Lynchburg clinches playoff spot

The Lynchburg Hillcats are Carolina League Northern Division Wild Card champions and have earned a berth in the 2013 playoffs for a chance to defend their 2012 championship.  All necessary games of the best-of-three series will be played up in Woodbridge, VA, the home of the Potomac Nationals.  The P-Nats won both halves and thus earn the extra home game.

With the Hillcats (33-33, 69-66) magic number at one entering play Thursday both they and the Wilmington Blue Rocks had separate double headers.  The first game of the four to go final, Wilmington’s 3-0 loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, cemented the Hillcats into the playoffs Thursday night.

The Hillcats fell in game one of their doubleheader, 7-4, to the Carolina Mudcats (33-33, 55-81) and, in an extra-inning affair, the Hillcats picked up their seventh walk-off win of the season, 3-2, in twelve innings.   Matt Weaver hit a home run and was the winning pitcher in game two.

A comeback effort fell short for the Hillcats in game one.  They rallied for four runs in the fourth to make it a one-run game but could not complete the comeback. Elmer Reyes hit a three-run homer with two outs in the frame and Shawn McGill added an RBI-double.  RF Logan Vick made a diving catch on a liner by Matt Weaver to rob him of what would have been the game-tying hit to end the frame.

The Mudcats got on the board first in the second inning.  CF Matt Lipka was charged with a three-base error on a fly ball by leadoff batter Tony Wolters who immediately scored on a sacrifice fly. Then in the third Jordan Smith doubled home a run and later scored on a single by Wolters.  RBI-singles from Bryson Myles and Smith plated two more in the fourth for a 5-0 lead.

After the Hillcats response, the Mudcats sealed the deal with a two-run seventh.  Vick bounced into an RBI-fielders choice with the bases loaded and later, with the bases reloaded, Todd Hankins drew a walk to plate the final run.

Jose Lugo (0-2) took the loss, giving up five runs on eight hits while Francisco Valera (3-5) pitched two scoreless innings of relief for the win.

Game two the Hillcats used the long ball to stay in it.  After Bryson Myles led off the game with a solo home run, Weaver cleared the scoreboard with a solo shot of his own in the third to tie the game.  The Mudcats regained the lead in fifth with an RBI-triple from Jordan Smith but a Josh Elander solo blast, his fourth of the year, tied the game in the sixth.

The game went tied 2-2 in to extra innings, and stayed that way until the bottom of the 12th. Weaver, a usual position player, came in to pitch for the Hillcats. He retired the side in order including a strikeout to end the flawless frame.

Due to Weaver coming in to pitch from the outfield, relief pitcher Wilson Rivera played right field behind Weaver in the 12th. Rivera was due up fourth in the bottom of the 12th.  Matt Lipka led off the inning with a double then after a walk and a pop up, Rivera hit a grounder to first that looked to be a double play but the return throw was ruled not in time, allowing Lipka to come around from second to score the winning run.

The Hillcats finish up their home schedule for the 2013 regular season Friday night at City Stadium.  It’s Randolph College night plus the first 500 fans will get toothbrush holders and toothbrushes from Lynchburg Dental Center.  Gates open at 5pm for the 6:05pm first pitch with Jarett Miller (9-7, 3.66) getting the start for Lynchburg against Robert Whitenack (0-3, 6.08) for Carolina.  If you can’t make the final home game of the season, join Erik Wilson and Jake Levy for the play-by-play starting at 5:40pm on 97.9 FM The Planet and lynchburg-hillcats.com

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