Twelve days after making history for Class A Advanced Potomac, Matthew Crownover was back on the bump against the same Lynchburg lineup in a postseason setting. He didn't have hitless stuff this time around, but the southpaw got the job done.
In the second game of the Carolina League semifinals, Crownover allowed one run on five hits over five frames Thursday as the Nationals topped the Hillcats, 4-1, to even the best-of-5 series at Calvin Falwell Field. He struck out six and walked four.
Gameday box score
"Lynchburg is familiar with him and he was not as sharp tonight as he's been -- he ran high pitch counts," Potomac manager Tripp Keister said. "I give [the Hillcats] a lot of credit, because they've seen him and had better at-bats against him tonight. ... But he made pitches when he had to. He gave up an RBI double and mixed it up. He had a good mix, had a good cutter working tonight, had a good changeup. He gave us five strong and gave us a chance to win."
On Aug. 25 against the Hillcats, Crownover threw a season-high 110 pitches en route to Potomac's first no-hitter. Facing Lynchburg on Thursday, he tossed 54 of 90 pitches for strikes while facing 24 batters.
The 2015 sixth-round pick allowed a baserunner every inning, but limited the damage to just an RBI double to Gavin Collins in the third. With two outs in the next frame, Alexis Pantoja reached on a single and Dillon Persinger followed with a walk. But Crownover kept his cool after a mound visit and got Mitch Longo to fly out to right. It was an effort his skipper didn't take for granted.
"Watching him this year, he struggled early," Keister said. "But the last two months he's pitched well because he's been more aggressive in the strike zone, he's changing speeds, he's using his whole repertoire -- his fastball, cutter, curveball and his changeup. ... He just keeps getting better and he keeps changing speeds and throwing strikes. Watching his evolution the last couple of months, it's not pitching backwards because he's aggressive with his fastball. He's throwing all of his pitches for strikes and he can do that in any count. It's been fun to watch."
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Ben Braymer relieved the starter, yielding a hit and a walk while fanning seven over three scoreless innings. Steven Fuentes threw a perfect ninth to earn the save.
Nick Banks delivered at the plate, blasting a two-run homer in the fourth that put the Nationals up for good. Third-ranked Washington prospect Luis Garcia followed up his two doubles in the opener with another two hits in the second contest.
Jean Carlos Mejia (0-1) took the loss for the Hillcats, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk over four innings. Second-ranked Indians prospect Nolan Jones finished 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.
The series shifts to Potomac for Game 3 and is slated to start at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday.
In other Carolina League playoff action:
Astros 3, Dash 1
With the game tied in the sixth inning, Corey Julks blasted a two-run homer to put Buies Creek up for good and give it a 2-0 lead in the series. No. 7 Astros prospect Seth Beer also chipped in an RBI double. Jose Hernandez (1-0) stepped up on the mound, allowing one run on four hits with nine strikeouts. Fourth-ranked White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal went 1-for-4 and drove in the lone run for Winston-Salem. Gameday box score