Senators can’t avoid brooms in 8-7 defeat

Kieboom with a home run and three RBI in loss

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For the second night in a row, the Harrisburg Senators put the tying runs on in each of the last two innings. And for the second night in a row, the Senators’ comeback fell short as they were defeated 8-7 by the Erie SeaWolves in front of 4,637 fans at FNB Field. The series sweep was the third time this season the Senators have been swept.

The Senators are currently the embodiment of the phrase, “When it rains, it pours.” Every bounce is going the wrong way. Every little setback sets off a chain reaction that can’t be overcome. Shutdown innings are rarer than Bigfoot sightings along the Appalachian Trail.

Harrisburg isn’t helping itself either. The team made a number of mental mistakes defensively and on the basepaths on Thursday evening. Drew Ward was pulled from the game in the sixth inning for a lack of hustle when he made it only half way down the first base line on a fly ball.

“He just won’t play. I can take a mental lapse or a brain fart every now and then,” manager Matt LeCroy said leaving the thought dangle. “But it put someone (Norfork) in there that really wants to play. I’ll take the guys every day that want to play. If he (Ward) don’t learn, he’s going to have to learn the hard way.”

All that being said, the Senators showed some heart and fight in the late innings only to see their comeback fall short sending them to their fourth straight defeat.

“We made too many mistakes. Pitching-wise, baserunning continues to be our Achilles’ heel, throwing to the wrong bases, not covering first,” LeCroy said. “They fought. That’s great, but at the end of the day if you play smarter and execute some pitches you win that ballgame.”

“This game is hard. It ain’t for mentally weak people. If you can’t mentally grind it out all the way to the end when in the big leagues you have another 40-50 games to go. If you’re weak, you’re going to be doing something else,” the skipper continued.

“This is Double-A. You’re getting closer and closer and the game is getting faster and harder. When you’re struggling, there’s nowhere you can hide.”

Harrisburg (63-60) jumped out to an early lead as Rafael Bautista led off the home half of the first with a solo home run. The Senators added to their lead when Spencer Kieboom also went yard, a two-run shot, to stake Harrisburg to a 3-0 lead.

Spencer Kieboom slugged his fifth homer of the season and drove in three (Will Bentzel / MiLB)

Spencer Kieboom slugged his fifth homer of the season and drove in three (Will Bentzel / MiLB)

That looked like more than enough for Harrisburg starter John Simms who cruised through the first four frames facing the minimum 12 batters. But things went downhill for Simms (7-5) after he clipped Corey Jones with a pitch to lead off the fifth inning. Christin Stewart followed with a home run and the SeaWolves took advantage of a Ward throwing error to keep their rally going. Erie continued the hit parade with three singles to plate three more runs and chase Simms from the game. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed five runs, although only two were earned, on six hits while striking out four.

“We just haven’t been able to control the damage,” LeCroy said. “He probably ran into a little bit of a wall there, but he’s got good enough stuff he should be able to get out of it.”

Harrisburg pulled back within a run, 5-4, in the sixth as Kieboom once again delivered, this time a flare to center to score Kevin Keyes from third base. Keyes had doubled to start the frame and moved up 90 feet on an Isaac Ballou single. But Erie responded with two runs in the top of the next frame off reliever Robert Benincasa to widen their advantage to three. Wander Suero was also unable to keep the SeaWolves off the scoreboard as Erie plated a run in the eighth to double up on the Senators, 8-4.

But the Senators weren’t content to go gently into that good night. After Jose Marmolejos singled and Keyes walked to lead off the bottom half of the eight, Khayyan Norfork recorded an infield single that shortstop Gustavo Nunez threw away into the Erie dugout plating Marmolejos. Ballou drove Keyes home on an RBI groundout and Norfork raced home on a wild pitch cut the lead to 8-7. Harrisburg would get the tying run to third base in the frame, but Bautista grounded out to end the threat.

Harrisburg would get a pair of runners on in their final at-bats, but Ballou’s line drive was corralled by center fielder Anthony Gose to end the game.

The Senators head south to take on the Richmond Flying Squirrels in a weekend series at The Diamond. Phillips Valdez gets the ball for Harrisburg against Matt Gage on Friday night for the scheduled 7:05 start time. The game can be heard on Fox Sports 1460 AM, on the internet at senatorsbaseball.com, or through the TuneIn and iHeart Radio apps with The Matt LeCroy Show beginning the radio broadcast at 6:50 p.m.

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