Winston-Salem, NC - The 'Cats took a 1-0 series lead in the Mill Cup Championship Series with a 3-1 win in Winston-Salem. Andrelton Simmons blasted a homer on the first pitch of the game, while Michael Lee turned in a career-best nine strike outs in six and two-thirds innings.
The Mills Cup began about as well as the Hillcats could have hoped for. On the very first pitch of the series, Andrelton Simmons hit his second home run in as many games to give the 'Cats the 1-0 lead. In 2011 as a Hillcat, Simmons had one homer in 131 games.
It would be the top of the third when the Hillcats would strike again. Steve McCray surrendered a lead-off double to Edward Salcedo, but settled down to strike out the next two batters. However, last night's hero, Braeden Schlehuber, was able to capitalize with an RBI single to left field to give Lynchburg a two-run cushion.
On the opposing side, Michael Lee was on the hill for the 'Cats. It was evident from the beginning that Lee had his best stuff of the season. Through the first six innings Lee struck out a career-tying high of nine, including six straight, allowed two hits and retired 13 in a row at one point.
Offensively, the 'Cats would reward Lee with another run in top of the seventh. On in relief was Bryan Blough. After a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth for Blough, the seventh started with a surprise bunt from Simmons. Nick Ahmed would lay down the sac bunt to move Simmons to second. Then, Blough threw away a pick off attempt as Simmons danced around the bag at second. The errant throw allowed Simmons to move to third. It would be Tommy La Stella's 11th sac fly of the season that would score Simmons to give the 'Cats a 3-0 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Dash would knock Lee out of the game. A lead-off walk put Dan Wagner on before Marcus Semien lined out. Manager Luis Salazar would give Lee the hook in favor of Ryne Harper. The Carolina League MVP, Dan Black, was the first batter he faced and on the first pitch thrown, he hit a hot shot to La Stella at second. The 4-6-3 double play would be completed to end the threat.
Blough ran into more trouble in the top of the eighth. After retiring the first batter of the inning, Blough would surrender a double, walk and single. However, he buckled down to get a weak pop out from Schlehuber and soft ground ball from Simmons to keep the game in reach.
Winston-Salem chipped away in the bottom of the eighth off of Harper. An error by Chris Garcia put Michael Earley on first, then back-to-back singles by Mike Blanke and the young phenom, Courtney Hawkins, pushed the game to 3-1 as Earley scored.
Juan Jaime (2) got his second save in as many nights and preserved the win for Lee (1-0). McCray (0-1) got the loss in his five innings of work in which he walked four and struck out four, while allowing six hits and two runs.