What you can say now about the weekend series between the Connecticut Tigers and Lowell Spinners. You may not have said this at the beginning of August. This has become a big series because both teams have been going in opposite directions. Connecticut has been playing much better baseball, while Lowell has not. Because of that, the Spinners now have a three and a half-game lead over the Tigers for first place in the Stedler Division. Back on August 2, that lead was ten games and Lowell was fourteen games over .500.
On Saturday night, the two teams played the first of six games over the final two and a half weeks of the season. As Spinners manager, Luke Montz has said often, “its go time.” The expected pitching duel broke out between the two teams as Carson Lance of the Tigers, and Chris Murphy of the Spinners were putting up zeros. Although both had to get through early innings threats. For Murphy, it came in the very first inning. After getting the first two batters to start the game, he gave up back to back hits to create a first and third problem. Up stepped Tiger’s RF, Kona Quiggle, who sent a ball into the left-center field gap that was run down by Spinners left fielder Wil Dalton with a diving catch. For Lance, the third was his difficult moment. Jonathan Diaz walked to start the inning and he advanced to second and third on wild pitches by Lance. However, he would go no further. Lance got the next three Lowell hitters on a strikeout and two ground outs.
After getting four solid innings from Murphy, the Spinners went to their bullpen to bring on Yasel Santana for the fifth. He would get through both the fifth and six with no problems. Meanwhile, Lucas was in a groove throwing two-hit baseball thru six frames. In the top of the seventh, the Spinners cracked first. Three straight Tigers hit against Santana got his troubles started. With one down, Eliezer Alfonzo singled to center field. The next man, Jose King, did the same thing with a bonus. That bonus was a throwing error by Spinners center fielder Gilberto Jimenez that allowed Alfonzo to score the game’s first run and moved King to third. King scored the game’s second run on a double to left field by Moises Nunez. Nunez made it 3-0 Tigers when he would cross home plate on a Santana wild pitch.
After six strong innings from Lucas, he turned the game over to Austin Bergner. The former UNC product was left with keeping the game where it was. Bergner did just that with two scoreless and hitless innings of relief. In the ninth, Tigers Manager, Brayan Perfia, went back to his pen and brought on Ted Stuka to close things out. He would make it interesting in the ninth as Lowell would load the bases with no one out on a single and two straight walks. But all they could muster out of that was one run on an infield ground out by Dalton. The Spinners drop the opener of this series with Connecticut 3-1.
After the game, Montz talked about the two chances his ballclub had to score runs. “we did not execute when we had the chance.” Though Murphy “was once again outstanding”, he was a little unhappy with the way the seventh inning came apart. The Jimenez throwing error became a big part of the three-run inning. Dalton, despite making a couple of nice defensive plays, including throwing out a runner at the plate in the ninth, took the loss hard. He said “I had good pitches to hit all night” also saying “these games are big, we try to play hard and be consistent.”
The win goes to Lucas with his six good innings and he improves to 4-3. The save goes to Stuka, his first of the year. The loss goes to Santana and he is now 1-3.
Game two of this series takes place on Sunday at 5 pm.
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