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May 13, 2011 at 12:39 PM

Greenville shows muscle in victorious slugfest

5/13 Cup of Coffee: Pawtucket lost a heartbreaker in extras while Portland was edged in a game that saw lots of offense early. Salem held off a late charge to claim victory and Greenville proved their bats were mightier in a slugfest against Asheville.

In a matchup of two promising pitching prospects, Pawtucket was dragged into 15 innings before being topped by the Gwinnett Braves (ATL) 4-2. PawSox starter Andrew Miller turned in another solid outing, hurling 5.0 innings, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on just 1 hit and 3 walks while striking out 6. Scott Atchison, Michael Bowden, and Jason Rice all had scoreless stints out of the bullpen. Dan Wheeler made his first rehab appearance, throwing 1.0 inning, walking one and striking out 1. Blake Maxwell picked up the loss, as he allowed 2 runs on 2 hits in his 2.0 innings of work. Pawtucket took an early 2-0 lead in the second, as they brought home runs on a Daniel Nava RBI single and Luis Exposito sacrifice fly. Gwinnett scratched back for singular runs in the fifth and sixth inning to tie the contest 2-2. The game would remain knotted all the way until the 15th inning, when the Braves broke the deadlock with a two run game winning home run. Pawtucket left the bases loaded in the tenth and fourteenth inning and has scored just 3 runs in their last 32 innings.

After being shut out a day earlier, Portland’s offense jumped out to a quick start, but pitching failed them in their 10-9 loss to the New Britain Rock Cats (MIN). Sea Dog starter Brock Huntzinger was hammered to the tune of 8 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks in just 3.1 innings. Caleb Clay followed Huntzinger and could not stop the bleeding, as he allowed 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits in 2.2 innings of relief. Santo Luis turned in 2.0 scoreless innings of relief, walking 1 and striking out 2. The Sea Dogs got on the board quickly, plating 4 runs in the first inning on an RBI double by Alex Hassan and a three run home run by Will Middlebrooks. Hassan knocked in two more in the second, lacing an RBI single up the middle. Leading 6-5 entering the third, back-to-back doubles by Oscar Tejeda and Jon Hee extended Portland’s lead to two. New Britain trimmed the Sea Dog lead to 1 after three and scored 2 runs in both the fourth and the fifth to take a 10-7 lead. Middlebrooks cut the Rock Cat lead to 1 in the eighth, bringing home two on his RBI single. The Sea Dogs attempted to rally in the ninth, having a runner on first and third with 1 out, but grounded into a double play to end the game. Hassan and Middlebrooks both had 3 hits to lead the Portland offense.

A solid start was almost thrown away by a leaky bullpen, but Salem held on for a 5-4 victory over the Wilmington Blue Rocks (KC). Chris Hernandez continued his stellar start to his professional career, going 5.0 innings, allowing an unearned run on 5 hits and a walk, punching out 4. Tom Ebert relieved Hernandez and was shaky in his 2.1 innings, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits while striking out 3. Cesar Cabral picked up his 8th save with a perfect ninth inning that included 2 strikeouts. In the third, Salem picked up a run on an RBI double by Derrik Gibson, his seventh double of the season. The very next inning, the Red Sox brought home two on a David Mailman RBI ground out and a Michael Almanzar RBI double to take a 3-0 lead after four. A throwing error by the Blue Rocks shortstop allowed Salem to grab another run in the sixth. Wilmington got on the board in the bottom half of the sixth, but the Red Sox answered back with a Reynaldo Rodriguez RBI single in the seventh to take a 5-1 lead. Wilmington rallied furiously in the eighth, scoring 3 runs before Jeremy Hazelbaker threw out a runner at second to end the rally. Salem is now an impressive 9-2 in one run games in 2011.

Offense was not in short supply as Greenville battered the Asheville Tourists (COL) 16-12 in a game that saw a combined 29 hits. Brandon Workman received the starting nod for the Drive, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits and 2 walks, punching out 4 in his 4.1 innings of work. Hunter Cervenka was torched in his 1.1 innings of relief, allowing 5 runs on 2 hits and 4 walks, striking out 3. Garrett Rau picked up the victory for his 3.1 innings of relief, allowing 2 unearned runs on 2 hits. The Drive had a monster first inning, as they brought home six runs on RBI singles by Bryce Brentz and Lucas LeBlanc, as well as a three run home run by David Renfroe, his first of the season. Greenville followed up their impressive first inning with three more runs in the third, receiving an RBI double from Brandon Jacobs and an RBI single from LeBlanc. In the fourth, RBI singles from Renfroe and Felix Sanchez as well as a wild pitch gave Greenville a 12-2 lead. Asheville scored 9 runs over the next two innings to pull within a run, but the Drive plated two in the seventh on a Sean Coyle RBI double and a Miles Head RBI single to get back some breathing room. In the ninth, a wild pitch and a LeBlanc RBI single gave the Drive a 16-11 lead. Asheville got one back in the bottom half of the inning, but their rally was snuffed out. Brentz once again led the Greenville charge with 4 hits, extending his hitting streak to 24 games. He is now hitting .393/.448/.679 on the season.

Players of the Night: Will Middlebrooks and Lucas LeBlanc. Middlebrooks went 3 for 4 with a home run, run scored and 5 RBI in Portland’s 10-9 loss. LeBlanc was 3 for 6 with 2 runs scored and 5 RBI in Greenville’s 16-12 plastering of Asheville.