Top 13 Moments of ’13

13. Big Game Pitcher (September 6th vs. Erie SeaWolves – Game 3 ELDS)
The Senators could have easily found themselves on the brink of elimination from the playoffs. Instead, Nate Karns shined brightest when his team needed him the most in a crucial Game 3 of the Division Series. The righthander was simply magnificent, hurling seven scoreless innings while striking out eight. Karns pounded the zone and challenged Erie’s lineup as the picture of efficiency tossing only 79 pitches before relenting to Christian Garcia who had to pitch as part of his rehab assignment. Pitching coach Paul Menhart said, “I saw a different kind of ‘I’m out here to win this game for this ballclub, for this organization’. There was nothing selfish about his outing at all. It was all about the team. He was even vocal on the bench with the offense. It was a special outing.”

12. Launch-a-Ball (April 10th vs. New Britain Rock Cats)
The umpires were seriously late in calling for the tarp as the teams played in swirling, driving rain that was unfair to the players. Reliever Rob Wort allowed two home runs balls aided by the wind (one on fair/foul, one on distance) and was incredulous when the crew finally decided to delay the game. As the umpires were racing off the field, Wort questioned the logic behind their decision and apparently didn’t get the answers he was looking for since he launched the game ball out of the park and into the back parking lot.

Photo courtesy The Sentinel

Photo courtesy The Sentinel

11. A Stunning Release (May 5th)
Despite being the most reliable pitcher on the Senators’ staff in the first month of the season, Trevor Holder was inexplicably released to make room on the roster for Bill Bray. At the time Nationals’ Director of Player Development Doug Harris commented that the “organization has decided to go in another direction”. This move was a sober reminder that this is still a business and I’m all for cutting dead weight, but I’m not sure how players like Marcos Frias, Pat McCoy, or Paul Demny weren’t more deserving of getting their walking papers than Holder.

10. A Lost Season (April 5th vs. Bowie Baysox)
Just two games into Matt Skole’s 2013 season an errant throw drew him up the baseline and runner Ty Kelly clipped his glove and arm. The Nationals #4 prospect immediately went down in considerable pain holding his wrist/hand with what appeared to be just a hyperextended elbow. But the news got worse for Skole as doctors diagnosed a small fracture in his left wrist and that he tore his ulnar collateral ligament and his flexor tendon right off the bone. Instead of a projected breakthrough season at Double-A, Skole was forced to rehab for the remainder of the year.

9. One for the Record Books (May 9th at Binghamton Mets)
Against the Double-A affiliate of the Mets, Paul Demny and Ian Krol combined to throw the team’s fourth no-hitter in modern history. Demny was far from perfect as the Texan walked three batters, hit one, and even committed an error over eight innings, but the zero under the B-Mets’ hit column never changed.  When he reached 113 pitches, Demny turned the game over to the bullpen to preserve the no-hitter and Krol worked a perfect ninth inning, striking out the last two batters.

8. The Natural (September 4th at Erie SeaWolves – Game 1 ELDS)
In four previous appearances against the Senators this season, Erie closer Melvin Mercedes hadn’t allowed a hit, let alone a run. Steven Souza changed that quickly with one swing of the bat on an 0-2 count as he led off the ninth inning with a solo home run that broke a 4-4 tie and gave the Senators a 1-0 series advantage.

Photo courtesy Paul Chaplin / PennLive

Photo courtesy Paul Chaplin / PennLive

7. And Boom Goes the Dynamite (July 7th vs. Bowie Baysox)
To end the Fourth of July weekend, catcher Jeff Howell provided his own fireworks when he went ape shit with an epic meltdown for the ages. One play after home plate umpire John Bacon egregiously missed a call at the plate, Howell was tossed from the game. That was when Mount Howell erupted as he went chest to chest with Bacon aggressively bumping the umpire backwards until LeCroy was able to pull him off.

6. Friday Night’s Alright for Fighting (August 9th at Altoona Curve)
Altoona decided that Carlos Rivero admired his second home run of the night a little too long for their liking. The next time he stepped to the plate Curve pitcher Ethan Hollingsworth plunked the third baseman on purpose. Despite both benches being warned and knowing an ejection was likely, Harrisburg starter Rob Gilliam had his teammate’s back and retaliated anyway by beaning the Curve leadoff hitter the next half-inning which led to a bench-clearing brawl.

5. Going the Distance (June 1st vs. Trenton Thunder)
Caleb Clay gave the Senators everything they needed and more as the righthander threw a complete game shutout over the Trenton Thunder scattering three hits, walking three, and striking out nine batters. It was the first 9-inning complete game shutout for a Harrisburg pitcher in almost eight years since David Maust tossed one on August 18th, 2005. Pitching coach Paul Menhart on Clay, “I think it was his attitude…His attitude from pitch number one was ‘I’m better than you’ and it showed. You could just see it in his demeanor.”

Photo courtesy Kyle Mace

Photo courtesy Kyle Mace

4. In the Shadow of the Green Monster (July 27th at Portland Sea Dogs)
For some of the Senators, the Futures at Fenway game is just their first taste of playing at the historic stadium. For many however, it will be the only time they’ll get a chance to perform on the famed playing field. Manager Matt LeCroy reflected on the day, “You can tell the guys were excited. The fans were great, the guys getting to play in front of a big crowd. Felt like a big league game…I believe they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”

3. Crash Course (September 4th at Erie SeaWolves – Game 1 ELDS)
In one of the more brutal (but clean) hits you’ll see on a baseball field, catcher Brian Jeroloman was injured on a play at the plate when Brandon Douglas knocked the ball loose in the first game of the playoffs. Jeroloman suffered a concussion but spent four nights in an Erie hospital for precautionary measures because doctors were worried about a deep laceration on the left side of his throat. The video of the play became a viral sensation and in some small part contributed to the dialogue and eventual rule change on home plate collisions.

2. Clinching from 63 Miles Away (August 29th)
Despite a 4-1 loss to Altoona an hour earlier, the Senators clinched a spot in the playoffs while the players and coaches huddled around the live feed of Reading’s stirring comeback over Richmond. The celebration poured out into the concourse just outside the locker room door as champagne was popped and sprayed, cases of beer were consumed, and speeches were given. Steven Souza addressed the team from atop a folding chair and praised LeCroy for guiding the Senators and pulling them together as a team. On his end, the skipper returned the recognition, “They’ve had some ups and downs, but these guys responded…These kids worked their tails off all year and it’s good to be rewarded.”

Josh Johnson crosses home after pinch-hit HR

Josh Johnson crosses home after pinch-hit HR

1. One for Dad (June 11th vs. Richmond Flying Squirrels)
The loss of a parent is a situation many of us have struggled through or are dreading they day it comes. For shortstop Josh Johnson, that day came on May 26th when his father passed away due to a heart attack. Johnson returned home to Florida and spent two weeks on the temporary inactive list while he attended to family issues. In his first game action, Johnson was called on to pinch hit in the sixth inning of a scoreless dual and he promptly launched a ball over the left-field wall for the game’s lone run. Johnson reflected on the magnitude of the home run to PennLive’s Tim Leone a few days later, “Once I hit it, I knew I got it. The only thing I could think of was my dad. Got really emotional…That was the best moment of my life. That was the best feeling I had ever had. You combine anxiousness, nervousness, sad, happy. You can’t explain it.”

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