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Lynchburg rallies to defeat Mudcats

lynchburg hillcatsLynchburg used a five-run eighth inning, highlighted by a go-ahead two-run double by Mark Mathias, to overcome a 5-2 deficit and beat Carolina, 7-6, at Five County Stadium Saturday night. Bobby Bradley hit his team-best sixth home run earlier in the game. Lynchburg finished April with a 17-6 record, the best mark for the first month during the Hillcats era (since 1995).

Lynchburg couldn’t find any traction offensively to begin the game. The Hillcats only had one hit through the first five innings and trailed 4-0 at that point. Things began to change when Bobby Bradley hit his sixth home run of the season on a deep fly ball to right field to get the Hillcats on the board with two outs in the sixth. Carolina answered, though, with an RBI single by Reed Harper to make it 5-1 in favor of the Mudcats.

Lynchburg responded with a run in the seventh thanks to a Claudio Bautista sacrifice fly that drove in Mathias, but the Hillcats’ late-inning comeback officially began in the eighth with the team down 5-2.

Yu-Cheng Chang walked to kickstart the big frame. Anthony Santander singled, which forced Carolina to go to the bullpen. Chase Johnson-Mullins walked the first batter he saw in Bradley and then gave up an infield single to Dorssys Paulino that brought the Hillcats within two, 5-3.

Mike Papi drew a bases-loaded walk to make it a one-run contest, and Mathias belted an opposite-field double into the right-center field gap to bring home Bradley and Paulino, giving Lynchburg a 6-5 advantage with still no one out. Two batters later, Bautista hit an RBI groundout to second base to stretch the margin to 7-5.

Luis Lugo started for the Hillcats and surrendered four runs on seven hits in five innings. He allowed the first run in the second inning after a leadoff double by Jordan Edgerton and a base hit by Joey Meneses. Carolina added another in the third after Reed Harper earned a leadoff walk and came around to score. The Mudcats plated another pair in the fourth inning, which included doubles by Joseph Odom andHarper.

Luke Eubank entered the game with the Hillcats facing a 5-2 deficit in the seventh. He worked around a walk and a base hit to avoid any runs and set up Lynchburg’s come-from-behind effort the next inning. Eubank (1-0) was making his first appearance at any level this year after sustaining an injury this spring. It also marked his Advanced-A debut after spending 2015 in Lake County.

Jordan Milbrath inherited a 7-5 lead in the eighth. He conceded one run that stanza to make it 7-6 going into the ninth. A hit batter and a throwing error allowed the first two men to reach in the ninth. A sacrifice bunt put the potential tying run at third base and the possible winning run at second with only one out.

Milbrath regrouped and came up with two big strikeouts of Edgerton and Braxton Davidson to end the game and earn his first save since August 25, 2013, when he was pitching in the Arizona League.

Lynchburg has three comeback wins in the seventh inning or later this season…In two of those, the Hillcats have used five runs in the eighth to come-from-behind, with the other one coming at Frederick on April 14 to overcome a 5-1 margin.

Lynchburg plays a rubber match at Five County Stadium Sunday at 2 p.m. Julian Merryweather (4-0, 0.76) will try to win his fifth consecutive start. Fans can listen to the action on 93.3 FM and 1320 AM as well as, beginning with the Hillcats On-Deck Show at 1:45 p.m.