The Lakewood BlueClaws entered Saturday afternoon’s game against the Kannapolis Intimidators on a two-game losing streak. The four-game series opened up on Thursday evening, with Kannapolis winning 2-1. Friday’s game was not nearly as close, as the Intimidators were all over the Claws, taking the game 10-1, with five-run second inning having a lot to do with it.
Lakewood’s offense has been virtually non-existent in the first two games of the series. The team put together just six hits between the two games combined. The pitching certainly seems to be the strong suit for the Claws this season, with a 2.81 team ERA entering Saturday.
Saturday saw the club turn to left-hander Nick Fanti. The 20-year-old from Smithtown, New York entered the game with a 1-0 record, 1.15 ERA in just under 16 innings pitched. His last start prior to Saturday’s afternoon clash with Kannapolis was one of the best of his career.
In what was his third start on the young 2017 season, Fanti went six innings, which was the most he has ever gone in his young career within the Phillies organization, without giving up a run. He would be opposed by righty Yosmer Solorzano of the Chicago White Sox affiliates.
Things got off to a rocky start for Fanti however. After striking out center fielder Joel Booker to start the game, Kannapolis put together four straight hits to jump up 3-0 in the first inning. But the only really hard hit ball came off the bat of right fielder Micker Adolfo, who laced a double to left-center field to plate two runs.
After that though, Fanti settled in. While he had to work through a few baserunners thanks to a bloop double and walk in the fourth, he got through the inning with the score remaining at 3-0. In the top of the fifth, both Mitch Roman and Jameson Fisher made solid contact off Fanti, but both resulted in outs.
Meanwhile for Lakewood, the offense once again was missing in action. Second baseman Daniel Brito led off in the first with a weak grounder down the third baseline for a single. But that was the only hit the Claws would see until the 6th inning when shortstop Jose Antequera laced one to left for a single. Cord Sandberg made solid contact in the fifth, but it simply resulted in a hard groundout.
It was the bottom of the seventh when the team’s offense finally sparked a bit. Catcher Henri Lartigue led off with a double down the right field line. He was followed by a Mickey Moniak single up the middle, placing runners on first and third with no outs. First baseman Darick Hall then doubled, bringing home both men, making the score 3-2. That was the end for Solorzano.
Lefty Kyle Kubat entered the game, with third baseman Luke Williams bunting Hall over to third to start. But a strikeout followed by a grounder back to Kubat ended the inning. As a result, Lakewood entered the eighth inning down 3-2.
Pitcher Ben Wright came in for Kannapolis in the eighth inning. He got two quick outs, but then allowed a double to Daniel Brito. Brito would proceed to steal third uncontested as no one was there to cover the base. Brito then crossed the plate on a wild pitch by Wright, leading to a 3-3 score leading into the ninth inning.
Will Hibbs worked two scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth to give the Claws a shot at the walk-off victory. Moniak would lead off the inning against Wright, ripping a single to right field. Darick Hall would then draw a walk, putting runners on first and second with no one out.
Luke Williams would lay down a bunt, which first baseman Grant Massey could not field as he was too focused on trying to gun a throw to third. The result, bases loaded with no one out and Cord Sandberg stepping into the box. A liner to center would result in a sac fly, giving the BlueClaws the 4-3 victory.
As a result, both teams would see their records move to the .500 mark. The BlueClaws now sit with a 12-12 record, while Kannapolis falls to 11-11.
Tomorrow’s game will wrap up the four-game set. Righty Sixto Sanchez will take the bump for Lakewood and he will be opposed by Alec Hansen from the Intimidators.