The strikeouts have been coming in bunches for New Hampshire lately.
Starter Sean Nolin matched the Fisher Cats team record with 13 strikeouts and combined with three relievers to fan a franchise-high 18 overall before shortstop Kevin Nolan's third hit of the game gave New Hampshire a walk-off win over Bowie in 11 innings Wednesday, 2-1.
The franchise mark of 13 strikeouts was set by Gustavo Chacin in a playoff game on Sept. 8, 2004; it went unchallenged until Marcus Stroman fanned 13 New Britain Rock Cats on July 2. Stroman, a first-round pick out of Duke University in 2012, did it again 29 days later in Bowie.
The Baysox were victims again Wednesday once Nolin, a 23-year-old left-hander, took the hill for New Hampshire. The Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect, Nolan owns a 7-3 record and 2.84 ERA in 16 starts for the Fisher Cats. Though he lacks the innings to qualify for the Eastern League ERA crown, his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, which only counts the things a pitcher controls -- strikeouts, walks, hit by pitch and home runs allowed) of 2.41 is best among EL pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings and fifth-best in the entire Minor Leagues among pitchers with at least 15 starts (see chart below).
Nolin roared out of the gate, fanning the first five Baysox hitters he faced before yielding a walk and a single in the second inning. The 6-foot-5 Long Island native ultimately struck out the side in the first, second and fourth.
New Hampshire got on the board in the third inning on a bases-loaded RBI groundout from Adam Loewen, but Nolin was unable to hold the lead. Bowie's Caleb Joseph led off the sixth with a double to left and later tied the game on a two-out single by Seth Loman.
Though Nolin walked just one batter, the sheer number of strikeouts took its toll on his pitch count. He threw a season-high 108 pitches threw six frames -- 78 of them for strikes -- and was charged with one run on seven hits.
Top Minor League pitchers in FIP, min. 15 starts
|Sean Nolin||New Hampshire||TOR||16||85.2||99||24||2||4||2.84||2.41|
|Rafael Montero||Las Vegas||NYM||22||124.2||117||29||0||5||3.10||2.54|
|Ty Blach||San Jose||SF||17||112.2||103||14||1||7||2.64||2.58|
* Minor League stats only; pitcher's current team listed.
Bowie starter Mike Wright (featured in Tuesday's Eastern League notebook) was nearly as dominant, allowing one run on five hits while striking out seven over seven innings. No Fisher Cats hitter reached second base between the fourth and the 10th, and New Hampshire struck out 12 times to go along with Bowie's 18.
The New Hampshire bullpen picked up where Nolin left off, with Ryan Tepera fanning two in a perfect seventh and Randy Boone striking out one in two no-hit frames. Scott Gracey (4-1) gave up a hit and a walk in two innings but whiffed two more Baysox to tie and break the franchise record.
The hit that Gracey surrendered, a leadoff single in the 11th, was Bowie left fielder Caleb Joseph's second of the day and team-record 382nd with the Baysox. The 27-year-old has played 402 games for Bowie over the past four seasons.
The Fisher Cats offense, which had produced just five runs over its previous 37 innings, awoke in the bottom of the 11th. Andy Burns led off with a single to left and went from first to third on Brad Glenn's one-out single. With men at the corners and one out, Nolan smacked a 2-2 offering from Bowie reliever Clay Schrader (5-3) back up the middle to score the winner. "Both pitchers pitched really well," Nolan said. "We just tried to grind it out and were fortunate to get a win."
Nolan, a New Hampshire native, went 3-for-5 Wednesday and has hits in each of his last nine games. He's 3-for-6 in extra innings this season.
Despite their difficult day at the plate, the Baysox remain the Eastern League's top hitting team with a collective .270 average. Bowie's 833 team strikeouts are third-fewest on the 12-team circuit.
Though they have just one more game with New Hampshire, it is likely to be no easier: Major Leaguer Kyle Drabek, recovering from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to start for the Fisher Cats on Thursday evening.