MANCHESTER, NH – Trailing by three runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Fisher Cats did what they typically do. They put up a whale of a fight, only to fall a run short in a 5-4 loss to the New Britain Rock Cats on Monday night.
The evening did not start pleasantly for the Fisher Cats (16-15), as Austin Bibens-Dirkx allowed four runs in the top of the second inning. The Rock Cats (23-7) put together four hits and a pair of walks, knocking Bibens-Dirkx out of the game after two innings.
Cory Burns took over, and after a scoreless third, ran into trouble in the fourth. He loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a single, but a third walk made it a 5-0 New Britain lead.
The Fisher Cats started their comeback in the bottom of the fourth. After Pierce Rankin was called out at first, an umpire conference overturned the play, leaving Rankin at first and Kevin Nolan at third. Rankin then was caught in a rundown, but he kept it going long enough to allow Nolan to score.
The team scored a more conventional run in the fifth when Jon Berti singled home Jorge Flores from third. Berti’s fifth RBI extended his hit streak to nine games and cut the deficit to 5-2.
That’s where the game stayed into the ninth inning, thanks to stellar relief work by Fisher Cats pitchers Danny Barnes, Greg Burke, and Blake McFarland. The trio combined for five scoreless innings, allowing just one hit with eight strikeouts.
In the bottom of the ninth, facing former Fisher Cat Tyler Ybarra, Rankin started the rally with a one-out walk, followed quickly by a single from Andy Fermin. New Britain called upon reliever Austin House next, and he immediately gave up a single to pinch-hitter Matt Newman to load the bases. Shane Opitz brought home a run with a single to center, and then Jack Murphy made it a one-run game with a groundout to first base. The Fisher Cats rally fell short when Berti, batting with runners at second and third, bounced out to the mound to end the game.
The Fisher Cats will now turn to Matt Boyd in the middle game of the series on Tuesday night at 5:35 p.m. The game features another Chamber of Commerce Mixer presented by FairPoint Communications. Tickets are available by visiting www.nhfishercats.com, visiting the stadium box office, or by calling (603) 641-2005.
Boyd (2-1, 1.39) will be opposed by New Britain righty Shane Carle (4-0, 4.45). Radio coverage begins at 5:15 p.m. with Tom Gauthier and Bob Lipman on the WGIR Fisher Cats Radio Network and at www.nhfishercats.com.