Hillcats come back to beat Pelicans in series opener

pel-pitchDespite five shutout frames from right-hander Jeremy Null were trumped by the Lynchburg Hillcats, who rallied against the Birds’ bullpen for a 7-3 win at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark on Friday.

With the Pelicans leading 2-0 at the top of the seventh, the Hillcats (61-57, 28-20 second half) scored three unearned runs off of reliever Josh Conway in the inning before adding three more in the eighth and another in the ninth.

The Pelicans (69-48, 28-20 second half) were the first to score on Friday despite being held hitless through the first 3 1/3 innings. Hillcats starter Luis Lugo walked Carlos Penalver to begin the third inning, and after a wild pitch sent him to second, he tagged and moved to third base on a fly out. With Chesny Young batting, another wild pitch allowed Penalver to score and give the Birds a 1-0 lead.

Cael Brockmeyer put the Birds on top 2-0 when he lined his second Pelicans home run of the year, a solo shot to left-center field in the fourth.

The Lynchburg offense gave itself scoring chances through the first six frames, putting the leadoff batter aboard in five of the first six innings, but the Pelicans’ defense turned them away, highlighted by three double plays turned across those six frames.

Conway took over to relieve Null in the sixth and retired the side in order. However Lynchburg rallied against the right-hander in the seventh, putting up three runs and taking a lead they did not relinquish. With runners at first and second, Brockmeyer committed a fielding error that loaded the bases. Shortstop Ivan Castillo then singled to left, drawing the Hillcats to within a run. The next batter, left fielder LeVon Washington, slapped the go-ahead, two-run single up the middle for a 3-2 Hillcats lead.

In the seventh, right-hander Justin Brantley retired the Pelicans in order before Lynchburg added three more markers in the eighth, where with the bases loaded and one out, a walk, an RBI fielder’s choice and another RBI single from Castillo put Lynchburg ahead, 6-2.

The Birds took a run back in the home half of the eighth when, with two men in scoring position, Pin-Chieh Chen rolled an RBI fielder’s choice to second base to trim the Hillcats’ lead to 6-3.

Lynchburg responded in the next half inning, using a hit batter, a single to right, and an RBI fielder’s choice to cap the scoring at 7-3. Grant Sides took over with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and recorded a strikeout before sitting the Pelicans down in order in the ninth for his fourth save of the year.

Conway (2-2) suffered the defeat, allowing three runs, but none were earned, in his two innings of work. On the winning side, Robbie Aviles (7-1) picked up the win after one shutout inning of relief in the sixth inning.

With the loss and a win by Winston-Salem on Friday, the Pelicans fall to two games behind the Dash in the second half Southern Division standings with 22 games remaining in the regular season.

The Birds continue their three-game weekend set against the Hillcats with a 7:05 p.m.

Photo by Larry Kave/MB Pelicans

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