The Hickory Crawdads topped the Hagerstown Suns in both seven-inning games of their doubleheader - 8-5 in game 1 and 7-6 in game 2 - before 2,862 fans at Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown on Thursday.
The Crawdads have won six in a row, seizing sole possession of 1st Place in the Northern Division for the first time this season.
After the Suns (9-6) took an early lead in the first with a solo shot from RF Bryce Harper against RHP Justin Grimm (W, 1-0), the Crawdads (11-4) came right back to tie it in the top of the second. RF Josh Richmond reached on a fielder's choice, then moved all the way to third on a pair of wild pitches from RHP Chris McKenzie (L, 1-2). 2B Odubel Herrera tied the game with an RBI groundout to second, plating Richmond and making it 1-1.
After both teams exchanged a run to make it a 2-2 tie entering the bottom of the third, the Suns came out swinging away to take a 5-2 lead. DH Randolph Oduber led off the frame with a solo homer, before Hagerstown strung together two walks and a single to load the bases with no one out. One out later, 3B Blake Kelso brought one in on a sacrifice fly, followed by a two-run single by LF Wade Moore to put the Suns up, 5-2.
The Crawdads again had a response, however, racing back with five runs in the top of the fourth to erase the deficit and take a two-run lead. 1B Andrew Clark sparked the big inning with a leadoff single and advanced to second on a walk drawn by Richmond. One out later, 3B Christian Villanueva loaded the bases with a single, before C Kellin Deglan forced a run in with a bases loaded walk. SS Jonathan Roof followed with a game-tying two-run double to right-center field, moving Deglan to third base. LF Teodoro Martinez knocked Deglan in with an RBI single, and then started a delayed double steal that enabled Roof to swipe home plate, putting the Crawdads in the 7-5 lead.
Hickory added its final run on a solo homer by DH Tomas Telis in the seventh inning, before RHP Zach Osborne closed out the 8-3 win with a scoreless bottom of the seventh, earning his first save of the season.
The Crawdads picked up right where they left off in game one, striking for four runs in the first two innings of the second game against LHP Paul Applebee.
However, Hagerstown worked itself back in the game with an unearned run in the third against RHP Matt Thompson, followed by five tallies against Thompson and RHP Randol Rojas (W, 3-0) in the fourth. The Suns drew five walks in the fourth inning rally, also capitalizing on a wild pitch, a passed ball and a two-run single by 2B Adrian Sanchez, the only hit in the inning.
Down, 6-4, the Crawdads began chipping away in the sixth inning. RF Josh Richmond and 3B Christian Villanueva knocked back-to-back singles, and then advanced to second and third on a sacrifice bunt by 1B Jhonny Gomez. LF Jonathan Roof then ripped an RBI single to left field, plating Richmond and almost scoring Villanueva, who was thrown out at the plate, keeping Hagerstown in the narrow lead, 7-6.
Hickory refused to go away, pulling off a seventh-inning come back with two runs in the top of the frame against LHP Chris Manno (L, 1-1). SS Edwin Garcia sparked the rally with a lead off single and was pinch run for by Teodoro Martinez. 2B Odubel Herrera then laid down a sacrifice bunt, which 3B Sean Nicol fielded and misfired past first, sailing the ball all the way down the right field line and enabling Martinez to come all the way in to tie the game, as well as putting Herrera at third with no outs. One out later, C Tomas Telis grounded a ball softly to third, scoring Herrera for the go-ahead run.
RHP Joe Van Meter took over on the mound, striking out two in a three-up, three-down bottom of the seventh to earn the save and close the 7-6 come from behind victory for the Crawdads.
NOTES: The Crawdads continue the series in Hagerstown on Friday at 6:35 p.m. The 'Dads return home for a nine-game homestand on Monday, April 25 against the Augusta GreenJackets! It will be 2-for-1 Senior Night with bingo! Also, all kids get to eat for free with a ticket purchase. First Pitch is 7 p.m., gates open at 6 p.m.