The Lynchburg Hillcats may have already clinched a playoff berth with their strong first half, but it hasn’t stopped them from playing hard in pursuit of the second half crown as well. A 12-10 win on Saturday helped the club keep pace with the Potomac Nationals for the top spot in the Carolina League’s Northern Division, as both teams currently reside at 19-9 in the second half. The Hillcats have moved back into that top spot by winning ten of their last eleven games.
Last weekend, they swept the Wilmington Blue Rocks in four straight on the road to finish their road trip at 8-1 with one rainout. They returned home to host the Carolina Mudcats and won 3-0 on Thursday before splitting a doubleheader with a 15-1 win and a 10-3 loss. They won another slugfest on Saturday, 12-10. They will finish their series with Carolina on Sunday before hosting Wilmington for three, then will return to the road at Winston-Salem.
In other Hillcats chatter:
MEJIA’S STREAK NOW 37
After taking several days off to rest a sore right arm, catching prospect Francisco Mejia returned to action in pursuit of extending his hitting streak another game on Saturday night.
He did so in grand fashion.
The switch-hitting catcher hit a grand slam in the first inning off of Carolina’s Matt Withrow, who would be tagged for eleven runs (all earned) on six hits and six walks in three innings of work. Mejia last played on July 17, when he was 2-for-5 with three RBI. He is 7-for-17 since returning from the All-Star Futures Game and has driven in eight runs in his last three starts.
SANTANDER WINS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Last Sunday, he put together a four-hit game, including a two-run homer, as he surpassed Bobby Bradley for the club and league lead in RBI. It also extended a stretch of dominance at the plate for the 21-year-old outfielder, who had hit safely in 22 of his last 24 games at the time. He was rewarded the following day with the Player of the Week nod.
He did not stop the slugging as the week progressed, adding his 15th home run of the season in Thursday’s win over Carolina, giving him five home runs in the span of seven games. He hit in four of the six games that he played in during the week.
MATHIAS LEAVES WITH HEAD INJURY
While the end results of the day on Saturday were a win for the HIllcats, they had to do so after a scary injury to infielder Mark Mathias. During the second inning of the game, he was struck by a pitch above his eye from Carolina’s Withrow. He was removed from the field on a stretcher, but reports from the hospital were good for the second year pro.
BRADLEY GOES YARD ON BACK-TO-BACK DAYS
After going a month without hitting a home run, Bradley has found his home run stroke again. He homered on Monday and drove in three with a four-hit game. He extended his Carolina League leading home run total by hitting his 18th in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader before adding his 19th of the season on Saturday while knocking in four runs on the night.
He is hitting .395 over his last ten games and .265 on the season with a .381 on-base percentage. In addition to his 19 homers, he leads the club and the league with 77 RBI.
BRADY WITH A COMPLETE GAME
Sean Brady used 15 runs of support in game one of Friday’s doubleheader to breeze to a 15-1 victory. The left-hander allowed just one run on five hits as the Hillcats used four home runs to support their starter. Mathias, Bradley, Luigi Rodriguez, and Taylor Murphy each hit shots as the Hillcats came within one blast of tying the team record for homers in a game.
Brady pushed the Hillcats’ scoreless innings streak to 33 straight before allowing his run in the fourth inning. He worked all seven innings in the contest for his fifth straight quality start. He has won his last eight decisions and now has a 10-3 record on the year.
PANNONE’S FIRST OFFICIAL START A MEMORABLE ONE
Thomas Pannone, recently added to Lynchburg’s roster after his promotion from Class-A Lake County, had a solid start to continue his Hillcats career on Thursday.
After making his debut in the third inning of July 14’s continuation of the previous day’s suspended game, Pannone threw seven shutout innings Thursday and allowed just one hit to the Carolina Mudcats as Lynchburg would register its third consecutive shutout in a 3-0 win. Pannone retired 13 straight after a walk in the first and would retire the final seven he faced in order after the lone hit surrendered.
SHEFFIELD SHUTS ‘EM DOWN
Justus Sheffield contributed to the Lynchburg scoreless streak with six and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball on Tuesday as the ‘Cats blanked Wilmington, 4-0. He limited the Blue Rocks to four hits while striking out eight and was the beneficiary of three double play balls.
LUGO DOES TOO
Southpaw Luis Lugo struck out ten and was nearly overshadowed by his offense as they put up eleven runs of support in an 11-0 shutout on Monday over Wilmington.
Lugo allowed just three to reach base on hits and equaled a career-high seven innings on the mound while matching his pro-best with the double digit K tally.
Tyler Krieger had his 15-game hitting streak come to an end on July 21 when he went 0-for-4 at the plate. He had two more hits in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader and is hitting .325 while a member of the Hillcats.
Mathias extended his hitting streak when Krieger’s ended and had a 3-for-4 day with a homer and two RBI in the first game on Friday to push his streak to 14 games. He was hitless in three at bats in the second game and was 0-for-1 before leaving Saturday’s game with an injury. He is now hitting .280 on the year for Lynchburg.
POKEMON GO NIGHT
Riding the latest social craze, the Hillcats are hosting Pokemon trainers at City Stadium on Tuesday, July 26th for a Pokemon Go Night when the ‘Cats take on the Blue Rocks.
Any fan at the box office wearing Pokemon gear or that has the Pokemon Go app on their phone can get into the game for $5. Fans will also have access to the outfield for 20 minutes following the game to try to catch Pokemon. A prize will be rewarded to the fan who controls the City Stadium Gym at the start of the seventh inning.
Lynchburg also sent outfielder Dorssys Paulino to the Arizona League Indians roster on a rehab assignment.
Photo: Jay Westcott/The News and Advance