READING, PA - The New Hampshire Fisher Cats stranded the tying run on base in the ninth inning, losing 11-9 to the Reading Fightin' Phils Tuesday night at FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading.
The Fisher Cats (13-13) fell to 2-10 on the road with the loss, despite cracking 19 hits (just one shy of their biggest game this season). Reading (15-9) scored seven runs in the first two innings and never trailed, despite a late charge by the visitors. New Hampshire left 17 runners on base, tying a team record set on May 5, 2010 against the New Britain Rock Cats.
Reading got it going in the bottom of the first inning against Fisher Cats starter Austin Bibens-Dirkx (L, 0-1), as Roman Quinn led off with a triple to right and scored on a ground-out by KC Serna. After an Aaron Altherr strikeout, Art Charles bashed a solo homer to right field, Cameron Perkins then doubled to left, and came home two batters later on a single from Brodie Greene, making it 3-0 Reading.
The Fightin' Phils poured it on in the second inning. With two runners on, Charles doubled to right to score them both, and came home when Perkins hammered his own homer to left field, making it 7-0 in favor of the hosts.
New Hampshire started hacking away at the lead in the third inning, as Matt Newman brought Jon Berti home on a sacrifice fly off Reading starter Jesse Biddle. The Fisher Cats got two more in the fourth, with Christian Lopes singling home Pierce Rankin and Matt Newman bringing home Jorge Flores on a ground out to cut the Reading lead to 7-3.
The Fightin' Phils answered, not for the last time, with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Against new reliever Arik Sikula, Art Charles came home on a single by Brian Pointer, and Cameron Perkins scored on a fielder's choice on a pitch in the dirt, running the lead back to 9-3.
New Hampshire wouldn't be so easily dismissed, though. In the top of the fifth, Flores doubled home K.C. Hobson, and Lopes lifted a sacrifice fly to left against Hoby Milner (W, 1-0) to plate Rankin, trimming the margin to 9-5. Again, though, Reading roared back in the bottom of the inning. A one-out double from Logan Moore scored two runs and put Reading in an 11-5 lead.
The Fisher Cats started chipping away again in the seventh inning, with Berti lofting a sacrifice fly to score Emilio Guerrero and make the score 11-6; New Hampshire would leave the bases loaded. In the eighth inning, the Fisher Cats plated two more on a wild pitch by Lee Ridenhour and a bases-loaded walk drawn by Berti. Again, however, the Fisher Cats left the bases loaded, and trailed 11-8 going to the ninth inning.
New Hampshire made it tight in the ninth inning. With one out, Jake Fox drew a walk from Stephen Shackleford (S, 5), and moved to second on a single by Hobson. Guerrero drew a walk to load the bases, bringing up Rankin. The catcher hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Fox and moving Hobson to third. With the tying run aboard, Flores stung a line drive that was snared by Serna at short, ending the game at 11-9.
Bibens-Dirkx took the loss, surrendering seven runs on nine hits and a walk over three innings while fanning five. Sikula gave up four runs on five hits and a walk in his lone inning of action. Luis Perez delivered three innings of stellar relief, allowing just one hit and one walk while whiffing three and hitting one batter. Cory Burns dealt a shutout frame, striking out two.
The Fisher Cats will try to avoid a sweep in the series finale at 11:35 a.m. Wednesday, with LHP Matt Boyd (1-1, 1.04) getting the ball for New Hampshire against Reading righty Zach Eflin (2-1, 1.14). Coverage with Ben Gellman begins at 11:15 a.m. on the WGIR Fisher Cats Radio Network and online at www.nhfishercats.com.
The Fisher Cats return to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Friday, May 8 to play Trenton. An Atlas Fireworks Show will follow the 6:35 p.m. contest. Tickets are available by visiting www.nhfishercats.com., stopping by the Fisher Cats ticket office, or by calling (603) 641-2005.