Lynchburg loses slugfest
The Hillcats lose a slugfest 11-6 to six the Frederick Keys in game two of the series. The Keys were paced by Ronnie Welty’s five RBI performance. Evan Gattis added his league leading sixth home run and 20th RBI of the season. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome a hot hitting Frederick offense.
Despite struggles in the series opener, the Keys came out swinging against the Hillcats in game two of their four-game set. Center fielder Trent Mummey led the game off with a rocket single over the leaping Nick Ahmed at shortstop. Second baseman Ty Kelly worked a walk to put runners at first and second. Right fielder Ronnie Welty was due up next; arguably the hottest hitter on the Keys roster. Welty worked deep into the count before ripping a pitch out to left field past a diving Robby Hefflinger. Both Mummey and Kelly scored as Welty cruised into third with his third triple of the season. First baseman Aaron Baker followed that with a weak RBI groundout. The three-run inning ended quietly with third baseman Matt Sweeney’s groundout to second.
Northcraft seemingly settled down, retiring seven in a row from the end of the first through the third.
The Hillcats finally were able to touch up Wright in their half of the third. Second baseman Matt Weaver led the inning off with an infield single before catcher Braeden Schlehuber added a single of his own. Then, right fielder Kyle Rose lined a single back up the middle for the Hillcats first run of the day when Weaver scored. Runners were on first and second and no outs when center fielder Matt Lipka picked up his third sacrifice bunt of the season. Runners advanced to second and third, but were stranded thanks to Wright striking out Ahmed and first baseman Chris Garcia.
The Keys answered immediately in the top of the fourth. Designated hitter Michael Flacco started the inning off with a double down the left field line. A wild pitch with left fielder Kipp Schutz at the plate allowed Flacco to jog down to third. Schutz took advantage with a RBI ground out to Ahmed to see the lead move to 4-1.
In the bottom half of the inning the Hillcats regained momentum with their first back-to-back home runs of the season. Catcher Evan Gattis started off the inning with his third home run in as many games. On the very next pitch, third baseman Edward Salcedo blasted his second homer of the season in a similar spot in left center field. Following the home runs, Wright quickly retired the next three Hillcats to end the inning.
The momentum swing did not last long in the top of the fifth. After a lead-off strikeout, Mummey reached on Weaver’s first error of the season. The flood gates opened after Kelly struck out for the Keys. Welty added his third RBI with a single that scored Mummey to make it 5-3. Welty then stole second but it made no difference after Baker walked. That would be the final batter Northcraft would face on the day. Lefty Blaine Sims would enter to face Flacco, who got his first RBI of the day when he doubled out to left field. Welty scored easily and Baker made it around to third. Schutz added RBI number two and three with a sharp single to right, which ballooned the lead to 8-3. He was stranded at third when catcher Joe Oliveira flew out to Lipka to end the inning.
The Hillcats bats were silent in their half of the fifth. The Keys, however, weren’t done. The inning began with shortstop Michael Rooney getting plunked. Kelly got his first hit of the day, a single out to left that advanced Rooney. Welty continued his hot hitting with a double that hugged the left field line. Rooney touched home and Kelly hustled to third to tack on run number nine.
Both teams went scoreless in the seventh inning before the Keys could add another insurance run in the top of the eighth. Sims continued to be an innings eater for the Hillcats. However, the scoring started with a Kelly single, Rose misplayed the ball and the error allowed Kelly to scamper to second. Welty stroked his second double of the day down the line and Kelly scored. Sims walked the next batter and was replaced by LHP Matt Chaffe. After a fly out and walk to load the bases, Chaffee escaped by getting Sweeney to line out to Rose.
Again, the Hillcats couldn’t answer in the bottom of the eighth. The Keys expanded their lead to 11-3 when Rooney got his first hit of the day, a double into the left center field gap. Mummey, got his first RBI of the game with a single to right scoring Rooney. Kelly ended the inning when he hit a sharp grounder to Salcedo that started a 5-4-3 double play.
The drama started in the bottom of the ninth when the Keys sent LHP Nick Haughian to the mound. Schlehuber started the inning with a double off the top of the left field wall. Rose singled up the middle and Schlehuber advanced to third. Lipka followed with a walk before Ahmed reached on an error by Sweeney at third. Runners went station-to-station and Schlehuber scored to cut the lead to 11-4. A sharp grounder was hit by Garcia down the first base side to Baker who made a tough play to save a base hit and retire Garcia unassisted. Rose scored, Lipka went to third and Ahmed went to second. Haughian was pulled before Gattis entered the box. Lefty Chris Petrini took over for Haughian to face Gattis. Petrini traded an out for a run on the Gattis groundout to Rooney. Lipka scored and Ahmed advanced to third to make it a five run game at 11-6. However, it was too little, too late for the Hillcats. Petrini induced a ground ball and Salcedo was easily thrown out a first to end the game.
The final score was 11-6, which dropped the Hillcats record to 9-5. The Keys improved to 6-7. The win moves Frederick to just two and half games behind the ‘Cats in the division.
The winning pitcher was the Keys’ Mike Wright (3-0). He went five innings surrendering three runs—all earned—on six hits. Wright struck out four and walked one. Aaron Northcraft picked up the loss (2-1) in his shortest outing of the season. He went four and two-thirds, gave up five hits, which led to seven runs. Four of the runs were earned on the day. Northcraft also struck out six and walked two.
Lynchburg and Frederick do battle for the third time on Saturday at 6:05pm. Gates will open at 5:00pm for “Smoke Free” School Night presented by TUCP. Righty Cody Martin will take the mound for the Hillcats against Keys LHP, Rick Zagone. The Hillcats’ live radio broadcast with Erik Wilson and Mike Viso will come on the air at 5:40pm, starting with the Hillcats On-Deck Show powered by Honda/Suzuki of Lynchburg. Listen live to all the action on 105.5 FM KD Country and online at lynchburg-hillcats.com