READING, Pa. - Fightins starter Tommy Bergjans showed pitching coach Steve Schrenk two things when he made his Double-A debut against the Yard Goats on June 11: a bit of a funky delivery and the ability to throw strikes. The latter was certainly on display on Tuesday night as the Fightin Phils hosted the RubberDucks in a matchup of the top two home run hitting teams in the Eastern League. Early run support helped carry Bergjans to strike out 7 over six innings, and home runs from Malquin Canelo, Jiandido Tromp, and Mitch Walding were the difference in a 6-4 win in front of 6,044 at America’s Classic Ballpark.
While Bergjans was striking out the side in the top of the first, ‘Ducks starter Nick Pasquale found his footing a little bit shakier in the home half. Zach Coppola added two more hits out of the leadoff spot, singling back up the middle before stealing second base with Scott Kingery at the plate. The second baseman soon deposited an RBI double into the left field corner, and after swiping third, scored on an Andrew Pullin sacrifice fly to left.
The lead grew to 4-0 in the second when Chace Numata led off with a single into center, extending his hitting streak to seven games. Two batters later, Canelo laid into a 2-1 pitch for a home run to left center and his first longball in 29 days. In the fourth, Tromp led off with an opposite field home run to right center on an 0-2 pitch, giving him six for the season. Walding later made it 6-0 with a two out bullet to right in the fifth, ending the night immediately for Pasquale (3-6) in his first ever start against the Fightin Phils.
Bergjans didn’t allow a hit over the first five innings, facing just one over the minimum because of a one out walk to Dorssys Paulino in the third. During his final inning in the sixth, Bergjans allowed a leadoff home run to Paulino, getting the RubberDucks their first hit to make it 6-1. With one out, Jordan Smith went deep and Luigi Rodriguez followed with a hard double. The bullpen got stirring and sent Bergjans (1-0) into his previous groove, and he’d get his seventh and final strikeout before departing with a 6-2 lead.
As the hottest team in the league, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to see Akron stage even more of a comeback in the top of the seventh. A leadoff double from Joe Sever and a single by Tyler Krieger put two in scoring position for Shane Watson, who bounced back with a strikeout of Yu Chang and a flyout by Paulino that wasn’t deep enough to advance the runners. Number nine hitter Connor Marabell made it a 6-4 game with a two-RBI double, and after Austin Davis came in to walk the tying run to first, the lefthander struck out Luigi Rodriguez to quiet the threat.
Davis made a spectacular play with one out and the tying runs on base in the eighth. On a line drive back to the mound from Krieger, Davis used his free hand to snag the line drive without his mitt and throw back to first for an inning-ending double play.
With Victor Arano on for the save in the ninth, the RubberDucks applied more pressure with back-to-back singles from Chang and Paulino to open the inning. The pair then pulled off a double steal with two outs to put the tying runs in scoring position, but Arano would preserve his second save with a strikeout of Rodriguez to end it and give the Fightin Phils game one.
Game information courtesy of the Reading Fightin Phils.