Lynchburg, VA- The Lynchburg Hillcats dropped the season series finale against the Potomac Nationals 3-1. It was another strong pitching performance for Nathan Karns and more bad defense that lead to an extended inning that did the 'Cats in. Despite not allowing an earned run, Aaron Northcraft got the loss, his fourth in a row.
The first four innings of the game had the makings of a long pitchers' duel between Aaron Northcraft and Nathan Karns. Through four innings Northcraft allowed just two hits, while Karns allowed three. However, the top of the fifth was not as smooth for the 'Cats.
The game was tied 0-0 when Kevin Keyes doubled with one out. Northcraft settled down and struck out J.P. Ramirez and followed that by getting Michael Taylor to hit a sharp ground ball to Nick Ahmed at short stop. However, on the throw, Ahmed threw it low and first baseman Michael Spina could not collect it. Keyes raced home and slid around a tag after Spina got the ball to Comer behind the plate. The score was 1-0, but it wouldn't end there. Adrian Sanchez and Rick Hague would hit back-to-back doubles to make the lead 2-0 then 3-0, respectively.
Although David Freitas would be retired just a batter later, it wasn't as simple as the box score would suggest. Freitas hit a liner shin high to Ahmed. It was clear that Ahmed caught it, but base umpire Aaron Larsen said he played it on a hop. Ahmed delivered the ball to first to get Freitas, but said the magic words to Larsen and was tossed immediately. The ejection was the first for a Hillcats' player and second overall (Hitting Coach Bobby Moore was ejected in Salem). That would be the last batter for Northcraft as well.
The Hillcats offense would stay silent until the bottom of the sixth. Emerson Landoni started the inning by eking one over the left-center field wall for his second bomb of the season. The score was 3-1.
From there it would be a four Hillcats out of the bullpen to keep the game at 3-1, but Karns would combine with Adam Carr to shut down the 'Cats offense and get the P-Nats the victory. The win pushed the season series even at 10-10 for the season after the 'Cats dropped the season series 11-9 last year.
Karns improved to 7-2 and kept his ERA under two after allowing just one run on the Landoni solo blast. Karns went a total of six innings, allowed five hits, struck out seven and walked one. Northcraft (8-8) got the touch-luck loss as he allowed three runs, but none were earned. He too gave up five hits, struck out seven and walked one. Neil Holland came in and closed down the offense for his fourth save of the season.
The 'Cats hit the road tomorrow for a weekend series against the Salem Red Sox.