Lynchburg, VA-In a near must-win matchup for the Potomac Nationals (62-72, 29-37), the offense went quietly vs. RHP Aaron Civale (W, 11-2) and the Lynchburg Hillcats (82-52, 42-23). Lynchburg scored two early runs against RHP Jefry Rodriguez (L, 3-3), and got a seventh straight seven-inning quality start for Civale, who picked up his sixth straight victory in Lynchburg's 5-2 win over the P-Nats on Wednesday night.
Like in the series opener 24 hours prior, the Hillcats got out to an early 2-0 advantage. After Rodriguez worked around a single and a walk in a scoreless first inning, the righty walked the first two batters that he faced in the second frame. With C Martin Cervenka and RF Connor Marabell on base, 1B Anthony Miller moved the runners to second and third with a ground out to Rodriguez. DH Daniel Salters followed with a ground out to the mound, but Cervenka scored and put Lynchburg on top 1-0. With 2B Sam Haggerty at the plate, C Jakson Reetz was charged with a passed ball, which plated Marabell and made it 2-0.
Opposite Rodriguez, Civale spun another gem, and if not for rain in the top of the fifth inning, may have put up a shutout performance. The righty retired the first 10 batters that he faced in the game, and did not allow a hit until LF Jack Sundberg bunted his way on in the fourth. 1B Ian Sagdal followed with a single, but Civale struck out C Taylor Gushue and got SS David Masters to fly out to centerfield.
The Hillcats plated what turned out to be the eventual game-winning run in the fourth inning against Rodriguez. For the second time in four frames, Rodriguez issued a leadoff walk, and for the second time, that batter scored. CF Ka'ai Tom drew the leadoff free pass, while Cervenka made it 3-0 with an opposite field RBI double. Rodriguez gave up three runs, two earned, over five innings. The righty walked five and struck only three in the loss.
Potomac's only runs came amidst a sudden downpour in the fifth inning. As the rain began, Reetz started the frame with a single. After RF Rhett Wiseman flied out, it began to pour. 2B Jake Noll lifted a fairly routine fly ball to deep left field, but LF Andrew Calica lost the ball in the combination of the rain, wind, and lights. Noll got credit for an RBI triple, while 3B Bryan Mejia plated him with a groundout. Potomac trailed 3-2 after five frames.
After Civale finished off his performance with a hitless seventh inning, the Lynchburg offense put the game away with a pair of insurance runs. In his third inning of relief, RHP Mariano Rivera III gave up singles to Miller and Salters in the seventh. A fielder's choice groundout by Haggerty put men at the corners with two outs, while Haggerty then stole second base, his league-leading 45th steal of the season. 2B Claudio Bautista, who came in as a defensive replacement early in the game for SS Willi Castro, lined a single into centerfield, which plated both baserunners and made it 5-2 Lynchburg, the final.
Out of the Lynchburg bullpen, RHP Kieran Lovegrove and RHP Luke Eubank (SV, 3) each worked a scoreless frame. Lovegrove gave up a one-out single to CF Daniel Johnson in the eighth inning, while Eubank struck out three straight after he issued a leadoff walk in the ninth to Gushue.
Hanging on to playoff hopes by just a thread, the P-Nats will try to avoid a sweep in Lynchburg on Thursday night. RHP Sterling Sharp (2-2, 5.33) is set to start for Potomac. Sharp has allowed just one earned run in two of his last three outings. For the Hillcats, RHP Triston McKenzie (11-6, 3.57) will look to continue his dominance of the Carolina League. The top pitching prospect in the league has given up more than one earned run in just one of his last four starts, but is 1-2 in four starts vs. Potomac in 2017.
First pitch on Thursday 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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