Fisher Cats Withstand Ninth-Inning Rally to Secure Series Victory
READING, PA – The New Hampshire Fisher Cats scored three in the ninth and held off the hard-charging Reading Fightin’ Phils in a 6-4 win Tuesday night at Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium.
New Hampshire (20-19) took an early lead and never relinquished it, winning their third straight game and guaranteeing themselves their first road series win and their first winning record on a road trip. The Fightin’ Phils (19-18) mustered three runs in the ninth inning but just couldn’t do enough to top New Hampshire.
The Fisher Cats opened the scoring in the top of the third against Reading starter Ben Lively (L, 3-1). Shane Opitz drew a one-out walk and Ian Parmley laced a single to center, putting runners at first and second. Flores cracked a single of his own up the middle, scoring Opitz and advancing Parmley to third. Dwight Smith bounced into a force out that retired Flores but allowed Parmley to score, making it 2-0 New Hampshire.
The visitors extended their advantage in the top of the fourth. Stepping in against Lively, Kevin Nolan hammered the first pitch he saw over the left field fence for a solo homer. The blast was Nolan’s third of the year, and it ran the New Hampshire lead to 3-0.
Reading got on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning against New Hampshire starting pitcher Taylor Cole (W, 2-3). Former Fisher Cat Gustavo Pierre launched a hanging curveball over the left field fence for his third homer of the season, trimming New Hampshire’s lead to 3-1.
The Fisher Cats added three critical runs in the top of the ninth inning. Matt Newman drew a leadoff walk from Lively, and advanced to second on a one-out single from K.C. Hobson. Lively was yanked for Stephen Shackleford, who promptly gave up an RBI single to Jack Murphy. The throw on the play let the runners advance to second and third, and both scored on a two-out single by Shane Opitz, making it 6-1 Fisher Cats.
In the bottom of the inning, the Fightin’ Phils charged hard. Blake Forsythe led off the inning with a single against closer Blake McFarland (S, 6), and after Gustavo Pierre fanned, Roman Quinn blasted his third homer of the season to right, trimming the lead to three runs. After KC Serna grounded back to the mound, Brock Stassi hammered his own long ball to right, making it 6-4. However, McFarland was able to get Aaron Altherr to line out to center and end the game.
Cole earned the win with one run allowed on three hits and two walks over five innings, fanning six. Scott Barnes pitched a shutout frame of relief, walking two and whiffing one. Wil Browning had a fine season debut, tossing 1.2 shutout innings and earning a save while giving up a hit and a walk. McFarland got the save despite his struggles in the ninth, allowing three runs on three hits and striking out two.
The Fisher Cats will go for the series sweep Wednesday morning at 11:35 a.m., with righty Joel Piñeiro on the hill for New Hampshire against Reading righty Aaron Nola. Radio coverage begins at 11:15 a.m.with Ben Gellman on the WGIR Fisher Cats Radio Network and at www.nhfishercats.com.
The Fisher Cats return home for a Memorial Day Weekend celebration starting Friday, May 22. The stand includes Atlas Fireworks shows and a Memorial Day matinee. Tickets are available by visiting www.nhfishercats.com, visiting the stadium box office, or by calling (603) 641-2005.