Woodbridge, VA - Sam Selman did not allow a hit over eight sparkling innings, but the Wilmington Blue Rocks' offense needed an extra frame to crack the scoreboard on Saturday. Sam Bates' sacrifice fly plated Yem Prades in the top of the 10th inning for the game's only run in Wilmington's 1-0 win over the Potomac Nationals at Pfitzner Stadium. The victory was the Blue Crew's third straight, improving their mark to 59-73 and 26-36 in the season's second half. Unfortunately for Vance Wilson's club, the Hillcats also won on Friday, so the Rocks stayed five games behind Lynchburg with only eight contests remaining in the chase for a Carolina League North second-half wildcard berth.
Wilmington's starting pitcher set the tone early. Selman needed just nine pitches to sit Potomac down in order in the opening frame, fanning a pair in the process. He struck out two in each of the first three innings. The P-Nats did not get their first baserunner until the fifth inning, when Daniel Mateo let a soft grounder to third go right through his legs. That same inning, Prades made a brilliant running catch against the wall in right.
Selman, who leads the Carolina League in walks, did not yield his first free pass until the sixth. The left-hander got past that by retiring the next three men with ease. Ethan Chapman opened the seventh by sprinting down a fly ball on the warning track in left-centerfield. Selman then worked around a lead-off walk in the eighth, by registering three straight strikeouts.
At 97 pitches, that brought Selman's night to a close. He was replaced by Andrew Edwards in the ninth, who promptly allowed a double to dead-centerfield to the first batter he faced. Cutter Dykstra then moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and the Rocks elected to load the bases on two intentional walks. Edwards (1-0) came up big after that, striking out Kevin Keyes and getting Justin Miller to groundout softly to third.
That set the stage for the Rocks' offense to finally awaken in the 10th. Prades got the rally jumpstarted with a single to center. Mateo moved him to third when he pulled a grounder past Dykstra at second. Then Bates lifted a flyball deep enough to center that allowed Prades to score.
Edwards yielded a two-out single in the home-half of the 10th, but then got Dykstra to groundout to end the game.
Wilmington continues its final road series of the season on Sunday at Potomac. Lefty Tripp Davis (0-0, 2.70) will take the mound for the Blue Rocks and will be opposed by fellow southpaw Matt Purke (3-3, 4.94). First pitch is slated for 6:05 p.m. from Pfitzner Stadium, and fans can listen to the broadcast on 89.7 WGLS-FM.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
Sam Selman had a career night on the mound. Over eight innings, he no-hit the P-Nats, while only three men reached against the Texas native. Exiting due to pitch count, Selman nearly became the first Wilmington Blue Rocks pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Brian Sanches accomplished the feat on May 2, 2000 versus Lynchburg. Instead, he would have to settle for the team's first combined two-hitter since July 19, 2012 at Myrtle Beach, when Jason Adam and Robinson Yambati accomplished the feat on the Grand Strand. Besides not allowing any base hits, Selman also set or tied a pair of career-highs. The eight innings is a new career-best for the lefty who surpasses the 7.1 innings he worked on July 13 versus Lynchburg. Meanwhile, he tied his career-high with 11 strikeouts, a mark he set last season while playing for Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League. Thanks to the superb effort, Selman saw his ERA dip from 3.77 to 3.52, the lowest it has been since April 16.
Although Wilmington mustered only seven hits on the night, Daniel Mateo was able to extend his hitting streak to a season-high seven games. Finishing the evening 1-for-4, Mateo kept his swing alive with a base hit through the right side in the top of the 10th. Over the seven-game streak, Mateo is batting .375 (9-for-24) with two homers, two doubles, seven RBIs and three runs scored. That has boosted his batting average from .230-.239, while three of his last four hits have gone for extra-bases. One, was a fifth-inning grand slam on Thursday night, the club's first of the 2013 season.
Ethan Chapman extended his on-base streak to 13 games on Saturday, thanks to a double off P-Nats starter Blake Schwartz in the first inning. Ending the night 1-for-4, Chapman also pushed his hitting streak to five games, a feat that he has now accomplished four times as a member of the Blue Rocks. Over Chapman's current five-gamer, he is batting .368 (7-for-19) with a double, two runs and a stolen base, while it has bumped his batting average from .240 up to .253. A player who has saved his best baseball for the season's penultimate month, the Rocks outfielder is hitting .301 over 23 games in August.
On Saturday night, Wilmington used outstanding pitching and just enough offense to record its fifth shutout victory of the season. It was the club's first since August 6, and marked the second time that the Blue Rocks had held Potomac off the scoreboard this season. The Blue Crew also blanked the Nationals on June 29. Occurring in game one of a seven-inning doubleheader, Kyle Zimmer tossed a complete game shutout, and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. The series opener was also Wilmington's 10th win in an extra-inning game this season. Improving to 10-5 in games which stretch past regulation, Vance Wilson's club is now 5-1 in extra-inning contests in the second-half.
A victory in the series opener also ended Wilmington's five-game losing streak against Potomac. Previously, the Blue Rocks were swept in five straight games in the Nationals final visit to Frawley Stadium. Although the P-Nats have already claimed the season-series against the Rocks, the Blue Crew can still finish the campaign with a winning record at Pftizner Stadium. Following Saturday's win, the team is 4-4 at the longtime home of the P-Nats.
Blue Rocks Baseball = AffordaFUNability!