P-Nats, Blue Rocks split pair of nail-biters in doubleheader
More than six hours passed on Tuesday night between first pitch of game one and the final pitch of game two in a doubleheader at Northwest Federal Field. The Potomac Nationals (2-4, 32-41) got a two-out, walk-off, two-run home run from DH KJ Harrison in game one, while the Wilmington Blue Rocks (4-2, 48-27) avoided a bases loaded jam in the final frame of a game two victory. Potomac took the opener 5-3 while Wilmington won the finale 3-2.
Wilmington struck immediately in game one against RHP Malvin Pena (ND). CF Michael Gigliotti led off the game with a walk and eventually scored on a groundout from LF Brewer Hicklen. In the fourth frame, the Blue Rocks struck for a pair more on a two-run home run from 1B Nick Pratto. Pena allowed three runs, two earned, over four innings.
In his Carolina League debut, LHP Austin Cox (ND) allowed just one run over 5.1 innings. LF Nick Banks put Potomac on the board with an RBI single in the fifth inning, as Potomac trailed 3-1 after five frames.
The P-Nats left the tying runs in scoring position in the sixth inning but capped off a wild finish with a four-run seventh frame. In relief of Cox, LHP Holden Capps (L, 3-2) quickly retired the first man in the final frame but saw SS Christian Perez commit a fielding error that allowed 3B Bryan Mejia to reach first base. The error kickstarted a Potomac rally, as Banks and 2B Cole Freeman followed with consecutive singles. Freeman’s base hit plated Mejia and made it a one-run game, while 1B Aldrem Corredor followed with a game-tying sacrifice fly, which plated Banks. With the game tied, Harrison fell behind Capps 0-2 before he tallied Potomac’s second walk-off home run of the year. His two-run blast just over the left-centerfield wall gave Potomac a 5-3 win. Out of the bullpen, LHP Hayden Howard (W, 2-1) allowed just two hits over three-shutout innings for Potomac.
In the back half of the doubleheader, neither team cracked the scoreboard until the fourth inning, though Potomac threatened. The P-Nats left multiple runners on base in each of their final six trips to the plate in the loss.
Against LHP Carson Teel (ND), the Blue Rocks pulled off a successful double steal of second base and home plate with one out in the top of the fourth inning. Over five frames, Teel allowed just one run on four hits. Wilmington led 1-0 after 3.5 innings.
Potomac took advantage of some sloppy defensive work in the home half of the fifth inning. After RF Gage Canning drew a leadoff walk against LHP Kyle Bubic (ND), Freeman reached on an error by 3B Dennicher Carrasco. The throwing error put two men in scoring position for Corredor, who tallied his team best 52nd and 53rd RBIs of the season with a two-run single. Corredor’s hit gave Potomac a 2-1 lead.
The Blue Rocks answered right back and tied the game with a run in the top of the sixth inning against the combination of RHP Luis Reyes and LHP Aaron Fletcher (L, 1-1). Reyes, who entered the night with a 23-inning scoreless streak, allowed three straight batters to reach base with one out. Potomac turned back to the bullpen and brought in Fletcher. The left-handed reliever quickly struck out Pratto but issued a game-tying bases loaded walk to Perez. Fletcher kept the game tied as he stranded the bases loaded.
In the seventh frame, Wilmington started with three straight singles against Fletcher. With runners on the corners and no outs, LF Colby Schultz singled off the glove of the Potomac pitcher and got credit for the go-ahead RBI base hit. In the home half of the final inning, Potomac loaded the bases on three straight two out singles against RHP Tad Ratliff (SV, 16). One out away from the victory, Ratliff improved to 16 for 19 in save chances as he struck out Canning. Prior to Ratliff, RHP Josh Mitchell (W, 3-0) retired both batters that he faced.
After a lengthy doubleheader split, the two teams are set to play the rubber match of the series on Wednesday night. For Potomac, RHP Kyle Johnston (7-7, 4.41) is set to get the start. Johnston has tallied a six-inning quality start in each of his last two outings, both victories. For the Blue Rocks, LHP Marcelo Martinez (5-2, 3.77) is scheduled to start. Martinez is 2-0 with three quality starts in his last three outings.
First pitch at Northwest Federal Field at Pfitzner Stadium on Wednesday night is set for 7:05pm. The Potomac broadcast will get underway at 6:50pm with the P-Nats Leadoff Show. You can listen to the Potomac broadcast at potomacnationals.com or on the TuneIn Radio App.