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Wild ending nets P-Nats Game 1 win

Haltiwanger's wild pitch in the 15th gives Potomac early lead
September 4, 2008
WOODBRIDGE, Va.- After becoming the first full-season Washington Nationals affiliate to clinch a postseason berth and first in the franchise's history since 2004, the Potomac Nationals made a splash in their playoff debut taking game one of the Northern Division Championship Series 2-1 in 15 innings.

In a match-up featuring two of the top three pitching staffs in the Carolina League and the best two defensive clubs, it did not appear that the Nationals and Wilmington Blue Rocks would be in for a high-scoring series. However, no one would have predicted that the two clubs would take 15 frames to break a 1-1 stalemate.

Boomer Whiting, on for ejected Michael Burgess who was tossed in the bottom of the ninth inning by home plate umpire Andy Dudones, led off the bottom of the 15th with a base hit to center field. No stranger to pressure situations after appearing with the Louisville Cardinals in the 2007 College World Series, Whiting then took off for second and swiped the bag on a high throw from Wilmington catcher Jeff Howell. Stephen King advanced Whiting to third on a ground out to first base forcing the infield and outfield to come in with just one out in the inning. Jhonatan Solano had a chance to win the game, but he hit a shallow fly ball to right field holding the runner at third.

Dan Lyons, who doubled in a run down the left field line in the bottom of the fifth inning, came up to the plate with the chance to be the hero yet again. Down in the count 1-2, Russ Haltiwanger (0-1) uncorked a wild pitch that rolled to the left of the batter's circle and enabled Whiting to sprint in from third to send the P-Nats home winners in the opener of the best-of-five series.

Howell managed to tie the game in the top of the eighth inning off of Potomac reliever Kyle Gunderson with a line drive home run to left field on the first pitch he saw leading off the inning, yet it was Howell who couldn't stop the pitch in the dirt from Haltiwanger in the end.

Dan Leatherman (1-0), making his Carolina League debut, was fantastic over four innings, blanking the Blue Rocks while allowing just two hits. The 23-year-old struck out a pair and walked none.

Potomac starter Luis Atilano was brilliant for six innings on the hill limiting the Blue Rocks to just two hits with a couple of strikeouts and one walk. Wilmington hurler Matt Kniginyzky was also solid in the starting role giving up just one run on six hits in 6 2/3 innings.

The 15-inning, three-hour and 45 minute marathon was the longest game in terms of innings for both teams this season.

The Northern Division Championship Series will continue tomorrow night as right-hander Erik Arnesen (4-3, 4.46) looks to put Potomac a win away from clinching opposite Wilmington right-hander Mario Santiago (8-8, 3.43). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Pfitzner Stadium.