Daniel Watts tied a career high with eight strikeouts, while Alex Wilson recorded the final five outs for his 10th save of the year in a 3-2 Lynchburg Hillcats victory in front of 3,410 fans at Calvin Falwell Field Friday night.
Lynchburg’s defense and pitching proved to be strong enough to give the Hillcats (47-51) their second straight win in spite of posting only three hits. The Hillcats first hit also gave them their first run, as David Nick hit a solo home run to lead off the third inning. Carolina answered quickly in the fourth inning with a solo homer of its own by Joe Sever.
With the score tied 1-1 entering the bottom of the fourth, the Hillcats recorded their final two runs on their final two hits and made it last for the rest of the game. Jose Martinez hit a one-out single to right field and advanced to second on a walk to Kevin Ahrens. Justin Bloxom doubled to left field for his fifth RBI of the season, and Tyler Tewell followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Ahrens. Lynchburg’s offense saw its final 14 hitters of the game retired in order.
After Carolina (46-50) scored once in the sixth, it remained a 3-2 game through its completion. The Mudcats’ biggest threat came in the eighth inning after putting the tying run at third and the go-ahead run on first with only one out.
Alex Wilson entered the game to face Yandy Diaz needing five outs to remain perfect on the season in save opportunities. He immediately received some help courtesy of a spectacular defensive play by Ahrens. The third baseman fielded a groundball while sliding to his left. Realizing there wasn’t enough time for an inning-ending double play, Ahrens sprung to his feet, spun around and threw the ball to home plate in one motion to nail the lead runner Erik Gonzalez at the plate.
Wilson induced a flyout to center field to end the threat in the eighth and shut down the Mudcats in the ninth to extend his season-best scoreless innings streak to 17.2 frames.
Watts (2-2) matched his longest outing as a Hillcat with 5.1 innings and registered eight strikeouts for the fourth time in his career. The lefty has now won back-to-back starts after holding Carolina to two runs on three hits. Nate Hyatt earned a hold for the Hillcats with two innings of middle relief that included three strikeouts. Cole Sulser (3-9) took the loss for the Mudcats despite a quality start in which he only surrendered three hits while striking out five in six innings.
Lynchburg will hit the road to play a three-game set at Wilmington beginning with a 7:05pm contest on Saturday. Jarett Miller (5-6, 4.17) will face Miguel Almonte (5-5, 4.73). Erik Wilson will have the call on 97.9 The Planet with the Hillcats On-Deck Show presented by Amtrak Virginia taking the air at 6:40pm.