Potomac Nationals strike out 18, but lose opener, 5-3
Despite 18 strikeouts from the pitching staff, the Potomac Nationals (0-1) fell 5-3 to the Wilmington Blue Rocks (1-0) in the 2018 season opener at Pfitzner Stadium. LHP Matthew Crownover (ND), RHP Gabe Klobosits, and RHP James Bourque (L, 0-1) struck out more opposing batters than the P-Nats did in any single game in 2017. The Blue Rocks scored a single run in the first, fourth, sixth, eighth, and ninth innings in rout to the victory.
The season got off to a rocky start for Potomac, as Crownover surrendered a solo home run to 2B Gabriel Cancel two batters into the game. After the home run, Crownover retired eight consecutive hitters. In his return to the P-Nats, the southpaw struck out a career best 11 batters over 5.2 innings.
Potomac answered immediately with the only multi-run frame of the night, as the P-Nats struck for two runs against LHP Cristian Castillo (ND) in the bottom of the first inning. SS Carter Kieboom doubled with one out, took third base on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly. With two outs, 3B Jake Noll gave Potomac the lead with a solo home run, as the P-Nats led 2-1 after one inning.
The Blue Rocks knotted the game up with a pair of doubles in the fourth inning, as 3B Emmanuel Rivera’s one-out two-base hit plated Cancel. Two innings later, Crownover departed with a runner on third base and two outs for Klobosits. Rivera greeted the Potomac righty with an RBI double, as Wilmington took a 3-2 after 5.5 frames.
Castillo departed for RHP Jared Ruxer (W, 1-0) in the fifth inning. Ruxer stranded the tying man on base in the fifth, worked a perfect sixth inning, but gave up a leadoff home run to RF Rhett Wiseman in the seventh inning. Wiseman’s first home run of the year was the final run that Potomac scored, as RHP Arnaldo Hernandez and RHP Walker Sheller combined for the final two frames of shutout baseball.
Wilmington retook the lead off of Bourque in the eighth inning, and added an insurance run in the ninth frame. 1B Chris DeVito made it 4-3 Wilmington with a two-out RBI single in the eighth inning, while a HBP, E1, wild pitch, and sacrifice fly, led to the Blue Rocks’ final run in the ninth.
The P-Nats threatened against the Wilmington bullpen in each of the final two innings, but left at least one man on base in each frame. Sheller replaced Hernandez with two men in scoring position and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, but LF Jack Sundberg grounded out, which ended the inning. With a runner on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Kieboom flied out to centerfield, which ended the game and wrapped up Wilmington’s 5-3 win.
After a nearly three-hour affair in the opener, the two teams will meet up once again on Friday night. RHP Sterling Sharp (0-0, 0.00) is set to start for Potomac, while RHP Jace Vines (0-0, 0.00) is scheduled to start for the Blue Rocks.
First pitch on Friday 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.