Eshelman turns in gem as Fightins cruise past Fisher Cats

READING, Pa. - Three weeks into the season and four full turns into the rotation meant it was time for a Fightin Phils starter to stretch it out a little bit more now that pitch counts are starting to expand. So it was fitting that the trend started with Tom Eshelman, the Opening Day starter who came into the second game of three against New Hampshire with a 2-0 record. In his most dominant start of the year, the righty no-hit the Fisher Cats for six innings and got plenty of support as the Fightin Phils evened the series with a 7-2 win at FirstEnergy Stadium on Tuesday night.

For the second straight night, Scott Kingery’s role as the perfect leadoff man was on display when he singled hard into left off New Hampshire’s Jon Harris. The 29th overall pick in the 2015 draft had stumbled in his first start against them a few weeks back, and the Fightins made sure it wasn’t much easier for him in Baseballtown. Kingery stole second and tagged to third on a deep flyout from Andrew Pullin, and Carlos Tocci lined a single back up the middle to give Reading a 1-0 lead.

At first, Eshelman needed a little help because he walked Richard Urena with one out in the first inning. Always known for his pinpoint control, he made up for it by getting a lineout to third from Anthony Alford, which resulted in a double play when Angelo Mora threw back across the diamond to end the inning. In the second, an 0-2 pitch got away and plunked Harold Ramirez with one out. Eshelman then got a flyout from Emilio Guerrero right before Chace Numata showed off his arm with a perfect throw to catch Ramirez stealing second base for the final out. For the first six innings, the ‘Cats would go three up and three down without a hit.

Kingery opened the third inning with another base hit into left, and got a great look at Pullin’s mammoth two-run homer to right that came on an 0-2 pitch. The Fightin Phils nearly added to the 3-0 lead after Tocci doubled and Kyle Martin walked, but Harris settled in and got the next three hitters on the way to retiring seven straight. That was broken up by Tocci’s one out triple to right with one out in the fifth, which allowed Martin to drive in his 14th run with a sacrifice fly to center.

Two more runs came across in the sixth after back-to-back singles by Osmel Aguila and Mora. With runners at the corners, Malquin Canelo hung a deep fly that brought in a run to make it 5-1. Kingery then continued it by matching Tocci with a triple and his third hit of the night to go up 6-1. The cushion was more than enough for Eshelman, who became the first Fightins starter to come out for the seventh while not allowing any hits. Tim Lopes led off with a triple that sunk by Tromp, who tried preserving the no-hitter with a desperation feet first slide. A groundout by Urena got New Hampshire on the board for the first time, but two more groundouts ended Eshelman’s (3-0) night as he lowered his ERA to 3.10.

Tromp’s impressive homestand continued when he took lefthander Alonzo Gonzalez deep to left with two outs in the seventh, putting Reading back in front by six at 7-1. Mario Sanchez worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Mario Hollands got the last three outs, including a strikeout of the dangerous Alford to end the ballgame.

Game information courtesy of the Reading Fightin Phils.

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