MYRTLE BEACH, SC -Jason Esposito became the second member of the Frederick Keys to hit a pair of home runs in 2014, while orange and black pitching held the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to three hits, as the visitors trounced their southern foe 10-2 at TicketReturn.com Field on Wednesday. It was the club's fifth straight win against the Pelicans, and the Keys 11th on the year to give Frederick the season-set. Additionally, the Keys were able to improve to .500 in second-half play, moving the club within a game of Wilmington Blue Rocks for first in the second-half Northern race.
Esposito got the offense rolling in the first against Pelicans starter Chad James. With two outs and runners at second and third, the former Vanderbilt Commodore slugged his fourth home run of the year to left to put the orange and black up 3-0. Then in the fifth, the Keys five-hole batter added his second blast, a laser shot which just cleared the leftfield wall. It was the first time in his professional career that Esposito had hit two homers in a game, while he tied his career-high with four RBIs. In addition to Esposito, Michael Burgess hit two homers in a game on July 5 at Lynchburg.
The Keys added a run in the second to grab a 4-0 lead. With one out, Jerome Pena singled, and advanced to third on a base knock by Johnny Ruettiger. One batter later, Pena came home on a wild pitch. Myrtle Beach also added their first score in the home-second on an errant offering from Brady Wager. Preston Beck scored after doubling down the rightfield line and moving to third on a fielder's choice.
After the wild pitch, Wager (5-7) hit cruise control, setting down the next nine in-a-row. He would load the bases in the sixth, but only allowed one run to score on a fielder's choice by Jorge Alfaro which brought home Chris Garia. Tossing six innings, the Arizona native allowed only two runs on two hits, while he walked one and struck out four. Wager has now earned wins in three of his last four starts.
Following Esposito's blast and an RBI fielder's choice by Lucas Herbst which scored Tucker Nathans, the Keys pulled away in the sixth. Facing knuckleballer Kevin Pucetas, the orange and black sent eight men to bat in the inning, but needed only one hit to record four runs. Adrian Marin opened the inning with a walk and stole second. After a groundout by Trey Mancini, Pucetas walked Chih-Hsien Chang and plunked Esposito to load the bases. Tucker Nathans received a free pass to force a run home, while Pucetas hit Sawyer to bring in an additional marker and end the righty's night. Justin Sprenger would take his place, and would throw a wild pitch to bring home the third run of the inning, before an RBI single by Herbst completed the scoring.
On top 10-2, the Keys turned to the bullpen duo of Jesse Beal and Lex Rutledge to slam the door. That tandem would collaborate on three innings of one-hit baseball to cap-off the team's second three-hitter in as many nights.
The Keys go for the sweep on Thursday night when the two sides meet for the final time in the regular season. Parker Bridwell (5-7, 4.08) gets the start for the orange and black and will be opposed by Birds lefty Luis Parra (7-6, 5.35). First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. and the broadcast can be heard on 1450 AM The Source. The Keys return home on Friday night when the Lynchburg Hillcats come to town. For ticket information, fans can call 301-815-9939 or visit frederickkeys.com.