Cannons waste fine effort from Mejia, drop fourth in a row

WOODBRIDGE Even when something goes right for the Potomac Cannons, it seems like there is always some black cloud following the team around to make sure that everything isn’t perfect.

Take Sunday for example.

After struggling in three of his first four appearances as a Cannon, pitcher Juan Mejia pitched six strong innings, fought out of some difficult situations and allowed only one earned run. But the Cannons (18-37) only managed five hits and lost to Kinston 3-1 at Pfitzner Stadium.

The Cannons have lost four straight games and trail Carolina League Northern Division leader Lynchburg by 20 1/2 games.

Mejia, who entered the game 0-2 with a 7.30 ERA, allowed six hits and walked three over six innings for his second straight strong outing. Mejia had runners on in each inning, but thanks to a strong wind from center field and some clutch pitches, he only gave up two runs.

“He’s attacking hitters, keeping his pitches down in the count and is getting ground ball outs when he needs them,” said Potomac manager Joe Cunningham. “He did a good job, and if he continues to do that he will be successful.”

Potomac’s offense sputtered against K-Tribe starter Kyle Denney who is coming off Tommy John surgery last Junegetting only one hit in the first six innings.

Denny threw mainly fastballs in a continuing effort to strengthen his arm after surgery last June 15. Denny retired 11 batters in a row from the last out in the second inning until Skip Schumaker walked with one out in the sixth.

“It wasn’t him,” Cannons manager Joe Cunningham said of Denny. “He was throwing strikes and we just didn’t hit. It was us.”

The Cannons had rallies in each the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, but were done in by some spectacular Kinston defense.

In the seventh the Cannons had first baseman Dustin Brisson on second and third baseman Al Rodgers on first and no outs. Catcher Ryan Hamill tried to lay down a bunt, but popped it up and K-Tribe first baseman Eric Crozier made a diving catch and then doubled up Brisson at second to kill the rally.

Second baseman Seth Davidson hit a one-out double in the eighth, but was stranded. Milko Jaramillo struck out and then Schumaker was robbed of a hit by Kinston second baseman Henry Pichardo. Schumaker hit a ground ball in the hole behind first base, but Pichardo made a diving stop and threw Schumaker out from his back.

The Cannons got two runners on in the ninth, but designated hitter Matt Williams flew out to center to end the game.

“You can’t win like that when you make these kind of mistakes,” Cunningham said. “It was good that we had a chance to win late…but we did not play that well.”

Kinston (27-28) got to Mejia (0-3) early, scoring in the bottom of the first inning. The Cannons answered as Rodgers hit a sacrifice fly to right with one out in the bottom of the first to score Schumaker from third. Schumaker led off the game with a single to left center, which would be the last Cannons hit until the seventh inning.

Kinston loaded the bases in the fourth off Mejia before right fielder Jorge Moreno blasted a ball that looked like it might head out, but thanks to a strong wind coming in directly from center field, the ball died at the warning track for the last out.

The Indians scored in the fourth inning when Pichardo hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Crozier, despite a great throw from Potomac left fielder Johnny Hernandez.

The wind helped Mejia again in the fifth. With center fielder Alex Requena on third and two outs, designated hitter Ryan Church blasted a ball to deep right field, but the wind held it up and right fielder Aaron Fera caught it on the warning track.

As the wind was helping the Cannons defense, the offense had no answer for Denney, who allowed only two hits and one run in seven innings.

“I felt all right,” Denney said. “I had good life on the ball. I wasn’t trying to throw too hard and just wanted to hit spots. I just wanted to let my players work for me and they did the job today.”

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