In the first test of their mettle in the second half, the Pelicans passed with flying colors as J.J. Hoover dominated the Kinston Indians for six innings to lead the Birds to a 4-2 victory in a rubber game at BB&T Coastal Field.
Coming into the Friday finale with Kinston, the Birds were just 2-6 in rubber games this season, but J.J. Hoover rediscovered the stuff that made him a Carolina League All Star to dominate the K-Tribe lineup. In his six excellent innings of work, Hoover (5-5) struck out seven without walking a batter while allowing just one earned run on five hits to earn his fifth win of the season.
Hoover was staked to a 1-0 lead in the third inning of the contest when Mycal Jones ripped a double down the left field line to lead off the frame against Kinston starter Joe Gardner. For Jones, the double extended his hit streak to eight games as the shortstop has now recorded a base knock in 18 of his first 19 games with the Pelicans. Two batters later, Gardner (6-3) made a mistake on an inside fastball to Mike Jones who laced a double to the right-center field gap to score Jones and give the Birds a 1-0 lead.
The lone blemish on Hoover's evening came in his final frame as Lucas Montero led off the inning with an infield single, advancing to second on a Bo Greenwell sacrifice bunt. With two down and two strikes to the cleanup hitter Kyle Bellows, Hoover's hurled a breaking ball that broke off the outside corner of the plate, but Bellows flipped the bat at the baseball and the bloop single that followed brought home Montero to knot the game at one.
The Pelicans responded right away in the bottom of the sixth as Luis Sumoza, the Pelicans' hottest hitter, strode to the plate. With the count at 3-0, Sumoza swung away and roped a fastball into the right-center field gap to plate a pair on the go-ahead triple. For Sumoza, it was his second triple in as many nights as the outfielder has raised his average 60 points in his last 15 games.
With a two run lead, the Pelicans plated an insurance run in the seventh on a Mike Jones bloop single down the left field line to make it 4-1. That was plenty for starter turned reliever Brett Oberholtzer, making his second appearance out of the bullpen as he makes his way back to the starting rotation. Oberholtzer retired the first six men he faced before allowing a two-out, run-scoring single by pinch hitter Doug Pickens to cut the lead to 4-2. But Oberholtzer settled down and retired Ron Rivas on a fly ball to right to end the ballgame and give the Pelicans a series victory against a Southern Division foe for just the second time this season.
With their record in the second half just a game under .500, the Birds will welcome the Salem Red Sox for a four-game series at BB&T Coastal Field starting tomorrow. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
To celebrate the Fourth of July weekend, the Pelicans will spend Saturday getting their fans fired up with a Show Time Saturday performance from one of the premier traveling acts in all of minor league baseball as everybody's furry friend Reggy "The Purple Party Dude" will be in attendance!
For more information on tickets, contact 843-918-6000.