GARY, IN. 7-25-2010 – Rookie Nolan Nicholson worked into the ninth and allowed only three hits in his eighth professional start to lead the Gary SouthShore RailCats to a 4-1 win over the Lake County Fielders Sunday afternoon in the finale of a three-game series at U. S. Steel Yard.
The RailCats won two of three in the set and won their second series in three tries since the All-Star Break. Nicholson (3-2), who had not pitched more than 5.2 innings in any of his first six RailCats starts, retired the first two batters in each of the first eight innings and was working on a shutout into the ninth. The 23-year-old right-hander was efficient (throwing just 102 pitches), worked quickly and was consistently ahead of hitters in a Fielders lineup that put 25 runners on base just one night earlier. In total, Nicholson worked 8.0 innings, allowed three hits, one run and four walks while striking out three. Three of the seven baserunners allowed by Nicholson reached to start the ninth inning.
Nicholson’s start was his third straight strong effort, improving his record to 2-0 over that time. In 18.0 innings combined in his last three, Nicholson has allowed just three earned runs on 13 hits and six walks, good for a 1.50 ERA. Those three strong efforts have lowered the youngster’s ERA from 7.91 to 4.82.
The RailCats had plenty of support for Nicholson, collecting 12 hits for the second game in a row. The ‘Cats got on the board in the fourth inning against Ryan Bicondoa (1-4) with a little help from the Lake County defense when, with two on and two out, Mike Valadez reached when third baseman Aaron Cone bobbled his slow chopper. That brought Zach Rodeghero to the plate with the bases loaded, and the rookie patiently drew a walk to force in a run and make the score 1-0.
Tanner Townsend, who scored on the Rodeghero walk, doubled to lead off the sixth inning and scored on a Louis Ott single to grow the lead to 2-0. Mike Massaro and Ott each drove in runs in the seventh to chase Bicondoa from the game and swell the ‘Cats advantage to 4-0.
Bicondoa went 6.2 innings and threw 126 pitches in front of a beleaguered bullpen, surrendering 11 hits and four runs (three earned) while striking out four.
Lake County loaded the bases in the ninth on a Kyle Higgins leadoff double and two straight walks issued by Nicholson. That brought Andy Shipman in from the bullpen, and after a Jeff Dunbar sacrifice fly scored one, Shipman struck out Adam Hale and Aaron Cone in order to earn his league-leading 15th save.
Ott went 3-for-4 with two RBI to lead the RailCats, while Townsend went 2-for-4 following up a three-hit effort Saturday. Jay Pecci also had two hits for the RailCats. No Fielder had more than one hit as the RailCats allowed a season-low three hits in the contest.
The RailCats (28-31) six-game homestand rolls forward Monday night with the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks (35-21) in town for a 7 p.m. game. The ‘Cats will send left-hander Brad Halsey (3-5, 4.50 ERA) in the series opener with lefty Jake Laber (6-2, 3.84 ERA) going for the ‘Hawks. The game will be broadcast live on 89.1 FM, The Lakeshore, and at www.railcatsbaseball.com.
It will be another Dollar Monday, presented by NIEMI Associates, at U. S. Steel Yard with $1 hot dogs, popcorn, pop, chips, programs and merchandise all available throughout the ballpark. Plus, when you buy one ticket at the Box Office, the second is available for just a dollar! For tickets or more information, call 219.882.2255 or visit www.railcatsbaseball.com.
Notes: The RailCats won a series at home for the first time since June 4-6, also against Lake County … the ‘Cats have won seven of 10 games against the Fielders this year … the RailCats again played error-free baseball (for the eighth time in 10 games since the break) including three sensational plays by Townsend at third base … in the RailCats two wins in the series, Lake County combined for nine hits. The Fielders had 16 hits in their win Saturday.