For my nine to five job I travel all around Virginia. It has its downsides (dingy hotels in the middle of nowhere) but there are also some perks. One said perk is catching minor league games in places I’ve never been. My latest adventure was Stadium Park in Lynchburg, Virginia, home to the Lynchburg Hillcats, the Cleveland Indians A-Advanced affiliate. It was my first time to the Calvin Falwell Field and first time seeing the Hillcats. The field was nothing exciting, as it was built in 1978 but has had some upgrades since then. Unfortunately, the battery life on my phone was dwindling so I was unable to get photos of the stadium or game. What makes that even more unfortunate is Triston McKenzie was facing off against Sterling Sharp on August 31st.
*Editor comment – sigh
Both starters pitched a great game. Sharp went five innings and gave up six hits but fanned seven Hillcats. He was able to keep up with McKenzie, who was amazing that night. Keep an eye on McKenzie. He is going to be great! Before the game, he was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year and I could totally see why. He was on fire #FireEmoji on Thursday and went seven innings and gave up five hits while striking out ten Nationals. He also did not walk anyone and picked up his twelfth win of the season.
The Hillcats were the first to draw blood when Claudio Bautista clobbered a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning. However, the Nationals answered back in the top of the third inning when Bryan Mejia singled and moved up to third on a Daniel Johnson double. Jack Sunderburg would bring him home with a groundout in the infield. That one run would be the only damage against McKenzie this evening. It was not until the seventh inning until more the Hillcats pounced on the Nationals relief pitchers when Sicnarf Loopstok (my greatest name in MiLB) singled and was brought home by a triple by Ka’ai Tom.
The Hillcats really broke things open in the eighth inning when Connor Marabell hit a loud double to right which was followed up by another loud single by Bautista. Mitch Longo, Anthony Miller, and Sam Haggerty would also add RBIs to bring the score to 5 to 1, and it would stay the same score until the end. With the loss, the Potomac Nationals were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Other than Sharp keeping up with McKenzie, there was not much happening on the Nationals side. This was my first look at Daniel Johnson. He was recently promoted to High-A Potomac and had been playing for the Hagerstown Suns for most of the year. I really like this kid. If he keeps it up I can see him an everyday regular for a second division team, or a good bat off the bench, as the dude can hit. This was also my first time seeing Jakson Reetz, a catching prospect in the Nationals system. He looked good behind the plate and the pitchers seemed to like pitching to him. He went 1-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. I think he would make an excellent backup catcher someday but if the bat comes around, maybe a below average everyday catcher.
Article featured image of Stadium Park – courtesy lynchburgvirginia.org