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Intimidators drop Game 1 after late innings go awry

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Kannapolis jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but after the potential winning run got thrown out in the eighth inning it gave up two in the ninth

Lewis Settles In: Zach Lewis struck out eight and allowed just two runs but departed a tied ballgame after six innings.
Clinton Cole/FutureSox

Lakewood BlueClaws 4, Kannapolis Intimidators 2

Kannapolis vs Lakewood Game 1 box score

After taking a two-run lead in the first inning of Game 1 of the 2018 SAL Northern Division Championship Series, the Intimidators gave up a pair of runs in the ninth inning to drop the series opener.

Maybe it was a bit of postseason nerves for starting pitcher Zach Lewis, but after recording an out on the first batter of the game he gave up a single to left field and walked a batter to put two on with one out. Lewis would then get a fly out to left field and strike out Lakewood’s Jhailyn Ortiz to end the inning and get out of jam.

In the bottom of the first, the nerves bit Lakewood starter Andrew Brown even harder, as with one out he hit Luis Curbelo with a pitch. Then, Steele Walker stepped to the plate and singled to right field to put runners on the corners. The next batter, Tate Blackman, tapped an infield single to third base to plate Curbelo and move Walker to second base. With the I’s leading 1-0 and two out, Walker moved to third on a wild pitch before Carlos Perez singled to center field to bring in Walker and give the the I’s a 2-0 lead.

The Intimidators held that two-run lead for a couple of innings until the top of the fourth when Lakewood tied it up at two. Rodolfo Duran led off the inning with a home run to center field to cut the lead in half. Then Ortiz hit a ground-rule double to center and would immediately score when Nick Maton tripled to right field. Lewis settled down to strike out two of the three outs in the inning and go on to pitch two more scoreless innings. The righthander finished with a quality start, going six strong innings, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out eight, before departing a 2-2 game and taking a no-decision.

The game remained even at two apiece when the I’s threatened to take a lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Blackman singled to left field, Craig Dedelow walked to put runners at first and second for Perez — and again, Perez came through with a line-drive single to left field. Unfortunately, he hit the ball a bit too hard and Blackman, representing the go-ahead (and potential winning) run, got thrown out at home by Lakewood LF Matt Vierling to keep the game knotted up at two going into the ninth inning.

The Intimidators’ failure to capitalize would come back to haunt them, as relief pitcher Jake Elliott got into trouble in the top of the ninth. A leadoff double to right field was followed by a bloop single to center, and an errant throw by Walker put runners at second and third with nobody out. Will Kincanon replaced Elliott, but couldn’t get out of the jam. Kincanon uncorked a wild pitch, then gave up a single to left field by Jose Antequera to plate another run before recording the final three outs. But, the damage was done. The I’s went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth with Blackman, Johan Cruz and Ramon Beltre all striking out.

The I’s will need to win the next two games of the best-of-three series to advance this postseason.

Complete recap of Game 1 available on Kannapolis’ official website.