Lynchburg wins with walkoff homer

The Hillcats take the opening game of a four game set with the Frederick Keys, 3-1, off the bat of Carolina League “Player of the Week” Evan Gattis. The Hillcats’ catcher broke a 1-1 tie with his league-leading fifth home run of the season in the bottom of the ninth, giving the ‘Cats their league-best ninth win of the year.

If you enjoy pitching and clutch hitting, that’s exactly what you got in Lynchburg for game one of a four-game set between the Frederick Keys and the Lynchburg Hillcats. Highly regarded Hillcats prospect, J.R. Graham, made his third start of the season versus Carolina League ERA leader, Scott Copeland.

Both pitchers traded strikeouts through the first two frames with Graham and the Hillcats taking the early upper-hand with the first run of the ball game in the bottom of the third.Copeland retired the first two batters easily in the inning but–with two outs–center fielder Matt Lipka ripped a double into the left center field gap. Shortstop Nick Ahmed worked a 2-2 count before scorching a single up the middle for the first run of the game.

The Keys wasted no time retaliating. It started with Right fielder Matt Welty’s lead-off double that went over left fielder Jakob Dalfonso’s head. On the very next pitch, first baseman Aaron Baker blasted a fastball from Graham off the top of the center field wall. Welty scored with ease to tie the game.

From the third on, Copeland retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced with a walk and double play mixed in. Graham matched him every step of the way by retiring 11 of the 13 he faced with two hits and a caught stealing mixed in. For all their efforts, neither Graham nor Copeland factored into the decision.

Each team sent a reliever in to shut down their opposition and that’s exactly what righty Chasen Shreve did for the Hillcats. Lefty Jason Gurka matched his counterpart as well.  However, the bottom of the ninth inning was a different story.

Ahmed started the inning with a line out to center field. Then first baseman Chris Garcia battled with RHP David Walters to draw a walk. With the winning run at first, the Hillcats sent CL “Player of the Week” Evan Gattis to the plate. Gattis spoiled several pitches with two strikes from Walters until he got a ball around the thighs on 2-2 count. Gattis hit a high fly ball that kept carrying and finally cleared the left field wall.

The winner pitcher was Chasen Shreve (1-0) and David Walters (0-1) got the loss.

Friday, Lynchburg will play host in game two of the four game set with Frederick. Game time is 6:05pm with a fireworks show following the game. Righty Aaron Northcraft will take the mound for the Hillcats against Keys RHP, Mike Wright. In his previous outing Northcraft pitched six strong innings giving up just two runs, while earning his second win of the season. Wright’s last outing lasted five innings against the Wilmington Blue Rocks, where he gave up one run on four hit. The Hillcats’ live radio broadcast with Erik Wilson will come on the air at 5:40pm, starting with the Hillcats On-Deck Show powered by Honda/Suzuki of Lynchburg.


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