TRENTON – Slade Heathcott had one
thought on his mind as he strode to the dish with his team tied on Thursday in
the bottom of the 11th
against the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
“First, I was trying to hit a
homer,” Heathcott admitted. “Then that didn’t work out, so I just choked up and
was trying to put it in play, trying to beat a ball out to first, trying to get
on base and maybe steal second.”
And while he didn’t homer,
Heathcott lashed a triple into the left-center field alley, putting himself 90
feet away for Ramon Flores. His sac fly into medium center field gave the
Thunder a 6-5 win over the Richmond Flying Squirrels in front of the remnants
of the 6,720 who packed the newly rebranded Arm & Hammer Park for Trenton’s
Before the joyous scrum that
comes with a walk-off win, there was a bit of unease to deal with, courtesy of
Branden Pinder and a bullpen that has been anything but trustworthy in the
Handed the ball in the eighth
inning, Pinder allowed Richmond to score four runs – including catcher Andrew
Susac’s second homer of the evening – and turn what looked like a sure Thunder victory
into a tie game.
After starting the season with 2
1/3 scoreless frames, Pinder has surrendered eight earned runs over most recent
two outings. He’s not the only one causing problems in the Trenton pen,
however. The relief corps combined has let up 18 runs over its first 18 1/3
innings, which works out to an ERA of 8.83.
Obviously, it’s early and things
will level out somewhat as the season goes along, but for now there’s room in
manager Tony Franklin’s mind for a little bit of concern with the arms he
trusts to get outs late in games.
“I don’t know what it is,” he
said afterward. “If I had an answer, I’m sure I’d correct it, but I just don’t
have an answer right now. But yeah, we’ve given up a few more runs than what we’d
care to, so we’ll have to kind of correct that, and we’d like to do it as
quickly as possible.”
Pinder’s meltdown – which followed
a scoreless seventh from Kelvin Perez – washed away a stellar home debut for
Zach Nuding, who was with the team for the final week last season and hung
around for the playoffs but never pitched.
Nuding, who was victimized by six
errors (which led to seven unearned runs) on Friday in Portland, allowed just
one run over six innings. He struck out seven and walked two. The only blemish
on his ledger was Susac’s first homer, which came in the fourth.
Before that, the closest Richmond
came to cracking Nuding was in the third, when catcher’s interference on J.R.
Murphy loaded the bases with one out. Nuding coaxed weak contact to shortstop
from the next two hitters, ending the Squirrels’ threat.
NOTES: Murphy was briefly
attended to by trainers after being hit by outfielder Javier Herrera’s
backswing, which resulted in catcher’s interference on Murphy. He stayed in the
game after catching a warm-up pitch from Nuding. … Jim Craigie, the CEO of
Church and Dwight (Arm & Hammer’s parent company) threw out one of two
ceremonial first pitches. The other was fired by A.J. Cimino, son of Mercer County
Freeholder John Cimino.