Saturday, July 5, 2014

Knights fall 7-2 to Norfolk despite fireworks late

On a night when the Knights offense lacked its usual firepower, a record crowd of 10,539 at BB&T BallPark simply waited for the game to end for its fireworks show.

Charlotte’s offense mustered just two runs on six hits against Chris Jones (5-5) and the Norfolk Tides in a 7-2 loss this Independence Day.

Asked about what its like to play baseball on the 4th, Knights manager Joel Skinner, who caught for nine seasons in the Major Leagues before becoming a skipper, grew nostalgic.   

“On the 4th of July, you go to the ballpark,” Skinner said. “I can remember when I was in New York, we’d go to the old ballpark in Cleveland on the 4th and there’d be 80 thousand people. Those are some great memories.”

Although the Knights failed make any lasting memories on the field Friday, the local turnout will surely stick in the minds of the players. Fans lined the fences all the way around the ballpark and thousands more parked themselves on blankets in Romare Bearden Park.

“We always seem to have a big crowd (on the 4th),” Knights centerfielder Jordan Danks said. “It’s the one night of the year that I actually stick around and watch the fireworks. This is just kind of a special time for us to play and I know we all have fun doing it.” 

As for the game, it wound up being a reminder that over the course of a baseball season, things tend to even out.

Unfortunately for Knights starter Dylan Axelrod (5-7), he found himself on the wrong side of the law of averages. Axelrod had dominated Norfolk in three appearances (two starts) this season, posting a 1-0 record and a 2.77 ERA to go along with 17 strikeouts.

Those numbers came crashing back to Earth like one of those weeping willow-looking plumes of ash that lit up the city sky when the right-hander allowed eight hits, three walks, and five runs in five innings.

The Tides pushed across single runs in the first and third innings, before getting to the Knights pitcher for three in his final inning of work.

Buck Britton and his awesome baseball name knocked in the game’s third run in the fifth with a bases-loaded single. Xavier Paul followed with a sacrifice fly and Steve Lombardozzi – who homered earlier in the game – pushed home a run with a groundout.

Britton finished the night a team-best 4-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI.

In the fifth, Charlotte loaded the bases with one out, but failed to score. 

Jordan Danks was able to provide a highlight for fans to go home with when he made a diving catch on a line drive to right center in the eighth inning.  

“I was just trying to make things happen,” said Danks, who finished 0-for-3 with a walk. “Obviously, I wasn’t making things happen with the bat tonight, so I tried to do what I could with the glove.”

The Knights lone run off Jones, who went five innings while scattering three hits and striking out five, came in the fifth when Tyler Saladino doubled and later came into score on a Micah Johnson fielder’s choice.

Matt Tuiasosopo added a solo home run in the ninth.

Notes: Friday’s crowd of 10,539 gives the Knights a total attendance of 422,229 this season. They’re now just 6,903 short of passing their all-time attendance mark of 429,132 set in 2008 at Knights stadium. Charlotte has averaged a minor-league best 9,569 fans per game.