WOODBRIDGE — No matter how hard the Potomac Cannons and center fielder Chris Denorfia kept charging Monday night, Kinston kept its edge.
The Indians, now co-leaders in the Carolina League’s South Division, overcame a four-hit night from Denorfia to win 9-7 at Pfitzner Stadium. Kinston (15-13) made up a game on Salem to draw even in their division. Meanwhile, the Cannons (15-13) remained a game ahead of Lynchburg and led Frederick by just a half-game, pending the Keys’ extra-inning result at Myrtle Beach.
“You’ve got to give both teams credit; they kept closing the gap and we kept holding them off,” Kinston manager Torey Lovullo said. “We had just enough pitching and defense.”
Kinston led 4-1, 6-2 and 9-5. Potomac third baseman Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning, but the tying run never came to the plate.
In the fourth inning, the Indians had pushed their lead to 4-1 with Rick Elder’s two-run homer. After retiring the first two hitters in the inning, Potomac’s Brandon Culp (3-4) walked David Wallace and allowed Elder’s fifth blast in the designated hitter’s 94th at-bat with the Indians.
The Cannons pulled within two runs with a two-out rally of their own in the bottom of the inning. Kinston starter Dan Denham (2-3) retired two batters before walking Chris Williamson. A passed ball by Wallace moved Williamson to second base prior to an RBI single by left fielder Bryan Anderson.
But the Indians got that run back and one more with a similar formula: two outs, a walk, a passed ball and two RBI hits. This time, in the sixth inning, Elder’s double scored Wallace and Eider Torres’ single brought Elder home to give Kinston a 6-2 lead.
As in the fourth and sixth innings, Kinston scored twice in the first inning after two were out. The other outbursts came after the first two hitters were retired. To start the game, though, Indians leadoff man Ivan Ochoa reached on an infield single and stole two bases. He scored on a wild pitch to Jason Cooper, who eventually walked. Cooper advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out single by Matthew Knox.
Denorfia tripled and scored on an Encarnacion grounder in the third inning, pushing the home team within 2-1. The Cannons, though, eventually fell behind by four runs before Jeff Bannon led off the sixth inning with a double. Two wild pitches from reliever Michael Hernandez allowed Bannon to score.
Then, Anderson doubled and William Bergolla drove in a run with a single. Denorfia followed with an RBI double, giving him four hits (two singles, a triple and the double) in his first four at-bats. Encarnacion grounded out to end the inning, but Potomac was only down 6-5.
The Indians responded quickly off reliever Brad Salmon, as third baseman Rodney Choy Foo belted his sixth home run of the season to begin the seventh inning. One out later, Cooper doubled and Knox singled home a run. Wallace added a two-out RBI double.
Culp lasted six innings and 110 pitches (70 strikes), but he allowed nine hits and six runs (all earned).
In Denorfia’s fifth and final at-bat, he came within about 20 feet of the cycle. Kinston center fielder Willy Taveras dropped the ball for a three-base error.
Denorfia “has been swinging the bat pretty good, but he’s been hitting a lot of what we call ‘at ’em balls,'” Potomac manager Jayhawk Owens said. “It was good to see him hit it where they weren’t tonight, and he made a couple of nice plays in center field.”
SCATTERED BLASTS: Cannons left-hander Jan Carlos Granado, originally scheduled to start tonight’s game, will not be able to pitch until this weekend. The Carolina League office suspended him for three games for hitting Salem’s Fehlandt Lentini last Tuesday night on the first pitch after allowing a three-run homer to Trevor Mote. Right-hander Eddie Valdez, just up from low Class A Dayton, is now scheduled to make his Potomac debut tonight instead of Wednesday night. … After a change in an official scoring decision from Saturday night, the Cannons’ Anderson has been credited with a double. An error had been charged to Lynchburg third baseman Avelino Asprilla.