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Lynchburg wins in extras, 4-3

lynchburg hillcatsLynchburg never trailed in the opening contest of the Mills Cup Championship Series, but the Hillcats still needed 12 innings to record a 4-3 victory over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans at Field Saturday night.

After a 14-inning, 6-5 victory kept the Hillcats season alive two nights before, Lynchburg required extra innings in the first game at Myrtle Beach. The Pelicans used two runs in the sixth inning to tie the game, 2-2, and that remained the score until the 11th.

When Anthony Santander stepped to the plate with one out in the frame, the Hillcats had seen 18 consecutive batters retired. The ‘Cats had not notched a baserunner since a Francisco Mejia single in the fifth, but Santander changed that trend in a big way with a deep fly ball that cleared the right-center field fence to give Lynchburg a 3-2 lead. It represented his 21st home run of the year and only his second hit of the playoffs. The Pelicans answered, though, when Charcer Burks drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a base hit by David Bote to extend the game to a 12th frame, 3-all.

Lynchburg finally claimed the lead for good in the 12th. Yu-Cheng Chang singled through the left side of the infield, and Connor Marabell earned a walk while trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt. With two on and nobody out, Yonathan Mendoza laid a bunt down the third base line, and the throw to first hit him. With the ball rolling away, Chang came home on the error, and the Hillcats took a 4-3 advantage. Jon Fitzsimmons, making his Hillcats debut, recorded the final three outs in order in the bottom of the stanza to finish two innings of work and earn the win.

Lynchburg grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first three innings of the contest. Chang opened the second with a single, advanced to third on a base hit by Marabell, and scored on an infield single by Mendoza. The Hillcats plated their second run when Mejia singled to start the third, stole second base, and came home on a single to center by Dorssys Paulino.

Thomas Pannone went 5 2/3 innings on the mound, allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out four. He left with the game tied, 2-2. Jared Robinson tossed 2 1/3 shutout frames of relief, and Justin Garcia worked scoreless ninth and 10th innings to keep the game deadlocked while the Hillcats offense scuffled.

Lynchburg is now 63-62 in all-time postseason play…The Hillcats are 15-7 in Mills Cup Championship games, winning four of the previous six series they have competed in…Lynchburg has hit a home run in 85 of its 144 games this year…The ‘Cats improved to 8-8 in extra-inning games and 19-19 in one-run contests.

Lynchburg plays Game Two against Myrtle Beach Sunday night at Field before returning home for Game Three at City Stadium on Tuesday. Sunday’s first pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Fans can listen to Sunday’s action from Myrtle Beach on 93.3 FM and 1320 AM as well as, beginning with the Hillcats On-Deck Show at 5:45 p.m.