'Stormers finish sweep of Camden
BY BURT WILSON, Sports Writer
Charlie Neil arrived in Lancaster just before the Barnstormers began their season. It didn't take long for the catcher to contribute.
On Sunday, Neil doubled in the final inning and later scored on a Kody Kirkland grounder to give Lancaster a 3-2 win over the Camden Riversharks. The victory came in the second game of a doubleheader and completed a sweep of Camden. Lancaster won the first game, 4-2.
The Barnstormers are now 4-0.
"It's great to be 4-0 and not have a number in that loss column," said outfielder Blake Gailen, the hero in Game One.
"I'm real happy about that," Barnstormers manager Butch Hobson said of sweeping the season-opening series from the 'Sharks.
Sunday's games were to be two seven-inning contests. But the nightcap went to the eighth tied, 2-2. Neil led off the bottom of the inning and hit reliever Armando Gambino's first pitch in the gap in left-center for a double.
"I figured, being in the nine-hole, they're going to give me something good to hit," Neil said. "I was looking for a pitch to handle and he luckily he put it over the plate and I was able to put a good swing on it."
Neil, who is 23, struck out his first two times at the plate.
"I was just getting over the nerves," he said, "just coming to a new place, a new park and meeting all the guys. Everything was kind of running 100 miles an hour. I just had to get myself to slow everything down and get more comfortable up there."
Olmo Rosario's sacrifice bunt sent Neil to third and brought Kirkland to the plate. With the Camden infield playing in, Kirkland hit a 2-2 Gambino pitch that first baseman Erik Lis fielded diving to his right.
Lis came up throwing, but the toss was high, and by the time catcher Raul Padron came down to make the tag, Neil had crossed the plate, ending the game.
"A young kid, in his very first game, that was good," Hobson said of Neil's effort.
Kirkland and Rosario had also been part of the Barnstormers two-run first inning. Rosario singled and Kirkland doubled. Rosario scored on starter Ryan Kulik's wild pitch and Kirkland scored on Travis Denker's sacrifice fly.
Barnstormers righty Alan Johnson started and struggled. He gave up two first-inning runs, walked five and struck out three in a 68-pitch, three-inning outing.
"He didn't have a feel for his fastball," Hobson said.
But the bullpen pitched well in both games. Seven Lancaster relievers each pitched a scoreless inning during the doubleheader.
Ross Peeples, Derrick Loop, Tim Dillard, Brian Tallet and Jason Urquidez, who got the win, closed out the second game throwing scoreless frames.
But Camden also pitched well, allowing just two hits in the final eight innings.
In the first game, Gailen hit a three-run homer in a four-run fifth inning to lead a come-from-behind win and lefty Lenny DiNardo was sharp in his first outing of the season, pitching five innings to get the victory.
Lancaster was held hitless by Camden right-hander Joshua Walter until Petey Paramore led off the bottom of the fifth with a single.
Rosario hit a ground ball that could have been a double play but was bobbled by third baseman Juan Martinez, putting Paramore on second and Rosario on first.
After Kevin Howard's single scored Paramore, lefty Mike Antonini replaced Walter to pitch to Gailen.
The left fielder hit a 3-1 Antonini fastball into the first row of the picnic area above the right-field wall for a three-run homer and a 4-2 lead.
"I'm always trying to hit the ball hard and I look for a ball in a certain spot," Gailen said. "And if it's there, I'm going to see if I can crush it. (With the count) 3-1, my zone gets a little smaller in terms of what I'm looking for. He threw something I felt I felt I could drive and, fortunately, it worked out for us."
DiNardo gave up two runs on four hits, struck out seven and did not walk a batter.
"He pitched good," Hobson said.
Robert Hinton threw a scoreless sixth for Lancaster. And in the seventh, Yoslan Herrera struck out one and walked one before getting Padron to ground into a game-ending double play. It was Herrera's second save of the short season.
"You always want to hang your hat on good pitching," Neil said, "and that's why we've been able to win a couple of games. Timely hitting and good pitching, that's a good way to win ballgames."
Notes: With his appearance, Peeples became the second person in Atlantic League history to play nine seasons for one club. Jeff Nettles, who played for Somerset and retired this season, is the other. Peeples has been with the Barnstormers since their inaugural season in 2005. … Lancaster won two, lost three and split three doubleheaders last season. … The Barnstormers are off today before hosting the defending champion Long Island Ducks for a three-game series beginning Tuesday.