MANCHESTER — Their starting pitching his ranged from good to excellent. Their bullpen work has been consistently outstanding. Now, could the roll the Fisher Cats are on be extending to their bats, as well?
New Hampshire on Wednesday matched a season-best by winning its fifth straight game, a 7-2 triumph over Bowie before an Educational Day matinee gathering of 5,057 at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
Starter Scott Copeland gave the Fishers six strong innings, an inside-the-park home run by Andy Burns capped a six-run fifth, and Blake McFarland retired nine of the 11 men he faced to earn his first Double-A save.
At 22-35 for the season, the Fisher Cats remain stuck in the basement of the Eastern League’s Eastern Division. But their pitching has offered hope of a way out, and in their last two games the bats have provided a boost.
During the streak, New Hampshire’s starting pitchers have combined to yield four runs over 28 1/3 innings, for an ERA of 1.62. The bullpen has been just as good, allowing one run over 16 2/3 innings, for an ERA of 1.85. Now, after scoring seven runs in their previous three wins, the Fishers have totaled 17 runs and 23 hits in their last two — albeit against a Baysox pitching staff that ranks third-to-last in Eastern League team ERA.
The Orioles’ Double-affiliate scored the first two runs of the game on a Christian Walker double in the top of the fifth, but the New Hampshire responded in the bottom of the inning.
After Michael Crouse led off with a homer, Nashua native Kevin Nolan, Jack Murphy and Jorge Flores delivered consecutive hits to tie the game at 2. Ryan Schimpf put the Fisher Cats on top with an RBI force-out, and Burns broke things open with his inside-the-park homer on a fly ball to left.
With five home runs and 23 RBIs, Burns, a 23-year-old first baseman, ranks second among the Fisher Cats to Schimpf in both categories, his production serving to offset a .219 batting average.
New Hampshire added insurance in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI double by Matt Newman.
Copeland (5-5) earned the win, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts over six innings. Making his fourth appearance for the Fisher Cats since his promotion from Single-A Dunedin, McFarland, a 26-year-old right-hander, came in for the final three innings and allowed just one hit and one walk with three strikeouts.Zach Davies (1-3) took the loss, allowing six runs in four innings.
The series with the Baysox continues Thursday at 7:05 p.m., with a post-game fireworks show to follow. P.J. Walters (1-0, 0.00) is scheduled to start for the Fisher Cats against fellow right-hander Tyler Wilson (5-5, 4.31).