When you see a 9-2 game, you don’t think “wow, what a close one”. It was just that for the Lynchburg Hillcats tonight, who ended up defeating the Salem Red Sox in the first game of the Carolina League Championship Series by a score of 9-2. At least it was close up until the seventh inning.
Going in to the top of the sixth inning, the Hillcats held a 3-2 lead, when Justin Wilson ran in to a jam, with runners at first and third and one out. After a fly out to right field, which wasn’t deep enough to score the runner, Chris Cullen came on and got a ground ball out, thanks to a great diving stop by first baseman Matt Hague, who flipped the ball to Cullen at first for the final out.
The score was still 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, after Harrison Bishop got out of a jam with a runner at second and one out in the top of the inning. Then, with one out, Matt Hague came to the plate and crushed a high 2-1 fastball over the left field wall, going over top of the foul pole, making the score 4-2. That was the beginning.
From there, Alex Presley doubled in the next at-bat. Jose de los Santos singled Presley to third, but committed the second out, with de los Santos doing a good Nyjer Morgan impression, sliding way past the second base bag. Chase d’Arnaud followed that up with an RBI single to make the score 5-2, giving d’Arnaud a three RBI night.
Tony Sanchez padded the lead in the eighth with a double off the right field wall, bringing Jordy Mercer home from third, and moving Kris Watts from first to third. Hague brought in another run with a single, and then de los Santos made up for his earlier error, crushing a liner to the left-center field gap, which ended up as a two RBI triple, scoring Sanchez and Hague, and making the score 9-2.
On the pitching side, the Hillcats got another strong performance from their rotation, the key to their post-season success so far, as Justin Wilson pitched 5.2 innings, allowing two runs (one unearned) on five hits, with two walks and three strikeouts. Chris Cullen pitched briefly, getting the key out in the sixth to escape the first and third jam. Harrison Bishop had a strong inning in the seventh, followed by two strong innings by Ramon Aguero to close out the game and get the save.
I’ll have a video recap of tonight’s game up on the site tomorrow. It will include the home run from Hague, and a few other key plays, like the two RBI double from Chase d’Arnaud in the third, and the double from Tony Sanchez in the eighth. It will also have every pitch Justin Wilson threw after the first inning (in honor of the Pirates playing in LA, I got to the game an inning late), as well as video of Harrison Bishop and Ramon Aguero.
The Hillcats take on Salem tomorrow in game two of this best of five series. Rudy Owens takes the mound, and the Cats can only hope for a performance similar to his outing last Thursday when Owens went six shutout innings, allowing four hits, one walk, and striking out six. I’ll be there, providing Twitter updates from the game, and doing a video recap, as this could be the last time Owens starts in A ball. Be sure to check out my interview with Owens, going up on the site later tonight.