With hits scarce to come by, Sandford delivers a walk-off single

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As Saturday night’s game between the Harrisburg Senators and Richmond Flying Squirrels headed into extra innings, both teams were struggling to find any kind of offense. The Flying Squirrels had been held to one hit all night, a single in the sixth inning, and the Senators had gone five-plus innings since their last base hit.

But moments after Isaac Ballou corralled a deep fly ball as he crashed into the wall in the right-centerfield gap, the outfielder led off the bottom half of the inning by drawing a walk. Manager Matt LeCroy pulled the levers and had Osvaldo Abreu lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance Ballou into scoring position.

After Stephen Perez flew out, Darian Sandford stepped to the plate and delivered a single to center that Ballou scored easily on when Richmond centerfielder Slade Heathcott’s throw airmailed the catcher.

The win was Harrisburg’s second in a row and third in last four games.

*****

When LeCroy removed Harrisburg starter John Simms from the game with two outs in the seventh inning, it wasn’t because the skipper needed a reliever to get out of a jam or that Simms had reached his pitch count limit.

In fact, the complete opposite on both counts. Simms allowed one hit, a single by C.J. Hinojosa singled past the outstretched glove of shortstop Osvaldo Abreu, in the game and the only other baserunners the Flying Squirrels had against the right-hander were from an error or being hit by a pitch (of which there were three of each).

Simms had been in control most of the night and had just delivered his 100th pitch on the second out of the frame. LeCroy could have pushed his starter for another batter or two, but he needed to get R.C. Orlan in the game and it was the best time to match up the southpaw versus the left-handed batting Slade Heathcott.

“That was his best one of the year for me,” LeCroy said of Simms’ outing. “His change-up was real good. He mixed in the off-speed and threw it for strikes. I was pleased with how he responded to the errors. It could have went south for him, but I thought he did a nice job of not letting that bother him.”

Simms had already faced the Flying Squirrels twice this season on back-to-back starts in late May, but none compared to the performance he gave on Saturday night at FNB Field.

“We made a change two bullpens ago with my glove side,” the 25-year-old right-hander said. “It just makes all my pitches sharper with the better angle downhill. Tonight I felt like I could throw all three of my pitches whenever in whatever count.”

“It was just one of those nights.”

*****

Simms became the 13th Senators pitcher in the modern era to hit three batters in a game, the last time was Richard Bleier on July 11, 2015…the right sde of the infield had a rough night as first baseman Jose Marmolejos misplayed a grounder and second baseman Neftali Soto had trouble gloving two balls in back-to-back innings…prior to the game, the Senators activated Drew Ward off the disabled list, although the third baseman didn’t see action in the contest.

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