Needing a win and a West Virginia loss at Charleston on the final day of the season to make the 2018 South Atlantic League Playoffs, the Intimidators took care of business Monday evening in Hagerstown, 9-4, with Charleston beating West Virginia, 7-4, helping the Intimidators reach the postseason for the second year in a row.
The Intimidators go the scoring going in the second, as Tate Blackman led off the inning with a six-pitch walk, followed by a single from Carlos Perez to put runners at first and second for Michael Hickman. On a 0-1 pitch, Hickman reached on an error by shortstop Juan Pascal, allowing all runners to move up 90 feet, loading the bases for Johan Cruz. After watching the first pitch and fouling off the next two, Cruz smacked a line drive single to center field, scoring Blackman and Perez to create a two-run cushion for Parker Rigler and the Intimidators.
After a clean third inning for both teams, including Tim Cate striking out the side for Hagerstown, Kannapolis tacked on another run in the fourth thanks to a Perez solo home run to left-center, increasing the lead to three, 3-0.
In the home-half of the fourth, Jake Scudder doubled for what proved to be the first of three straight doubles for Hagerstown, as Anderson Franco and Omar Meregildo helped cap off the trifecta, helping the Suns score their first two runs, down 3-2. After the doubles, manager Justin Jirschele leaned on Bennett Sousa to shut down the Hagerstown offense, but Hagerstown had other plans.
Still with no outs, Kameron Esthay singled to right field on an 0-2 pitch off Sousa, putting runners at the corners for Alejandro Flores. During Flores' at-bat, Perez hustled back to a pitch that scurried behind the plate, connecting with Sousa to nab out the runner at the plate for the first out of the inning. Despite the momentum swinging play for Kannapolis, Flores cranked the fourth double of the inning for the Suns to left field, scoring Esthay to tie the game, 3-3.
In the seventh, Jared Brasher got the ball for Hagerstown, giving up a leadoff single to Hickman, as the Intimidators played small ball to send Hickman to second on a sacrifice bunt. After an infield hit for Ramon Beltre to shortstop and a Tyler Frost walk on five pitches, Curbelo watched four balls go by him, drawing the walk to bring in the lead-run for Kannapolis, up 4-3.
One batter later, Steele Walker smacked a sacrifice fly to left field, deep enough to score Beltre from third to increase the lead to two, 5-3. Next up, Blackman launched a ball off the wall in left, scoring both Frost and Curbelo to blow open the game, 7-3.
In the eighth, Perez connected on his third hit of the day to lead off the frame, scoring one batter later after Hickman's third hit of the day found the left field wall, giving the I's an 8-3 lead. A half inning later, Flores homered on a 1-1 pitch from Jose Nin with one out, cutting the lead in half, 8-4.
In the top of the ninth, the Intimidators added on another run with Curbelo launching his third homer of the season to left-center, proving to be the ninth and final run of the ball game for Kannapolis.
Kannapolis will host the Lakewood BlueClaws for the first game of the best-of-three series in the 2018 South Atlantic League Playoffs Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for just $3 at Intimidatorsbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.