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Hillcats' Masters dominates Rocks05/02/2011 11:27 PM ET
By John Parker / Special to MLB.com
As far as Chris Masters is concerned, maybe the Lynchburg team bus should break down every day.
Arriving late in Wilmington Monday did not faze the left-hander, who allowed just one hit over seven scoreless frames as the Class A Advanced Hillcats cruised past the host Wilmington Blue Rocks, 9-1, after the squad had to wait over an hour for replacement transportation en route to the game.
The 23-year-old Masters struck out nine -- one shy of his career high -- walked three and hit one batter. The Blue Rocks' one hit off him was a leadoff double by Whit Merrifield in the first inning. First-place Wilmington would not manage another hit until the eighth.
"I'm mainly a fastball/curveball pitcher, but tonight I was having success with my changeup -- not just to strike hitters out, but to keep them off balance at any time in the count," Masters said.
"It was important to have that third pitch later in the game when guys are coming up for the third time."
"He's kind of a funky, crafty lefty," Wilmington manager Brian Rupp said after the game. "He very rarely threw two fastballs in a row and mixed his pitches well. It's hard to get in the box and feel comfortable."
Merrifield, who had the only hit off Masters, concurred.
"He's just deceptive -- his curveball is sharp, but slow, and it keeps you off balance. He's got kind of a different motion, which makes it tough to hit against him."
Masters improved to 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA in six appearances this season. After coming out of the bullpen in his first three outings, the Western Carolina product has won all three of his starts, allowing two runs on six hits while fanning 21 over 17 innings as a starter.
"I think the Braves were trying to test my versatility," Masters said of his relief work. "I really took it as a challenge to mentally prepare for whatever role they want me to play. I'm not sure if I'll continue to start, but I'm ready for however they want to use me."
Wilmington has been the victim of Masters' last two victories. He limited the Rocks to two runs on two hits over five frames in the Hillcats' 5-2 home win last Wednesday. Masters, the Braves' 11th-round pick in the 2009 Draft, is the first Lynchburg hurler to amass three wins this season.
Masters enjoyed bountiful support from the Hillcats offense, which matched season highs with nine runs and 16 hits while setting a new mark with six doubles.
Leadoff man L.V. Ware led the way, going 2-for-4 with his first homer of the season and three RBIs. Right fielder Keenan Wiley collected three singles, second baseman Philip Gosselin doubled twice and Joseph Terdoslavich added two hits, including a double high off the wall in the ninth inning that was nearly his league-leading eighth home run.
Every Hillcats batter had at least one hit and seven drove in at least one run.
After Merrifield's first-inning double, the Blue Rocks did not get another hit until the eighth, when they strung three singles together to get on the board. Merrifield delivered the RBI single and had two of Wilmington's four hits on the night.
Wilmington starter Timothy Melville fell to 2-3 after allowing seven runs -- six earned -- on 11 hits over four innings. He struck out one and did not walk a batter.
Though the Hillcats remain in fourth and last place in the Carolina League Northern Division, 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Rocks, they have won three of the two teams' four meetings this season.