offense in the bottom of the third. A dropped third strike led to Braeden Schlehuber getting on. He advanced on the David Rohm ground out. Then, Emerson Landoni hit a double in the gap and scored Schlehuber to give Lynchburg the 1-0 lead.

Carolina wouldn’t be quiet for long, a lead-off double and sacrafice bunt got Giovanny Urshela to third with one out. Jesus Aguilar would single home Urshela to knot the game at 1-1.

The bottom half of the fourth saw Adam Milligan hit a line drive solo shot to break the tie.

In the bottom of the fifth Schlehuber would be the offensive catalyst. He started with a single then went to third on a booted ball by Ronny Rodriguez off Landoni’s bat. Mycal Jones laid down a bunt and Schlehuber dove home and rolled around the plate on the bunt single to give the ‘Cats a 3-1 lead. Tommy La Stella would had a single to score Landoni and extend the lead to 4-1.

Graham continued to be effective until the the sixth. Like a scene out of a horror film, with a 1-2 count on Tyler Holt, the lights at Lynchburg City Stadium cut out abruptly.

It would be a 24 minute power surge delay, 20 of those spent in complete darkness.

With a few fans remaining in the stands, Chasen Shreve entered for J.R. Graham and finished off Holt and struck out two more Mudcats to end the inning.

Not satisfied, Lynchburg’s offense produced in the bottom of the sixth. Chris Garcia, Schlehuber and David Rohm each singled with Rohm’s being of the RBI variety to give the ‘Cats a 5-1 lead. The hit parade wasn’t over though, a second pair of three consecutive hits were registered by Nick Ahmed, La Stella and Milligan’s replacement, Matt Weaver. Ahmed and La Stella each got an RBI for their efforts to put the icing on cake in an 8-1 and division clinching win.

J.R. Graham (8-1) got the win to take sole possession of the top of the leader board in the wins department. He went 5.0+, thanks to the blackout, and allowed just one run. He sat down six–tying a season-high–and scattered three hits in the series clinching victory. The loss goes to Michael Goodnight (2-7) for his 5.0 innings of work. Goodnight allowed four runs–two earned–while surrendering five hits. He also fanned four.