Against the backdrop of a twilight sky, the inability to be certain where fly balls were headed played an instrumental role in Lancaster’s 7-1 victory over the Sugar Land Skeeters Wednesday evening at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
The win kept Lancaster 1 ½ games ahead of Southern Maryland in the Freedom Division race. Sugar Land dropped three back with the loss.
Darian Sandford gave Lancaster a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly in the third. Lancaster’s next run off Bobby Blevins (4-2) came on a deep drive to left by Sean Halton. The ball hit near the top of the left field wall and bounced back into play. Initially, it was ruled that but it was determined that it actually hit a metal platform behind the fence, giving Halton his 10th home run of the season and the Barnstormers a 2-0 edge.
Jarret Leverett (4-0) carried a shutout into the top of the sixth. Singles by Anthony Giansanti and Josh Prince put runners at the corners, and Andy Wilkins was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Kevin Ahrens lifted a fly ball toward the right field corner. Blake Gailen acted as if he were about to make the catch, but the ball hit high off the wall instead. However, Sugar Land runners, playing it safely, only advanced one base apiece, keeping Lancaster ahead, 2-1. Travis Scott grounded into a double play to end the threat.
Following a leadoff single by Garrett Weber in the bottom of the seventh, fly balls begin to vanish into the twilight. Anderson De La Rosa lifted a fly ball to center, which Giansanti feigned catching, but the ball fell in front of him. Weber, unsure for a second where the ball was headed, was forced at second. Vladimir Frias flied to left for the second out, but Sandford chopped a ball up the middle to extend the inning.
Andrew Johnston was summoned from the bullpen to face Caleb Gindl, who launched a fly ball to deep left. Derek Miller did not pick the ball up off the bat, and it sailed over his head for a two-run double. Blake Gailen hit a ball to the warning track in right, and Andy Wilkins never saw it until it landed several feet to his left, driving in another run.
Everyone saw Weber’s drive in the eighth as it carried beyond the right center field wall for his third home run of the season and the final margin of victory.
Leverett worked eight innings, tying the longest stint by a Barnstormers pitcher this season. He allowed eight hits and no walks while striking out five. Outside of the sixth inning, no Skeeters runner moved beyond first base in the game.
The series and the 10-game homestand conclude on Thursday evening. Brad Bergesen (3-3) will make the start for Lancaster against right-hander Mitch Talbot (0-0). Fans may tune into Blue Ridge Cable 11 or the Barnstormers YouTube Channel, beginning at 6:30.
NOTES: Leverett threw his second consecutive quality start…He caught two runners off base in the first two innings to stay out of any trouble…He only threw 93 pitches…The Barnstormers ended their offensive drought which had produced only nine runs in the preceding four games…Lancaster leads the season series against Sugar Land, 5-4…Gailen moved within 12 RBI of Jutt Hileman for the franchise career record…At two hours, 34 minutes, it was the fastest home game of 2017 for Lancaster.