P-Nats drop finale in Myrtle Beach

Four unearned runs in the first inning set the tone for a disheartening 11-3 loss in Myrtle Beach on Saturday night that gave the Pelicans a victory in the first series of the second half. The Pelicans rode 18 hits, a strong outing from Barret Loux and a trio of big innings to victory in the rubber match with the Potomac Nationals.

The Nationals (30-42) made their biggest noise of the evening before the first pitch was even thrown: manager Matt LeCroy was ejected before the game after a prolonged argument with home plate umpire John Bacon as the lineup cards were exchanged. Bacon had gifted the Pelicans (42-30) a victory in the 14th inning on Friday night by ruling that Eury Perez did not make a game-saving catch in the left-center field gap, even though replays proved Perez clearly did. The P-Nats applauded their skipper from the dugout, but the first inning appeared to take the wind from their sails.

After a leadoff single by Larry Garcia off starter Paul Demny and a walk to Jared Prince, Demny got Ryan Strausborger to fly out to right field for the inning’s first out. He then induced a ground ball to first off the bat of Chris McGuinness. Steven Souza fielded the three-hopper but fired the throw into left field, allowing Garcia to score. After Vinny DiFazio popped out, the Pelicans rattled off three consecutive two-out hits and plated three more unearned runs.

With the way Barret Loux pitched, the 4-0 lead would prove enough for the Pelicans. The righthander allowed two runs over six strong innings with six strikeouts and just one walk, earning his seventh victory of the season – and third over the P-Nats.

His only trouble came in the Potomac fifth. A leadoff walk to Justino Cuevas was cashed in when Jeff Kobernus roped a two-out single to right. Destin Hood then hit a line drive toward the gap in left field. Racing to cut it off, Pelicans centerfielder Ryan Strausborger kicked the ball into the left field corner, allowing Kobernus to score from first. Hood was credited with triple and an RBI, and the P-Nats were back in it at 6-2.

They tacked on another run in the seventh. Kobernus launched a deep home run to left field off Trevor Hurley that pulled Potomac within three. Evan Bronson relieved Demny and breezed through the seventh, retiring the Pelicans with just five pitches. The eighth was not nearly as smooth.

The first five batters reached base in the Myrtle eighth: three singles, a walk and a hit batter plated a pair of runs and kept the bases loaded before DiFazio finally flied out for the first out. After Potomac gunned down Prince at the plate for the second out, three more hits put the game out of reach and put Myrtle Beach ahead 11-3.

Ryan Kelly pitched a perfect ninth to wrap up the win for Myrtle Beach, who inched ahead in the season series with Potomac with their seventh win in 13 contests with the P-Nats.

Potomac opens a three-game series in Kinston Sunday afternoon at 4:30 P.M. Righthander Cameron Selik takes the mound for Potomac in the stadium where he made his Carolina League debut. The broadcast can be heard online at www.potomacnationals.com beginning at 4:05.

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