The first three chances the Lancaster Barnstormers had with the bases loaded on Thursday evening went by without a run.
Their fourth chance provided the ultimate payoff.
K.C. Hobson took a 2-1 pitch from Dustin Richardson onto the picnic tent down the right field line for a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth, lifting the Barnstormers to a 9-6 victory over the Sugar Land Skeeters in the finale of a three-game series.
The win, combined with Southern Maryland’s 2-1 loss to York, rebuilt a 2 ½ game lead in the Freedom Division for the Barnstormers. Sugar Land fell four behind Lancaster, with the Barnstormers now owning the first half tiebreaker.
With Lancaster trailing, 6-4, Trayvon Robinson opened the eighth inning rally with a double to right center off Evan Reed. Anderson De La Rosa advanced the runner with a bunt, and Vladimir Frias cut into the lead with a sharp RBI single into center.
Richardson (0-3), who had not allowed a hit to a left-handed batter all season or a Barnstormers baserunner in 3 2/3 innings of work, yielded a single to Darian Sandford that sent Frias to third. Rico Noel drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Richardson struck out Caleb Gindl. Hobson then reached out and lofted his fly ball down the right field line for his first Barnstormers grand slam and the 9-6 lead.
It appeared those runs might not even be needed as Brad Bergesen took a 4-2 lead into the seventh inning. A single and an error put runners at the corners, and Wilfredo Rodriguez cashed in one run with a base hit to right center. Gindl’s sliding block in the alley kept a double play in order, and Bergesen took full advantage, coaxing a 6-4-3 out of Anthony Giansanti.
However, the Skeeters got to reliever John Anderson in the eighth. Travis Scott picked up a leadoff walk. Kevin Ahrens rode a pitch onto the deck for a 5-4 lead, and Andy Wilkins thumped a pitch off the back advertising wall to make it 6-4.
Hobson also keyed a two-run first with a double to right center as the Barnstormers answered Josh Prince’s two-run triple. Lancaster added an unearned run in the second on a pair of Sugar Land errors on bunt plays by Sandford and Noel. Noel added a two-out RBI single in the sixth.
Cody Hall (2-3) recorded three straight outs in the eighth to notch the win. Anthony Carter pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save.
Lancaster heads to York on Friday to open a three-game weekend series. The Barnstormers will send left-hander Nate Reed (0-2) to the hill against right-hander Curtis Partch (2-3) in a rematch of last Sunday’s 5-0 York win. Fans may tune into the Barnstormers YouTube Channel at 6:15.
NOTES: Hobson’s slam was Lancaster’s fourth of the season…Ahrens and Wilkins hit the third pair of back-to-back homers against Lancaster this season…Bergesen gave Lancaster its third quality start in four games…Hobson had not knocked home a run in the previous five games…Lancaster won six of 10 first half games against Sugar Land…The Barnstormers are 9-1-3 in series since dropping all four at Somerset opening weekend…Carter notched his 10th straight save.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]