For the fourth season in a row, it was Reading coming out on top of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in the annual Route 222 Showcase Game. The four wins actually stretch back five seasons, since last year's game in Lehigh Valley was rained out. Battling cold weather, Reading escaped with a 5-3 win.
Mark Appel started for Lehigh Valley and struggled early on, giving up a bases-loaded walk to Jake Fox in the first inning, but he then settled in and retired the final seven batters that he faced in his scheduled three innings of work. Appel pitched for the Phillies Futures team at Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium last Thursday and was hit hard, at one point giving up back-to-back-to-back home runs, in part because of a 40-mile per hour wind blowing straight out to center field during the game.
Will Venable ripped a triple to right-center field in the second inning and scored to tie the game when Tommy Joseph grounded out. Lehigh Valley went ahead in the fourth when Joseph delivered your basic sac fly to the first baseman, which was caught up against the new first base Dugout Suites at FirstEnergy Stadium, allowing Andrew Knapp, who led off the inning with a single to score from third. In the bottom of the inning, Jorge Alfaro took the first pitch he saw from David Buchanan out of the park and two wild pitches to go along with a pair of two-out walks allowed the Fightins to take a 4-2 lead in the game.
A sacrifice fly from Knapp would score Lehigh Valley's final run of the game and Reading would tack on a run on a solo home run from Fox.
Lehigh Valley looked to tie the game in the ninth when Joseph delivered a one-out double, but the 'Pigs couldn't push him across.
Nick Pivetta started for Reading and struck out two, giving up two hits and one earned run in his two innings of work. The Fightins bullpen retired 13 straight batters at one point in the game.
Both teams open their regular season schedule on Thursday. Lehigh Valley is on the road at Syracuse for a season-opening afternoon game, with Jake Thompson getting the start. Reading opens at home against Portland and will have Alec Asher making the start.