Cannons strike for a wild win

WOODBRIDGE Potomac outfielder Skip Schumaker struggled so much on Friday night that he wound up with the game-winning strikeout. Yes, game-winning strikeout.

In a 3-2, 10-inning triumph over Northern Division-leading Lynchburg at Pfitzner Stadium, Schumaker went 0 for 5 but scored the clinching run. With two outs in the bottom of the 10th off all-star Hillcat closer D.J. Carrasco (2-4), Schumaker reached on a strikeout and then went all the way to third base on catcher Ronny Paulino’s wild throw to first.

Following the three-bagger of a strikeout, Johnny Hernandez drove home the winning run with an infield hit to the left side.

“The pitch I swung at was a slider about four feet before home plate,” Schumaker said of the at-bat off Carrasco, who leads the league with 24 saves but came into a tie game Friday night. “I had a horrible day at the plate, and that just topped it off. I was angry, so I ran as hard as I could to first. We just happened to get a break.”

Or as Lynchburg first baseman Ray Navarrete said, “[Carrasco] got Schumaker, who’s a pretty good hitter. He’s hitting .300 and having a hell of a year. To get him and then lose that way was tough.”

Lynchburg fell to 16-11 in the second half, two games better than the Cannons (14-13). Potomac had lost three straight games until pulling out this thriller in front of a crowd of 3,894 fans. The three-game series continues tonight.

John Novinsky (4-5) earned the win in relief, but the Cannons would not have been able to win this one without an excellent starting effort. For Potomac starter Donovan Graves, earning a win has been as rare as Lynchburg’s Sean Burnett being saddled with a loss.

Opposing the one-loss Burnett, the one-win Graves located his fastball well and overcame a night in which his curveball wasn’t working.

Graves (1-6), who had not pitched since winning on July 4, made the longest of his 10 starts this season. In 7 2/3 innings, he allowed seven hits and two runs. Graves didn’t pick up a decision, but he gave the Cannons a shot to win in a game started by Burnett (12-1), the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top prospect.

Burnett, who entered the game ranked second in the Carolina League with a 1.30 earned-run average, surrendered two first-inning runs before shutting down the Cannons for the next six innings. Of the 19-year-old left-hander’s 99 pitches, he had to make 31 of them in getting the first three outs.

Potomac scored quickly off Burnett, collecting a pair of first-inning runs on two hits and two walks. Burnett retired the first two Cannon batters, but then walked Billy Munoz and allowed a single to Jeremy Luster. Potomac catcher Ryan Hamill proceeded to clear the bases with a two-RBI double into the left-field corner.

Graves, a 21-year-old right-hander, maintained a 2-0 lead until the sixth inning. He allowed just three hits in the first five innings while striking out four, including three straight hitters in the second inning.

“I felt pretty good for not having been on the mound for two weeks,” said Graves, who lost his turn in the rotation because of off days and the rehab assignment of major leaguer Andy Benes. “After the fifth or sixth inning, I pretty much depended on my fastball and slider and worked on my curveball for the next start.”

In the sixth inning, Lynchburg finally broke through off Graves. With one out, Graves hit Navarrete with a pitch. An out later, Josh Bonifay and Luis Landaeta singled to load the bases. Just as the Cannons scored two runs on a hit by their catcher, Hillcat backstop Paulino drove home a pair of runs with a two-out single.

Lynchburg had an excellent shot to take the lead off reliever Josh Kinney in the ninth inning. But with runners on first and third and one out, ninth-place hitter Avelino Asprilla bounced into a double play against a drawn-in infield. That set the stage for the Cannons’ wild 10th inning and just their second win in five home games against Lynchburg this year.

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