Northcraft (8-4), who threw the first solo no-hitter in the modern-day history of the Hillcats franchise just last month, was superb. He was perfect in four of his seven innings, allowing just two runs on four hits and one walk. He fell a strikeout short of his career-high mark with nine (four looking).
Wilmington's Chase Boruff (1-5) did not fare as well. A career reliever until recent times have necessitated some fill-in starts, he gave up nine runs (seven earned) on seven hits over 2.1 innings. Lynchburg hit for the team cycle in the second and got homers from David Rohm, Chris Garcia and Shawn McGill against the right-hander. McGill's blast chased Boruff with one out in the third, but Andrew Stueve more than stopped the bleeding.
After driving earlier in the day to join the team from Rookie Burlington (NC), Stueve retired all 14 men he faced, striking out three. During that time, Wilmington plated a pair thanks to Kevin David's run-scoring double and Angel Franco's RBI groundout in the fifth. McGill doubled in two in the eighth against Matt Ridings, but the Blue Rocks hung a five-spot on the board in the ninth inning. The highlight blow was Franco's second homer of the year. The infielder blasted a two-out, three-run shot down the left-field line before Matt Chaffee induced a groundout from Whit Merrifield to end it.
The three-game set continues at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday night. Right-hander Yordano Ventura (3-5, 2.81) gets the ball for the Blue Rocks against southpaw Dimasther Delgado (5-3, 3.55). Broadcast coverage begins at 6:35 p.m. as studio host Rob Cunningham brings fans the Rocks Report Pre-game Show, presented by Wawa, on 89.7 WGLS-FM and online at wgls.rowan.edu.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
The Blue Rocks are in the midst of facing only divisional foes over a stretch of 13 straight and 17 of 20. The Rocks are 17-34 against Southern Division squads and 18-15 against their brothers in the North.
In the first half, the Blue Rocks scored just 227 runs for a league-low 3.2 runs/game average. Despite playing two seven-inning games and posting a sum of one run between the bookend games of last week, Wilmington has scored 83 runs over its first 14 games of the second stanza for an average of 5.9 runs/game. The team that hit 31 home runs over the 70-game first half, the second-lowest total in the league, has bashed 14 early in the second. The Blue Crew hit a league-worst .231 in the first half, but owns a .272 (132-for-486) contact clip so far this half.
With Angel Franco's second homer of the season, the Rocks' home-road home run split widened all the more. An amazing 40 (89%) of the team's 45 homers have come away from Frawley Stadium.
Between Tuesday night's loss in Frederick and Wednesday's letdown in Lynchburg, Wilmington pitching allowed a run in nine straight innings. The Keys and Hillcats plated a combined 21 runs in that time.
In four fill-in starts, Chase Boruff has an 0-2 record, an 11.25 ERA and a batting average against of .353. Opponents have hit five home runs against him over a span of 12 innings.
Wilmington pitching has had a tough road trip. Through four games, it has allowed 33 earned runs over 38 innings for an ERA of 7.82.
Andrew Stueve joined the team for the second straight year. The 2011 Surprise Royals Pitcher of the Year was a late call-up for last year's Rocks. He got the call on Wednesday when Cole White went on the disabled list (right shoulder).
The Hillcats have hosted a game on every Fourth of July since 1966.