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Nicolas Sparks Birds Over Quebec



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SIOUX FALLS -- Knowing you are facing a starter who is 10-0 and a league’s top ace might be intimidating, but the Sioux Falls Pheasants weren’t fazed Tuesday night.

The Pheasants jumped to an early lead on their way to a 6-4 win over the Quebec Capitales before 2,912 fans, handing Quebec starter Jeff Duda (10-1) his first loss of the season.

In the first inning, Reggie Abercrombie started the scoring with an RBI single, and Cesar Nicolas followed with a two-run double for a 3-0 advantage.

“He’s the kind of guy that likes to throw his cutter and his off-speed pitches away,” Pheasants manager Steve Shirley said about Duda. “Earlier in the game we were hitting a lot of balls to right field where he wasn’t able to have his normal success.”

Sebastien Boucher’s bloop single scored Patrick D’Aoust in the top of the third to close the gap to 3-1.

Nicolas tallied his third of four RBI with a solo home run to left field in the sixth inning. Al Quintana’s RBI single later in the inning extended the lead to 5-1 and chased Duda out of the game.

Duda hurled 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits, both season highs. He also walked four and struck out three to snap an eight-game winning streak. Prior to Tuesday’s game had allowed only one earned run since July 4.

Pheasants starter Pete Gehle (6-5) was strong throughout the game, pitching seven innings allowing only one run on six hits. Despite walking four, he was helped to a victory by an infield defense that turned three double plays. He struck out four.

Nicolas connected for his fourth RBI in the seventh inning with a single that scored Abercrombie from second base, making the advantage 6-1.

“Our approach was to be more aggressive than we normally are,” said Nicolas, who finished a triple shy of the cycle with three hits. “We see that their guys throw a lot of strikes and that they are good pitchers. We were just focused on getting our pitch early in the count and not let them get ahead of us.”

Two errors by the Pheasants outfield and a passed ball led to three unearned runs in the ninth inning.

Alan DeRatt made his first relief appearance and earned his first save, pitching the final 2/3 inning of the game. He struck out two and only allowed one hit in relief of Dusty Gober.

Four Pheasants had multi-hit performances. Along with Nicolas, Abercrombie was 3-for-4 with one RBI, and Cristian Guerrero was 2-for-4. Joe Anthonsen extended his hitting streak to 13 games, batting 2-for-3.

“If you look through our lineup there’s not a lot of places where the opposition can say, ‘I can pitch around this guy,’” Shirley said. “The next guy is pretty good too.”

Game three of the four-game series is on 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 1 at Sioux Falls Stadium.
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