The Fayetteville Woodpeckers battled with the Lynchburg Hillcats for the longest game in franchise history, with the Thursday night showdown spanning four hours and five minutes at Segra Stadium. Fayetteville loaded the bases four times, walked home a run for three different times, and set a franchise record in free passes drawn with eleven total walks. Those stats were not enough to secure a Woodpeckers victory as the Hillcats rode a 4-for-6 day from Tyler Freeman and a little league homer from Willbus Santiago to a 7-4 victory. The Woodpeckers defense struggled in the loss at home, committing five errors which tied a franchise record.
From the get go the Hillcats offense loaded the bases against Woodpeckers starter Luis Garcia, starting with a one out infield single from Tyler Freeman. Garcia then clipped Wilbis Santiago and walked Mitch Reeves to put three on for the Lynchburg offense. The Fayetteville starter then settled in fanning Gavin Collins and forcing Will Benson to line out to Jake Adams at first. The Woodpeckers offense responded by loading the bases themselves in the bottom of the first. Jeremy Pena knocked a double right away against Lynchburg starter Justin Garza, but the Hillcats starter retired the next pair of Fayetteville batters. With two away, Jake Adams drew a base on balls and then Jacob Meyers was hit with a pitch from Garza. With the bases now loaded, Ross Adolph was patient at the plate, watching four balls tossed by Garza for a walk that scored Pena to make it 1-0 Woodpeckers after one inning of play.
Both teams went three up, theree down in the second inning but the third inning saw the Hillcats come alive. In the top of the frame Steven Kwan walked and then moved to third thanks to a two-bagger sliced by Tyler Freeman. With two runners in scoring position Santiago laced a single into right field, that scored both Kwan and Freeman. In the outfield Corey Julks misplayed the ball on the base hit, meaning a sprinting Santiago was able to pull off a little league home run. The three scores suddenly gave Lynchburg a two run lead while also moving Santiago's RBI total to nineteen on the year.
With Garza still on the mound in the bottom of the third and the Woodpeckers suddenly in a 3-1 hole, the Woodpeckers started a rally with a single from Jonathan Arauz. Julks then replaced Arauz on a fielder's choice, followed by a base hit roped by Jake Adams to put two runners on. With two outs Ross Adolph drew his second walk of the night to load the bases once again for the Woodpeckers. Fayetteville's catcher Michael Papierski stepped up to the plate, drew a base on balls and brought home a run to make it a one run game once again. Garza stranded three runners when he struck out Enmanuel Valdez, but the Woodpeckers chipped away to make it just 3-2 Lynchburg.
The top of the fourth continued the bases loaded trend at Segra Stadium, this time the Hillcats were able to extend their lead. Luke Wakamatsu reached on an error committed by Jeremy Pena, Tyler Freeman followed by laying down a successful one out bunt down the third base line. Garcia struck out Santiago looking, but then walked Mitch Reeves to put runners at all bags. That Woodpeckers decided to make a pitching change, tasking Humberto Castellanos with making the final out of the frame with the bases loaded. The Woodpeckers reliever did see Wakamatsu score off an infield single from Gavin Collins, but eventually struck out Will Benson to limit the damage and head to the bottom of the fourth with Lynchburg up 4-2.
Neither team scored again until the Hillcats tacked on another in the top of the sixth, behind no hits. With Castellanos still on the mound the Woodpeckers offense committed back-to-back errors allowing both Santiago and Reeves to reach on an E4 and an E5. The pair of mistakes tied a franchise record for errors committed by Fayetteville in a single game with five total on the evening. Gavin Collins flew out to right field, but the high ball allowed the runners to tag up and move along, putting both in scoring position. Will Benson then followed with a fly out fo his own to center field, that scored Santiago to make it 5-2 Lynchburg.
The Woodpeckers offense notched another score, with their third bases loaded walk of the night in the bottom of the seventh inning. With Hillcats reliever Hector Hernandez now on the hill, Jake Adams drew a walk, Meyers laced a single and Ross Adolph walked for the third time on the night for the fourth time on the night load the bases for Fayetteville. Then for the second time in the game Michael Papierski took four called balls to register an RBI, scoring Adams and cutting the Hillcats lead back down to two.
In the top of the eighth Lynchburg got going against Fayetteville reliever Brett Conine, with four straight baserunners reaching safely. Tyler Freeman knocked his third infield single of the night, Santiago doubled, and then Reeves walked to loaded the bases yet again. Gavin Collins notched his second RBI of the evening with a single to center that scored Freeman. Santiago came home for the third time on the night, with another single this time from Jonathan Laureano. The two tallies made it 7-3 Lynchburg, stretching their lead once again going into the bottom of the eighth. The Woodpeckers offense did put another on the board in the bottom of that frame, this time not on a base loaded walk. With two away, Corey Julks smoked a double and crossed home after Jake Adams laced a single into center field. That made it just a three run lead for the Hillcats, but the comeback was too much as both teams were held scoreless in the ninth. Lynchburg ultimately coming out with a 7-4 victory in the series finale at Segra Stadium.
The Woodpeckers still win the series against Lynchburg after sweeping a double header a day ago at Segra Stadium. With this being the last matchup between the two teams in 2019, the season series finishes at an even 7-7. Fayetteville moves 17-18 in the second half and 48-56 overall on the year. Lynchburg is now 15-18 in the second half and 47-53 on the season. Fayetteville turns their attention to a divisional foe in Carolina, with game one set for tomorrow at Segra Stadium. First pitch is set for 7:00pm.
The Fayetteville Woodpeckers are the Advanced Single-A affiliate of the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros and play in their Inaugural Season at beautiful Segra Stadium in downtown Fayetteville. Segra Stadium, a $40 million state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue, features space for over 5,200 fans, natural grass, a 25x70 LED video scoreboard, six luxury suites, four field boxes, the premium AEVEX Veterans Club level, Healy's Bar and outdoor party deck, a kid's zone, and more. With a rich history of baseball in the city of Fayetteville and Cumberland County, the Woodpeckers are thrilled to write a new chapter with their inaugural campaign on Hay Street. Fans are encouraged to visit FayettevilleWoodpeckers.com to purchase tickets, learn more about the team, and find out about upcoming events and promotions at the ballpark. Fans may also reach the Woodpeckers by visiting the BB&T Box Office in front of Segra Stadium, calling (910) 339-1989, or emailing Woodpeckers@Astros.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.