Lynchburg, VA-Needing to pile up wins in a hurry to stay in the playoff race, the Potomac Nationals (62-72, 29-36) fell into an early 2-0 hole against the playoff bound Lynchburg Hillcats (81-52, 41-23) and trailed by as many as nine runs in a 9-3 loss on Tuesday night. The Hillcats came within two outs of a shutout, but C Jakson Reetz had a three-run double in the ninth inning, Potomac's only run-scoring play of the night.
RHP Austen Williams (L, 2-4) struggled out of the gate for Potomac, as the right-handed starter gave up two runs in the bottom of the first inning. SS Willi Castro singled with one out, while Williams hit LF Andrew Calica on an 0-2 pitch. 3B Gavin Collins connected on the first of his four hits in the game, as his two-run double over the third base bag made it 2-0 Lynchburg.
After two scoreless frames from Williams, the righty pitched himself into trouble in the fourth inning. With one out, Williams struck out 1B Sicnarf Loopstok on a pitch in the dirt, but Loopstok reached base on a wild pitch. Williams then retired C Martin Cervenka, but RF Connor Marabell extended the inning with a single. After Marabell stole second base, DH Jodd Carter drew a walk, which loaded the bases. With 2B Sam Haggerty at the plate, Williams unleashed his second wild pitch of the inning, which plated Loopstok and made it 3-0. Though the Hillcats left two men in scoring position, they increased their lead one batter into the bottom of the fifth inning. Castro became the first man for either side to reach base when leading off an inning, as he began the home half of the fifth frame with a towering home run to right field. Lynchburg led 4-0 after five innings.
The Potomac offense came close on many occasions vs. LHP Sean Brady (W, 2-1). Great defensive plays in the outfield by Calica, CF Ka'ai Tom, and Marabell all took extra-base hits away from various Potomac hitters over Brady's six-inning shutout performance. Brady walked 1B Ian Sagdal in the first inning, and issued consecutive one-out walks to CF Daniel Johnson and LF Jack Sundberg in the third frame, though both times, Potomac came up empty. Brady allowed just two hits in the win, a double by Reetz in the second inning and a double to RF Dale Carey in the fifth.
The Hillcats put the game away with multi-run frames in both the seventh and eighth. Calica drew a one-out walk from RHP Ronald Pena in the seventh inning, while Collins and Tom hit consecutive RBI doubles. Loopstok followed with another strikeout, but once again reached on a wild pitch, which plated Tom and made it 7-0. Pena had four wild pitches over 1.1 innings. In the eighth, LHP Jordan Mills retired the first two men that he faced in the frame, but gave up a one-out single to Calica before Collins connected on a two-run home run. Collins finished 4-5 with two doubles, a home run, and five RBIs.
In the final frame, Potomac final got on the board, as RHP Nick Pasquale had major problems throwing strikes. The righty retired the first man that he faced, but then issued three straight walks to DH Taylor Gushue , 3B David Masters , and 2B Jake Noll . On the final pitch of Pasquale's night, Reetz cleared the bases with his second double of the game. RHP Jared Robinson entered, and despite a single from Carey, Robinson stranded two men on base, as he retired the final two batters of the night.
Paired with the a victory by the Frederick Keys over the Salem Red Sox on Tuesday night, Potomac now sits tied with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, three games back of both the Red Sox and Keys in the Northern Division playoff race with just six days to go.
In an effort to even the series, RHP Jefry Rodriguez (3-2, 3.06) will make the start for Potomac. Rodriguez has not allowed a run and has surrendered just one hit over six innings in his three games since he returned to Potomac. For the Hillcats, RHP Aaron Civale (10-2, 2.59) will make his fourth start of the year vs. Potomac. In his first three starts vs. the P-Nats, the righty went 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA.
First pitch on Wednesday is set for 6:30pm. The Potomac broadcast will get underway at 6:15pm with the P-Nats Leadoff Show. You can listen to the Potomac broadcast at potomacnationals.com or on the TuneIn Radio App.
The Potomac Nationals of the Carolina League play at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Virginia, and are the Carolina League affiliate of the Washington Nationals. The Potomac Nationals have claimed five Carolina League Championship titles (1982, 1989, 2008, 2010, and 2014) and nine CL Northern Division Championships. Sponsorship opportunities for the P-Nats' 2017 season and beyond are available, as well as all-inclusive corporate outings to watch the future stars of the Washington Nationals at The Pfitz. For more information on Potomac Nationals 2017 single game tickets, season tickets, mini plans, group outings, and picnic packages, visit the P-Nats online at www.potomacnationals.com or call the Potomac Nationals' Extreme Custom Collision Ticket Office at 703-590-2311.
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