Charlotte, NC --- Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien homered to lead the Charlotte Knights past the Durham Bulls 4-2 in the series opener on Tuesday night at BB&T Ballpark.
Phegley took Bulls starter Merrill Kelly (L, 6-3) out to the opposite field with two outs in the third to snap a 1-1 tie. Semien drilled a homer to center in the fifth. Charlotte (50-62) leads the I.L. with 140 home runs, which is second in all of professional baseball.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first, the Bulls (58-51) tied the game 1-1 with some crafty baserunning from veteran Ray Olmedo. After singling on an 0-2 pitch with two outs, Olmedo aggressively advanced two bases on a passed ball by Phegley. Before the next pitch from Chris Beck (W, 1-1), Olmedo bluffed down the third base line to induce a balk to score.
After Phegley's homer in the third, the Bulls' best chance occurred in the fifth when Ali Solis doubled, followed by two singles by Hak-Ju Lee and Olmedo scored Solis. Robby Price singled to right to load the bases with one out. But Beck retired Mike Fontenot on a popfly and then Mikie Mahtook's grounder destined for centerfield was stopped by shortstop Semien and converted to a force play to end the inning.
The Bulls had soft chances in the eighth and ninth against Jarrett Casey (S, 1). A pair of one-out walks brought Wilson Betemit up as the go-ahead run, but he popped out to second. Vince Belnome then was denied on a solid defensive stop by Micah Johnson up the middle at second base. In the ninth, Olmedo doubled into the right field corner with two outs. Robby Price worked the count to 3-1 before flying out to left-centerfield.
Olmedo had three of Durham's seven hits.
The entire South Division picked up ground on the first-place Bulls. Norfolk won at Toledo to pull to within seven games. Gwinnett defeated Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and inched to within 9 1/2, sitting in a third place tie with Charlotte.
The series continues Wednesday night with Alex Colome (4-3, 3.55) starting against Charlotte's Shawn Hill (3-4, 5.11) at 7:05 PM ET.