By Ryan Decker
STEM, NC – Pitching and a few key at bats made all the difference in a pair of low-scoring games between the Charlotte Crushers (14-15) and the Carolina Pirates (12-18).
A weakly hit single ended up making the difference for Charlotte in Game 1, and a two-run home run broke up a tied ballgame in Carolina’s favor in the second contest of the afternoon.
After gaining an early lead in Game 1, Charlotte trailed 2-1 entering its final at bat in the seventh inning.
Bradley Isaac was hit by a pitch to reach base and was put in motion when the following hitter, James Porcelly, hit a chopper up the middle of the infield.
The ground ball wasn’t fielded cleanly by the Carolina shortstop, and bounced into left field, allowing Isaac to advance to third base.
Carolina starter Matt Fuhr, who had done an admirable job on the mound to that point – striking out eight and surrendering just the one run – was close to getting out of the inning, but once again was let down by his defense.
This time it was his battery-mate, Brian Martschenko, that allowed a pitch to go off his glove and to the backstop, allowing Isaac to cross home and tie the game, effectively forcing extra innings when the Pirates failed to score in the bottom of the frame.
An inning later, Elijah Bowers came to the plate with two down and a runner in scoring position. He made contact on the second pitch he saw, breaking his bat in the process.
The ball was hit with enough spin, though, that it bounced past the glove stab of the second baseman, and into shallow right field, just far enough away for Max Barrios to come around to score the go-ahead run.
Hunter Davis and Myles Levy combined efforts in the eighth to give the Crushers the 3-2 win in extras. Davis was awarded the win, and Levy the save.
Both starting pitchers, Fuhr and Jacob Barker, were both handed no-decisions despite pitching well.
Game 2 also went down to the wire, with good starting pitching from both sides.
Cody Patterson limited Charlotte hitters to just two runs on two hits during his five innings on the mound, and Crusher starter Shaun Fogleman also gave up just two runs over 4.2 innings – his longest outing of the year.
Fogleman gave way in the fifth inning to CJ Cecil, who was given the task of keeping the score at 2-2.
He succeeded, inducing a fly out to end the fifth to strand a runner in scoring position and record a “shutdown inning” for the club.
Fogleman and Cecil keeping the Pirates off the board there was big because it immediately followed Charlotte tying the game in the top of the inning.
Kyle Carter dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the two Crusher runners into scoring position.
Hitting with just one out, Deannte Ford was also able to get the bunt down, however, he did so with Quinton Allwran taking off from third base on the pitch. He scored on the play, tying the game at two runs apiece.
Charlotte had an RBI chance in the sixth but couldn’t capitalize; Carolina didn’t miss its chance.
Brandon Merritt connected on a hanging fastball and drilled it over the fence in left, a two-run home run that put Carolina firmly in the lead at 4-2.
First time for everything … times 2
Bowers’ two RBI in Game 1 was the first two runs he’s driven in this season.
Davis getting the win in the same game also is his first win of the season.
All streaks will end
Charlotte winning Game 1 halted a three-game losing skid for the Crushers and ended a three-game winning streak for the Pirates.
But Carolina picking up the win in Game 2 also ended both “streaks” begun by the result of the game before.
Next on the schedule
The Crushers are off the next two days to celebrate the 4th of July. They are back in action on Wednesday for a doubleheader against Mooresville.