From staff reports
In Zebulon, North Carolina, Lynchburg took a two-run lead in the fourth inning, and starting pitcher Brock Hartson kept the Hillcats in position for a bounceback win, but trouble in the sixth led to their undoing and a 7-3 loss at the hands of the Carolina Mudcats on Friday at Five County Stadium.
Hartson (1-2), who recorded the loss, allowed three hits through five frames, then gave up back-to-back one-out hits to put runners in scoring position for Carolina. The right-hander induced a groundout but couldn’t record the final out, giving way to Manuel Alvarez, who immediately gave up a two-run single that put the Mudcats (63-66) ahead for good.
Rob Henry sent the first pitch of his at-bat to center field on a line to plate Wes Rogers and Mario Feliciano, who singled and doubled, respectively, and give Carolina a 3-2 advantage.
Alvarez, who blew a save and recorded just one out, went on to give up three runs (all earned) in the next frame, when Carolina scored four insurance runs.
Dakoty Clemmer also gave up a run in the seventh.
Hartson threw 5 2/3 innings allowed three runs (all earned) — including one on a solo homer from Leugim Castillo in the fifth — on five hits, walked two and struck out six.
Peter Strzelecki (2-0) picked up the win in relief after throwing two perfect innings and striking out four.
Lynchburg’s first two runs came against starter Scott Sunitsch, when Gavin Collins’ RBI groundout scored Steven Kwan, who sent a leadoff single to right field and led the Hillcats (58-67) with two hits.
Three more singles, including and RBI knock from Will Benson, led to another run in the fourth.
The Hillcats threatened a comeback in the eighth, scoring once on a bases-loaded walk to cut the Carolina lead to 7-3. Robbie Hitt walked all four batters that reached in the frame, but J.T. Hintzen, who earned the save, helped Carolina escape more damage when he induced a groundout and stranded the bases loaded.
With the loss, Lynchburg’s hopes for an eighth straight playoff berth continued to slip away after they fell to 5 1/2 games back of Northern Division leader Salem, whose game Friday against Myrtle Beach was suspended with the score tied 4-4 in the top of the 11th. Potomac, which also is in the hunt, is two games back.