The 2018 Hillcats rode great seasons by Indians top prospects Nolan Jones and Sam Hentges into the play-offs as they finished the season 71-66 in second place behind the Potomac Nationals. Facing the Nationals in the play-offs, the Hillcats won game one 5-2, then lost game two 4-1. This lead to this game three match-up in the five game set with the series tied at one.
Tanner Tully, who had made most starts of any pitcher for the Hillcats in 2018, was called upon to make the start. Both teams went down in order in the first, but Tully allowed three hits to the first four batters in the second to score two runs for the Nationals. After a quiet third and top of four, Tully allowed three more singles in the fourth for two more runs.
As Kyle Johnston continued to dominate the Hillcats through the first five innings, the score remained 4-0 Nationals into the sixth. There, the Hillcats created a bit of noise when, after a rain delay, they loaded the bases with one out. The rain delay forced Johnston from the game and reliever Taylor Guilbeau struck out two in a row with the bases juiced to end the threat without score.
The rain also forced Tully from the game and Micah Miniard took off right where Tully had left off, allowing two singles before striking out two in a row to end the inning. The Hillcats finally got on the board the next inning as Gavin Collins and Anthony Miller singled to start the seventh. Jose Medina walked to load the bases, then with one out, Alexis Pantoja singled to bring home a pair. This pushed a new reliever into the game and Dillon Persinger welcomed him by crushing a ball out to right to give the Hillcats their first lead of the game at 5-4.
Three Lynchburg relievers combined to keep the bottom half scoreless for the Nationals, then Collins added to the newly found lead with a solo homer in the eighth. Jared Robinson (pictured at top) had finished out the seventh and went 1-2-3 in the eighth to maintain the two run lead. He would stay in to finish things out and struck out all three batters faced in the ninth. While Miniard earned the win, it’s unquestionable that Robinson was the pitcher of the game as he earned the save with 2.1 perfect innings and four K’s.
Offensively, Persinger lead the way with three hits and three RBI while Collins and Pantoja each had two hits. The Hillcats win was particularly impressive as Mitch Longo, Nolan Jones and Trenton Brooks combined 1 for 12 with 5 strike outs out of the two through four spots in the lineup.
While this win gave the Hillcats the 2-1 advantage in the series, the joy was short lived. They lost the next day 7-4 to tie the series, then again on the 9th 6-2 as the Nationals advanced to the semi-finals. Potomac was then beaten 2-1 in the championship game by the Buies Creek Astros.
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