SUGAR LAND, TX – For the first time in seven tries the Somerset Patriots (35-25) defeated the Sugar Land Skeeters (30-30) 2-0 Friday evening at Constellation Field in the opener of the four game series.
“We’re getting close to the end of the first half and all these games are even more important,” said winning pitcher Donovan Hand who hurled six scoreless innings. “Yesterday was one day we’ll never forget [referring to the team’s airport travel delays] and I’m just proud of the way we responded. We have a lot of character.”
With two outs and bases empty in the fifth inning, Yovan Gonzalez sliced a single. The next batter, Mycal Jones, reached on a throwing error by second baseman Josh Prince setting the stage for Aharon Eggleston to bat with runners on second and third. The fourth year Patriot drippled a two RBI infield single behind the second base bag to plate a pair as both runs proved to be the difference.
“Roy [Merritt] and I know each other so well so it was fun to battle him and oppose him tonight,” Eggleston remarked. “He plunked me the first at bat and jokingly yelled at me to get off the plate. So I just knew the next couple times up I was going to get some off speed pitches away. I just tried to fight pitches off and come through for the team.”
Hand (2-1) has now thrown 15.0 innings and yielded zero earned runs in three starts. His first six appearances were in the bullpen, where he surrendered six earned runs in 8.2 innings of work.
“We made an adjustment with my hands,” said the Alabama native. “I brought them from my waist to my chest. I’ve just been keeping it real simple as a starter. Just go as hard as I can as long as I can. Essentially I just got back to basics with my sinker and slider and mixing in the fastball.”
Merritt (1-2), a Patriot the last four years, suffered the loss. He gave up one earned run in six innings. Jon Hunton notched his 15th save of the year.
The Patriots are 2.5 games ahead of the Long Island Ducks with 10 games remaining in first half.