Potomac fights to within one win of another postseason berth

It is almost September. Must be time for another P-Nats postseason push.

The Single-A Potomac Nationals are putting together the finishing touches on another second half surge as they attempt to return to the Carolina League postseason and defend their Mills Cup championship.

Following Tuesday’s thrilling 5-4 win in 10 innings at Lynchburg, the P-Nats are now one win away from clinching a berth in the postseason. The Frederick Keys already secured the first-half division crown.

If the P-Nats beat the Hillcats tonight, they are in the postseason again. Paul Demny gets the call.

Tuesday’s win was also significant because of some physical play, brush back pitches, benches clearing and ejections.

P-Nats first baseman Steven Souza came home and collided with Lynchburg catcher and top prospect Christian Bethancourt, dislodging the ball and scoring a huge run. Later, Souza was hit by a pitch in the leg and the benches cleared. When order was restored, three Lynchburg pitchers were ejected.

The play and overall outcome typifies where the P-Nats are right now. The hard-nosed, never-say-die attitude that managers Gary Cathcart and this year, Matt Lecroy, have instilled has brought this team together again like last season, with one goal in mind.

Lecroy has managed to get the most out of this club, and the bullpen has been outstanding in shutting opponents down. Hector Nelo notched his 18th save of the season on Tuesday. Joe Testa induced some big outs and recorded his sixth victory. Josh Smoker, Neil Holland, Rob Wort and Marcos Frias have all had their moments, all keeping the P-Nats in the game.

The P-Nats are the hottest team in the Carolina League the past 10 games, going 7-3. Destin Hood and the underrated Francisco Soriano have made some big plays offensively to keep Potomac ahead on the scoreboard, allowing room for the bullpen to shorten the games.

Soriano has hit .308 with three doubles, one triple, one homer and six RBIs in his last 10 games. Hood has been equal to the task, batting .314 with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs during the same span, hitting a home run Tuesday, and batting .280 for the season with a team-high 81 RBIs.

Sandy Leon and Jeff Kobernus each have 20 doubles on the season. Souza, battling at .229, has cranked 10 homers (second only to Hood’s 13) with 51 RBIs.

Coaches have told me the team is “playing with a purpose” with the finish line in sight. It is an attitude and drive that guys like Cole Kimball and Sammy Solis have seen in the organization in recent years. The franchise is building its rosters with talent but also guys who know how to win and won’t just play out the string. You can see that process taking place now in the way the teams are driving to the postseason.

The win Tuesday shows the kind of mettle this team has and now they need one more to reach the postseason. It is pretty amazing to see this happen every year, especially when your top prospects will get promoted off High-A teams and you still must find a way.

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