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Suarez Wins it for Somerset Patriots in the Ninth

Losers of seven of their first nine games this season, the Somerset Patriots desperately needed to pull out a victory over the Road Warriors last night at TD Bank Ballpark. Having been shutout 9-0 on Tuesday afternoon, the Patriots sat in last place in the Freedom Division of the Atlantic League, six games behind the leading York Revolution. It’s tough to say any game this early in the season is a “must win,” but Wednesday nights game was certainly close to it.

Manager Sparky Lyle sent righty Kris Honel to the mound in hopes of getting his struggling team back into the win column. Honel looked very strong early on, hitting his spots with a good mix of pitches.

The Road Warriors would strike first blood in the third inning when the Atlantic League’s leading hitter, Carlos Sosa (.529) stroked an RBI single off of Honel to drive in left fielder Sean Henry, who had drawn a walk to reach base.

Somerset immediately responded back in the bottom half of the frame. Left Fielder Joe Holden, batting ninth in the order, singled and stole second base. Center Fielder Wayne Lydon then singled to move Holden over to third base. With two outs, Lydon got himself into a run down after a throw over to first base from Road Warriors starter, Luke Massetti. Lydon was tagged out but kept the run down alive long enough for Holden to scramble home for the tying run. The run was the Patriots first in 13 innings dating back to a Justin Huber home run in the seventh inning of Sunday’s loss to Landcaster.

Holden remained strong on the hill, giving the Patriots five solid innings of work, yielding only one run on four hits while striking out four and walking five to lower his season ERA to 2.53. Paul Bush came on in the sixth in relief on Honel and worked himself into a bit of a jam. With a runner on third base and two outs, Bush went to a full count on the ninth hitter, third baseman, Emmanuel Sena. Bush would escape danger though; Sena took a called strike three on the outside corner to end the inning, stranding the go ahead run on third base.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Lydon led off with an infield hit and immediately stole second base. Lydon advanced to third base on a ground out by Jeff Nettles. With two outs, Josh Pressley stepped up to the plate and delivered a base knock to center field to give the Patriots the 2-1 lead and effectively chase Massetti from the game.

Somerset carried that 2-1 advantage into the eighth inning when righty Jason Anderson came on for his first inning of work. After quickly retiring right fielder Alex Pena for the first out, center fielder Jonel Pacheco came to the plate. Pacheco entered the game in sixth inning to replace Ryan Mitchell after he was injured in the field. With a .149 batting average on the season, Pacheco delivered a majestic home run to dead center field to tie the game at two.

Iggy Suarez provided the game winning hit, an infield single.

The Patriots let another glaring opportunity pass them by in the eighth inning when Nettles struck out looking to end the inning with the go ahead run on third base.

The Road Warriors went quietly in the top of the ninth inning after a second inning of work by Anderson. Somerset came up with a chance to get a much needed victory in their last at bat in the bottom of the frame.

Pressley led off the inning with his fourth hit of the night on a blooper to shallow left field. Lyle opted to remove Pressley from the game for a pinch runner, Joe Burke. The move prompted Road Warriors manager Roy Howell to pull Jason Norderum in favor of Adam Thomas. Right Fielder Michael Hernandez sacrificed Burke over to second base for the first out of the inning. Thomas then issued an intentional pass to Huber to set up the double play possibility.

Catcher Matt Hagen stepped up to the dish next and delivered what appeared would be the game winning base hit to right field, however Burke was gunned out on his scramble to home plate by Pena for the second out of the inning. Burke was severely injured on the play after colliding with the catcher and had to be tended to by team staff and trainers for several minutes following the play.

With runners on first and third and two outs, shortstop Iggy Suarez came to bat hoping to deliver a win for the Patriots. Suarez hit a slow grounder to third base and beat out a bounced throw to first base for an infield hit that allowed the Patriots to walk off with the 3-2 win heading into the rubber match of the series on Thursday night.

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