Game four of the Mills Cup Championship series pitted Aaron Northcraft versus Scott Snodgress. Each pitched six and two-thirds innings in their first post-season outing. Each allowed one run and got a no decision. However, game four was a tale of two very different pitchers that ended with the same result.
Lynchburg got the early lead in bottom of the first. It started with a Dan Brewer walk and was followed by a Nick Ahmed double. With runners at first and second base, Tommy La Stella hit a grounder to the left side to score Brewer and give the Hillcats a 1-0 lead. From there, Snodgress was dominant. He retired the next 16 batters he faced.
Northcraft would crack a half inning later in the top of the second. He started by hitting Michael Earley, then Ahmed robbed Mike Blanke of a hit, but it moved Earley to second. The next batter, Courtney Hawkins, came up with an RBI single down the left field line to plate Earley and tie the ball game at 1-1.
The top of the fifth was a tough inning for Northcraft, as well. A walk started the frame and a Northcraft errant throw to first allowed David Herbeck to move to second. A batter later, Keenyn Walker hit a double into the right-center field gap to give the Dash a 2-1 lead.
In Northcraft's sixth and final inning--with two outs--Mike Blanke hit a solo homer. The ball hit the top of the left field wall, bounced and went over the wall to push the lead to 3-1.
With Snodgress cruising in the sixth, he fanned his fourth consecutive batter and the sixteenth consecutive batter retired. However, Brewer would snap the streak with his second walk of the day. Ahmed would cut the lead to 3-2 with an RBI double down the left field line that scored Brewer from first. La Stella grounded out, but it moved Ahmed to third with Chris Garcia at the plate. On a 2-2 pitch, Snodgress delivered a ball the bounced in front of the plate, off of Blanke and went to the left of the batter's box. Ahmed raced home and the 'Cats tied it at 3-3.
The lead didn't last long for the Hillcats. In the top of the seventh, Ian Marshall entered for Northcraft. He immediately gave up a double to Herbek before seeing Herbek sacrificed over by Walker. Matt Chaffee entered and gave up a sac fly to center to Daniel Wagner. The play saw Herbeck score and give the Dash a 4-3 lead.
Taylor Thompson, who was 12 of 13 in save opportunities on the season, entered in the bottom of the ninth. He started by retiring Garcia. Edward Salcedo followed with a blast to center field. Salcedo began a home run trot, but the ball went off the top of the wall and he nearly was throw out at second base. Michael Spina, who hadn't played since September 1st, came up with an RBI double to tie it at 4-4. Matt Weaver would enter on the bases for Spina. With two outs, Mycal Jones walked to put runners at first and second base. However, Thompson was able to settle down and get Adam Milligan to pop out.
The bottom of the 10th began with Thompson back on the mound. He easily retired Brewer, but Ahmed was able to come up with his fourth hit of the game. It was dribbler down the line that Ahmed was able to beat out. La Stella followed with a walk to put runners at first and second for Garcia. After falling behind, Garcia battled back to work the count to 3-2. It was on the second pay-off pitch that he hit a slow roller that moved the runners to second and third. Salcedo would enter the batter's box to face Bryan Blough. However, Salcedo was sat down looking.
The bottom of the 11th began with a sharp ground ball hit to first baseman, Dan Black. After laying out for it, Black tossed it to Blough, but he couldn't find the bag and Weaver was safe. Schlehuber came up to lay down a sac bunt, but it was mishandled then thrown away by Blough. Runners were at first and second for Jones. After some stall tactics, Manager Tommy Thompson called in Steve Upchurch. He gave up a bunt single to Mycal Jones. Adam Milligan, with two strikes, hit a deep fly to right field. Weaver raced home and the Hillcats are your new Carolina League Champions.
The Hillcats send their sincerest thanks to all the fans for a wonderful season. Congratulations to the 2012 Mills Cup Champions.