Wilmington, DE - The Wilmington Blue Rocks (3-5) used late inning heroics to take the first game of the series against the Lynchburg Hillcats (3-5) 4-2 Thursday night at Frawley Stadium. After being no-hit through the first five innings, the Wilmington offense used clutch, late-inning hits, highlighted by a Chris DeVito two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning to help seal the victory. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Blue Crew.
In the eighth inning, the Rocks broke a 2-2 stalemate with a two-out rally. Rudy Martin led the inning off with one of his three walks in the contest. After a strikeout and fly out, Emmanuel Rivera singled to right field and advanced to second base on an errant throw to put runners at second and third. DeVito ripped the first pitch he saw to right field to bring home both Martin and Rivera to put the Rocks ahead for good, 4-2.
The Blue Rocks were held in check at the plate through the first five innings of the ballgame before they were able to solve the riddle that was Lynchburg's starter Zach Plesac. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Martin launched his first home run of the season over the right field wall to tie the game at 1-1 and break up the no-hit bid. In the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Rocks used a two-out rally to take their first lead of the game. With a runner at second, Xavier Fernandez laced a two-out double to score Kort Peterson to make it a 2-1 ballgame.
Lynchburg rallied in the top of the eighth inning and worked the bases loaded with three straight walks before Emmanuel Tapia scored the tying-run on a wild pitch to knot the game at 2-2. Walker Sheller came in relief with the bases loaded and induced an inning-ending double play to end the threat.
The Blue Rocks and Hillcats will play the second game of the series on Friday, April 13 at Frawley Stadium. Righty Gerson Garabito (0-0, 0.00 ERA) makes the start for Wilmington while southpaw Tanner Tully (0-0, 3.60 ERA) climbs the mound for Lynchburg. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. and fans can listen to the game as Matt Janus and Cory Nidoh will have the call on 89.7 WGLS-FM.
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Outfielder Rudy Martin put together a superb game in the leadoff spot for Wilmington. Martin drew three walks and cranked a lead-off solo homer in the sixth inning for his first home run of the season. He also stole his ninth base of the year as he continues to lead the Carolina League and all of Minor League Baseball. His three walks also helped him pad his Carolina League in that department as he now has 10 total on the season.
Catcher Xavier Fernandez also turned in a nice game for the Blue Crew. The backstop caught a runner trying to steal second base and also picked another runner off at first base. Offensively, Fernandez went 1-for-3, and delivered with the go-ahead RBI double in the seventh inning to give the Rocks a 2-1 lead at the time. Fernandez is hitting .429 (6-for-14) in four games played this season.
The win on Thursday night snapped a four-game losing streak for the Blue Rocks and also a franchise record 11-game home losing streak which was set last season when the Rocks dropped their final 11 contests at Frawley Stadium in 2017. The win marks the first victory at Frawley Stadium since August 16, 2017 when they swept the Frederick Keys in a doubleheader.
THEY SAID IT, MANAGER DARRYL KENNEDY:
(On home opening win) "I think (Thursday night) was the first night we rallied back a little bit. On the road, we got down and found a way to let it slip away from us. (Thursday night), I saw fight and it was a good job in the eighth inning with (Chris) DeVito coming up with a big, two-out clutch hit. That was something we didn't get a lot of on the road. It was a good win for us in front of a good crowd."
(On coming off first road trip) "That first road trip is always funny on how they are going to react. I was contemplating working out, not working out, just doing stuff in the cage, showing up later, coming in early and doing our usual routine. At 5 o'clock (Thursday morning) getting off that bus, it made up my mind. It was a long night on the bus, so we let the guys sleep in a little later and it paid off. The guys played well."
(On Bender and Gomez) "(Bender) looked good and did a good job. I think he worked his way back into some hitter's counts that I think as the year goes on he will get better and learn from. Him and Gomez, the two outings they both pitched have gone very well. (On Gomez' outing) I think he was trying to do too much at times. Trying to locate too fine. (Thursday night) was the biggest crowd we played in front of this season. I think the juices were flowing and I think it was amped up on the mound."
(On playing in front of large crowd at Frawley) "It still gets me going. It's my 27th, 28th season in professional baseball and it still gets me going. You feel the energy, the nervousness, all that plays in effect. That's why we come to work. If you lose that, it's time to move on. That was exciting for me (Thursday night).
First Baseman, Chris DeVito
(On go-ahead two-run single) "I was just looking for a good pitch to hit. (Emmanuel) Rivera did a good of hitting behind our runner and I was just at the right place at the right time."
(On team coming up with clutch hits) "(Xavier) Fernandez has been swinging it really well for us. That's a guy we really need in the lineup. I hate to blame it on the cold, but being in the warm weather, definitely helps a little bit. It's not the only reason, but it's a contributing factor (on team struggles with runners in scoring position). We are loosening up and the joints are getting loose and we are starting to mesh. There are a lot of games to go."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.