The P-Nats had not had much success against the Hillcats in 2009, going just 3-7 against their rivals from Lynchburg, but with much roster turnover, the Hillcats are a different ballclub in the second half of the season.
Terrence Engles got the nod on the hill for the P-Nats looking for his third win of the season. The Nationals' organizational leader in strikeouts with 95 in 85 2/3 innings coming into the game, Engles (3-3) had been a welcome surprise for Trent Jewett's ballclub as the team looks to defend their 2008 Carolina League title. Engles pitched admirably in this game, working five innings while surrendering three runs on five hits while striking out four.
The P-Nats struck first in the bottom of the second inning, plating the game's first run on an RBI single from Devin Ivany. A familiar face for Nats fans would be a factor in the second Potomac run as former Washington Nationals' outfielder Lastings Milledge, making a rehab assignment with the Hillcats, dropped a fly ball from Dan Nelson, allowing Francisco Plasencia to score the Nats' second run.
Milledge will be with the Hillcats for the remainder of their series with the P-Nats before returning to the higher levels of the Pittsburgh organization when all teams return from their respective All-Star breaks.
The Hillcats got those two runs back and then some in the top of the third inning as four seeing-eye singles found their way through the infield in the first five batters Engles faced, putting three runs on the board for the visiting Hillcats. Though Engles was the victim of a bit of bad luck, he composed himself on the mound by striking out Matt Hague with nobody out, getting a shallow fly ball from Jamie Romak, and a soft groundball from Alex Presley to end the inning with no further damage being done.
Engles' magic act in the third would come up huge for the Nationals as the home team would explode in the fourth and fifth frames.
Plasencia led off the fourth with a single to extend his league-leading hitting streak to 20 games, second longest in the Carolina League this season. Stephen King then laced a shot down the left-field line for an RBI double as Plasencia raced around the bases to cross home plate with the game's tying run. A wild pitch from Hillcat starter Bryan Morris (2-4) would score King to push the Nat advantage to 4-3.
Danny Espinosa would lead off the fifth with a single, and Michael Burgess followed with team-leading 15th home run of the season to dead center field, giving the P-Nats some breathing room at 6-3. A Plasencia single plated Chris Marrero with the game's seventh run.
Jesse Estrada and Cole Kimball would close out Lynchburg with four scoreless frames to give the P-Nats the victory in game one of this four-game series.
These two teams will be back Tuesday afternoon for game two. It will be a special start time Tuesday at the ballpark with the P-Nats and Hillcats set to duel at high noon as first pitch is scheduled for 12:05 ET. It will be Daycare Day at the Pfitz where fans can get $3 off tickets for groups of 20 or more! As it is with every Tuesday at Pfitzner Stadium, all military, teachers, and first responders receive a free grandstand ticket with proof of valid identification as part of our Salute to Service Tuesday. Bring a KRAFT Singles wrapper to the ballpark box office for a steal of a deal! Buy One Ticket Get One Free from KRAFT Singles! Visit kraftsingles.com for details.
For more information on tickets, daily promotions, and all things P-Nats, call (703) 590-2311 or log onto www.potomacnationals.com to join the party!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.