May 18, 2012
CL Game 44
Nationals (Gregory Hillyard, DMD) 4
Diamondbacks (Cocco's Pizza) 1
On a picture-perfect afternoon for baseball, the Nationals downed the Diamondbacks, 4-1.
For the victors: Jeremy Mack went 3 for 3 with an RBI, while Bennett Bornstein (RBI double, run scored), Zach Douglas (run scored), Charlie McConnell (double, RBI single) and Jake Stephens notched two hits apiece for a Nationals offense that piled up 14 hits and put the ball in play 18 times. Ethan Ryan (run scored), Andrew Weber (RBI) and Garrett Lynn (run scored) each singled to round out the hitting for the home team.
For the D'backs: Nico Villalobos went 2 for 2, scored the visitors' only run, and made a pair of phenomenal plays in the field to earn a game ball, while Joey Cornacchia went 2 for 3 with an RBI and Nicholas Corritore doubled to help lead a Diamondbacks offense that tallied 10 hits and put the ball in play 15 times. Also getting hits were Kelton Brunner, Milan Hortua, Lizzy Gibian, Dylan LeBuhn and Sam Davenport.
In addition to Villalobos, Josh Rodgers, Brunner, Corritore, LeBuhn and Jake McDowell stood out in the field for the D'backs, who played, arguably, their best defensive game of the year.
In the top of the first, Cornacchia singled with one out, but the Nationals robbed the next two batters, McDowell and Corritore, of hits with back-to-back, 1-3 putouts to end the half-inning.
The Nationals jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the home half of the first. Bornstein, Douglas, Ryan and McConnell strung together four straight singles, respectively, to push the first run across. After the next batter was retired, Mack plated Douglas with a base hit. Then, with the bases loaded and two outs, Weber sent Ryan home with a single. Although the Diamondbacks got out of the inning without giving up any more runs, the Nationals had made a strong opening statement.
Hortua and Gibian both singled to put runners at first and second with one out in the top of the second. But, after the next batter was retired, the Nationals' third baseman made an unassisted putout at the hot corner to take a hit away from Rodgers and keep the visitors off the board.
In the bottom of the second, Villalobos came up with a big-time play at second base. With one out and Stephens, who had singled to start the half-inning, on first, Bornstein hit a scorcher to the right side. Showing an extraordinary amount of toughness, alertness and poise, Villalobos stepped in front of the bouncing bullet, knocked it down, collected himself, picked up the ball and won a footrace to second. Douglas followed with a single to put runners on first and second with two outs, but the D'backs got out of the inning without giving up a run.
Fresh off his stellar defensive play, Villalobos opened the third by lofting a high single over the third baseman's head and into left field. After Davenport hustled out an infield hit, the Diamondbacks had runners on first and second with nobody out. Although the next two batters were retired, Brunner legged out an infield hit of his own to load the bases with two outs. That set the stage for Cornacchia, who sent a well-hit ball into the hole on the left side. Although the Nationals' shortstop made a valiant attempt to make a force-out at third, Davenport beat him to the bag, ensuring that Villalobos could cross the plate safely and cut the D'backs' deficit to 3-1. The Diamondbacks threatened to close the gap even more, but, once again, the Nationals' defense stepped up in the clutch, this time stealing an RBI hit away from McDowell with a 4-3 putout.
In the bottom of the third, McConnell drilled a liner that looked like trouble off the bat, but Rodgers snared it by the mound for the first out. After the next batter was retired, Mack sent a hard-hit ball to the left side that appeared headed for the outfield, but LeBuhn knocked it down at shortstop to hold him to a single. After the next batter was retired, the Nationals' lead remained at two runs heading into the fourth.
In the top of the fourth, Corritore pulled a leadoff double down the third-base line, but the next three batters were retired in succession to leave him stranded in scoring position.
The Nationals closed out the scoring in the bottom of the fourth. After Lynn and Stephens hit back-to-back singles with one out, the next batter was retired. Then, Bornstein crushed a double to left-center to plate Lynn and put runners on second and third with two outs. Although the D'backs got out of the inning without giving up any more runs, the home team went into the fifth with a 4-1 advantage.
LeBuhn led off the top of the fifth by blistering a single into left field. After the next batter was retired, Villalobos picked up his second hit of the day to put runners on first and second with one out. Yet again, though, the Nationals escaped unscathed.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Diamondbacks flashed some serious leather to keep the Nationals from adding to their lead. First, Ryan sent a ball to the left side that looked like a sure hit to start the half-inning, but corner infielders Brunner and Corritore combined to rob him. After Brunner vacuumed up the ball by third base and wasted no time in hurling a strong throw across the diamond, Corritore made an outstanding stretch and catch while holding the bag. Then, McConnell slammed a double to center that could have been more trouble, if not for Rodgers corralling the ball and getting it back into the infield as quickly as possible. After the next batter was retired, Mack connected for his third single of the game, but Villalobos made a deft stop at short to keep the ball in the infield and prevent McConnell from scoring on the play. With runners on the corners and two outs, McDowell finished off the D'backs' exceptional defensive frame by scooping up Alexander Kyourktchiev's grounder by the mound and firing a strike to Corritore at first.
The D'backs went in order in the top of the sixth to end the game.