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From staff reports

In Kinston, North Carolina, the woes continued for the Lynchburg Hillcats, who fell to Down East 7-5 on Friday despite a furious ninth-inning rally at Grainger Stadium.

The loss pushed the Hillcats losing streak to six games, which is longest active losing streak in the Carolina League and the longest of the 2019 season for the Lynchburg club.

Trailing 7-2 in the ninth, Lynchburg unloaded three runs after reliever Jefferson Medina began the inning by walking the bases loaded. Then, with one out, Down East turned to right-hander Joe Kuzia.

Kuzia gave up a two-run double to Jonathan Laureano, who made it 7-4 with a liner to left. Tyler Freeman then brought home Jodd Carter with a sacrifice fly to center, cutting the deficit to 7-5.

But with runners at first and second, Kuzia struck out Lynchburg second baseman Tyler Friis, who represented the go-ahead run.

With the exception of the ninth inning, the Lynchburg offense sputtered. The ‘Cats entered Friday’s game hitting a paltry .155 with runners in scoring position in the last five games, all of which have been on the road as part of what has turned into a brutal nine-game stretch away from Lynchburg City Stadium.

And in the series finale at Down East, the Hillcats (43-47) struggled again, going 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, stranding 14 total base runners and leaving the bases loaded in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

The Wood Ducks (64-29) rocketed four home runs, with three of them coming off starter Justin Garza (4-7), who took the loss after surrendering four runs (all earned off the homers) and four hits in six innings of work. Garza also struck out eight batters and left with his team trailing 4-2.

He was replaced by reliever Dakoty Clemmer, who gave up three runs (all earned) over the next two innings.

Down East righty Reid Anderson (4-5) earned the win, throwing 5 2/3 innings and allowing two runs on six hits in the start.

The three Wood Ducks relievers nearly gave this one away, but also buckled down to end Hillcats threats in the final four innings, combining to strand 11 total runners in those frames.

Wilbis Santiago, Will Benson and Mitch Reeves all had two hits apiece for Lynchburg, while Laureano finished with three RBIs. Benson hit a solo homer in the sixth.

Lynchburg had nine total hits to Down East’s eight.

Lynchburg fell to 4½ games behind Northern Division leader Salem, which split a doubleheader with Wilmington on Friday.

The Hillcats conclude their road trip at Myrtle Beach.

First pitch for tonight’s game is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.

Ben Cates covers high school sports for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5527. 

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