From staff reports
The Lynchburg Hillcats secured a postseason spot by winning the Carolina League’s North Division title in thrilling fashion in June. But the second half campaign hasn’t been so glamorous.
The Hillcats are currently 15-21 in the rocky second half and sit two games from the division cellar as they begin a six-game series at red-hot Charleston, which leads the South Division by 2½ games over Kannapolis. To find much-needed momentum heading into the mid-September League Championship Series, the ‘Cats will have to become road warriors.
Lynchburg (50-52 overall) has 30 games remaining; just 12 will be held in the friendly confines of Bank of the James Stadium. Tuesday’s game at Charleston, which begins at 7:05 pm, continues a 12-game road trip that won’t come to a close until Sunday. The Hillcats, who haven’t played a home game this month, have just two home series remaining: a six-game stand against North Division leader Fredericksburg that begins Aug. 16 and a six-game series versus another hot team, Kannapolis, slated to start Aug. 30. They then close the regular season on the road with six games at Fayetteville.
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The Hillcats are 9-9 in road games during the second half. They bolstered that stat last week by claiming four of six at Myrtle Beach. The series was full of fireworks, including a wild 14-13 affair Friday — in which the Lynchburg bats blasted out seven runs in the top of the ninth and then held on to win — and a 3-2 nail-biter that also went the Hillcats’ way into Sunday’s series finale. The team now sports a 25-23 overall record on the road and a 25-29 record at home.
The series win put to bed a difficult July in which Lynchburg went 8-16.
One possible reason for the second-half struggles: the typical conveyer belt of transactions, with players promoted to High-A Lake County and arriving from the ACL Guardians of the Rookie League. Players promoted to Lynchburg often show up with less experience since the team’s move from Class-A Advanced to Low-A as part of the massive restructuring of Minor League Baseball that took place prior to the 2021 season.
Lynchburg enters the series against the Riverdogs ranked seventh in the league in team batting average (.240) and eighth in earned run average (4.27).
Charleston, which finished one game behind Myrtle Beach in the South Division for the first-half title, is 68-33 overall and 22-13 in the second half. The Riverdogs have won nine of their last 10 games. Lynchburg is 9½ games behind North Division leader Fredericksburg (24-11) and just two games ahead of Delmarva (13-23), which sits in last place.
The regular season comes to a close Sept. 11. The best-of-three League Championship Series starts Sept. 13 and continues Sept. 15, with an if-necessary game scheduled for Sept. 16. Win that series and Lynchburg would advance to the best-of-three championship series.