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Thurman Outduels Oxspring to Defeat Patriots

Heading into last nights showdown with the York Revolution, the Somerset Patriots hoped to rebound from a crushing extra inning defeat on Tuesday night. After committing a pair of errors in the top of the 12th inning, York outfielder James Shanks broke a 3-3 tie when he belted a Jeff Kenard pitch into the misty night sky for an eventual game-winning grand slam.

Manager Sparky Lyle summoned right-handed Aussie, Chris Oxspring, to the hill for his first start at TD Bank Ballpark as a member of the Patriots. In his first two starts of the season, both coming on the road, Oxspring had gone 0-2 while posting an abysmal 15.43 ERA.

Opposing the Patriots was one of the Atlantic Leagues premier hurlers in big veteran righty, Corey Thurman, who entered action on Tuesday night with a 3-2 record and a 2.94 ERA, good for fifth best in the league.

The matchup on the mound was a rematch from just six days prior when the Revolution defeated the Patriots in York on June 9 by a score of 4-2. In that game, Thurman went six innings for the win, giving up just two earned runs while Oxspring took the loss, giving up four runs and ten hits in five innings of work.

Oxspring looked strong early on for Somerset, having yielded just one soft hit through his first two innings on the hill. After retiring second baseman Liu Rodriguez on a pop up to the shortstop Fernando Cortez to open action in the third frame, Oxspring hit a stumbling block that allowed the Revolution to get on the scoreboard first.

With one out, York catcher and number nine hitter, Salvador Paniagua, stroked a base hit to right field. Oxspring then walked back to back hitters in center fielder, Scott Grimes and right fielder, Chris Walker to load the bases. Left fielder, Val Majewski then hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to drive home Paniagua for the games first run.

Following Majewski, designated hitter Jose Harrera got a solid base knock up the middle to drive in Grimes to give York the 2-0 advantage. Oxspring would strand a runner on third with a strikeout of third baseman Chris Nowak to end the threat of further damage in the third.

Just as he did in his last start against Somerset, Thurman retired the first ten Patriots to come to bat before giving up a one-out double to shortstop, Fernando Cortez, in the bottom of the fourth inning. Cortez would be doubled off of second base after first baseman, Justin Huber, flew out to centerfield which brought forth a disappointing end to the fourth inning.

Thurman was a ground ball machine as he faced the minimum after 4 2/3 innings, having generated nine of his first 14 outs on the ground. He would run into his first sign of struggle with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. After retiring the Patriots two hottest offensive players in designated hitter, Josh Pressley and third baseman Jeff Nettles, Thurman issued his first two walks of the game; giving free passes to right fielder Michael Hernandez, and second baseman, Matt Hagen. The Patriots could not capitalize though, as catcher John Pachot flew out to centerfield to conclude the fifth frame.

Oxspring was pulled with two outs in the sixth inning after walking first baseman, Mark Ori to put runners on first and second base. Righty Casey Cahill came on in relief of Oxspring and retired shortstop Eric Eymann on a fly ball to center. The final pitching line on Oxspring was by far his best in a Patriots uniform as he went 5 2/3 innings surrendering just four hits and two runs.

Somerset had yet another scoring opportunity at their finger tips in the bottom of the sixth inning. After retiring the first two hitters, it appeared as though Thurman was poised for another easy inning before Cortez stepped into the batters box.

With the only hit against him on the evening, Cortez poked another base hit up the middle. Huber came to bat next and doubled sharply down the right field line which appeared good enough to score Cortez for the first Patriots run of the game. However, a relay throw from the shortstop Eymann to the catcher was on the money to throw out a sliding Cortez to effectively end the inning and keep that Pats off the board.

After a solid scoreless seventh inning from Cahill in the top of the seventh, Thurman’s tank appeared to have hit empty in the bottom of the inning. After retiring Pressley on a fly ball to open the frame, Thurman walked two consecutive hitters which prompted Manager Andy Etchebarren to pull him in favor of RJ Rodriguez, who would come on and record the final two outs.

Jason Cromer came on to pitch in the top of the eighth for the Pats and worked with relative ease through the heart of the Revs lineup. Submarine-style southpaw, Ronnie Morales, came on to pitch for York in the bottom half of inning and his peculiar delivery didn’t appear to deceive the Patriots.

After retiring outfielders Wayne Lydon and Norris Hopper on hard hit outs, Morales struck Cortez on the arm with a pitch. Huber followed that up by rifling a base hit to left field to bring up the league’s fourth leading hitter in Pressley (.365) with runners on first and second base.

Pressley was batting .415 on the season against left handed pitching, but the corky delivery of Morales appeared to be too puzzling for him after Morales fooled him badly on two straight pitches. Pressley worked himself back into the at bat though, forcing Morales to go to a full count.  With the chips down, Pressley finally turned on an inside fastball for a double into the left field gap which drove home Cortez and set up a chance for Nettles to give the Patriots the lead.

Nettles entered action on Wednesday night with a league best mark of .511 with six home runs and 38 RBIs with runners in scoring position; there was no other player the Patriots would want up in this key situation. Morales however induced Nettles into hitting a fly ball to centerfield with the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position to end the eighth.

Bullpen workhorse Ben Grezlovski generated three ground balls in the top half of the ninth to keep the Patriots within striking distance of a walk off win. Michael Hernandez singled leading off the bottom of the ninth for Somerset and pinch runner Elliott Ayala advanced to second with no outs on a passed ball. However, Matt Hagen flew out to right field and Pachot lined into a double play, closing the book on a 2-1 Revolution victory over Somerset.

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