The Charlotte Knights have spent the first two months of the season working towards a game like the one they nearly put together at BB&T BallPark on Thursday.
Charlotte played flawless defense, received a gem of a performance from starter Charlie Leesman, and what wound up being just enough offense to snap a three-game slide against the Red Wings.
Three quarters of the way through a stretch of 23 games in 22 days, the Knights pushed back any thoughts of fatigue for eight innings to take a 7-0 lead over Rochester in front of a sellout crowd of 10,222.
Those who stuck around for the final where rewarded by Maikel Cleto, who allowed five consecutive singles to begin the ninth before a three-run home run made it a 7-6 game.
After walking off the mound to a smattering of boos, Donnie Veal picked up his teammate by retiring the next three Red Wings to preserve the win and record his third save.
“There were a lot of good things that happened tonight, especially considering that we were coming off the double-header,” Knights skipper Joel Skinner said. “That Charlie was able to eat up some innings for us was a good thing. We played some real nice defense. That last inning, that’s just baseball.”
Leesman (2-5) had his cutter, curve and changeup all working for eight mellow innings, Tyler Saladino and Carlos Sanchez went back-and-forth trying to one-up the other’s web-gem.
The Knights (21-40) stayed on the tips of their toes thanks to Leesman, who worked quickly, scattering three hits and striking out seven, while recording 14 groundouts to outduel a former Arizona Fall League teammate in Trevor May (5-4), who fanned nine in six innings.
“I know May really well,” Leesman said. “Congrats for him, too. He still pitched a great game tonight. But you always want to do better than him.”
Kannapolis 5, Asheville 3: Hunter Jones led off the game with his first of two home runs (4), and the Intimidators survived a close call in the ninth inning, holding on for a road win over the Tourists on Thursday night.
Knights 7, Red Wings 6
E — Romero. LOB–ROC: 4, CHA: 6. 2B–Ramirez, Nelson, Colabello, Sanchez, Semien, Tekotte. HR—Ortiz, Danks.
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