ALTOONA, PA — The New Hampshire Fisher Cats plated two runs in the ninth inning but just barely missed out on a comeback victory, losing 7-6 to the Altoona Curve Sunday night at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The Fisher Cats (28-34) fell to a season-worst six games below .500 with the loss, stranding the tying run at first in the ninth inning. The Curve (37-24) added to their lead in the Eastern League’s Western Division, and earned the series and season win against New Hampshire in the seventh and final game the two teams will play in the regular season.
Altoona burst out of the gates in the bottom of the first against Fisher Cats starter Austin Bibens-Dirkx (L, 1-3). Adam Frazier led off the inning with a triple to left-center field, and came home on an RBI single by Max Moroff. Josh Bell slashed a triple to right to score Moroff, and came home on a ground-out to short by Willy Garcia. That set the stage for a one-out solo homer to left by Jose Osuna that made it a 4-0 lead for Altoona.
The Fisher Cats scratched across a couple of runs in the top of the third, putting the first blemishes on Altoona starting pitcher Angel Sanchez (W, 8-1). Three straight singles by Dwight Smith, Jr., Jorge Flores and Shane Opitz loaded the bases with nobody out. Dalton Pompey popped out, but Jon Berti hit into a 5-4 fielder’s choice that retired Opitz at second and scored Smith. Ryan Schimpf reached on an infield single with two outs, plating Flores and cutting Altoona’s edge to 4-2.
New Hampshire trimmed the lead again in the top of the fifth inning, as Smith singled and stole second. Flores struck out on a wild pitch, reaching first as Smith zipped to third base. Opitz hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Smith and reducing Altoona’s advantage to a 4-3 lead.
The Curve rebuffed the visitors in the bottom of the fifth against new reliever Jimmy Cordero, who surrendered a leadoff single to Sebastian Valle and let the runner move to second on a wild pitch. Gift Ngoepe advanced Valle to third on a sacrifice bunt before Frazier singled him home. The Curve loaded the bases, and Jose Osuna laced a two-run single up the middle to run the Altoona lead to 7-3.
New Hampshire struck back in the top of the eighth, getting runners at first and second with two outs to chase Sanchez from the game. Kevin Nolan welcomed new reliever John Kuchno to the game with an RBI single, plating Opitz and trimming the deficit to 7-4.
Bibens-Dirkx took the loss, allowing four runs on five hits while whiffing four in four innings. Cordero coughed up three runs on three hits and two walks in his lone inning of action; he struck out three and dealt two wild pitches. Luis Perez fired two scoreless innings of relief with two walks and three strikeouts. Dustin Antolin pitched a scoreless inning, allowing one hit.
New Hampshire will open up a three-game series against the Erie SeaWolves at 7:05 p.m. Monday at Jerry Uht Stadium. Radio coverage will begin at 6:45 p.m. with Ben Gellman on the WGIR Fisher Cats Radio Network and online at www.nhfishercats.com.
The Fisher Cats will return home on June 19 to face Binghamton at 7:05 p.m. on an Atlas Fireworks night, with a Family Sleepover and Scout Night! Tickets are available at www.nhfishercats.com or by calling the ticket office at (603)-641-2005.