Myrtle Beach, SC - With Wilmington trailing by a run and down to its final out in the top of the ninth inning, Zane Evans stepped to the plate and ripped a two-run homer to left, helping the Blue Rocks to a come-from-behind 8-7 victory Saturday over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. With the win, Wilmington avoided a sweep at the hands of the Pelicans and improved to 34-37 on the season and 1-2 in the second half.
Evans' ninth-inning homer was his first of the season and came with Raul Mondesi, the tying run, standing 90 feet away at third base. Mondesi singled to lead off the inning, then stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Evans gave the Blue Crew an 8-7 lead by drilling a 2-and-1 pitch from reliever Jose Monegro out of the ballpark to left.
Wilmington scored first in this back-and-forth affair, and took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Raul Mondesi led off the frame with a triple and then scored on an RBI single by Bubba Starling. A Jared Schlehuber groundout advanced Starling to second for Zane Evans and Cody Stubbs. Evans flew out to right, but Stubbs singled to left to plate Starling.
The Pelicans answered back in the bottom of the first inning with a run of their own to draw within 2-1. Chris Garia singled to lead off the inning and then stole second. He moved to third on a groundout by Hanser Alberto and then scored on Jorge Alfaro's RBI single.
In the bottom of the third inning, Myrtle Beach scored a pair of runs to take its first lead, 3-2. Kevin Torres singled with one out in the inning and moved to second on a groundout by Garia. Alberto then delivered a base hit to right, putting runners at the corners with two outs for Preston Beck. Torres scored from third on a balk by Glenn Sparkman; the balk also moved Alberto to second. Beck then ripped a double to right, driving home Alberto.
Myrtle Beach tacked on additional runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings while the Blue Rocks scored three times in the fifth, making the score 6-5 Pelicans after six. Wilmington's fifth-inning rally came in large part due to Mondesi, Starling and Schlehuber hitting three consecutive doubles to start the frame. Starling's two-bagger drove home Mondesi while Schlehuber's scored Starling. Stubbs followed with a groundout, moving Schlehuber to third. Michael Antonio then tripled, plating Schlehuber.
The teams traded eighth-inning runs, leaving Myrtle Beach ahead, 7-6, entering the ninth. Daniel Rockett slugged his first homer of the year in the top half of the eighth for Wilmington. Myrtle Beach answered in the home half of the eighth by scoring on a squeeze bunt by Christopher Bostick.
Kyle Bartsch (5-3, 3.20) earned his fifth win of the season for the Blue Rocks while Monegro (2-1, 1.80) suffered his first defeat for Myrtle Beach. Mark Peterson tossed two-thirds of a scoreless inning to pick up his Carolina League-leading 14th save.
Wilmington returns to action Sunday night at Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick. The Blue Rocks will send southpaw Jonathan Dziedzic (5-4, 2.80) to the mound, while the Keys will counter with righty Parker Bridwell (4-6, 4.38). First pitch is slated for 6:00 p.m. and fans can listen to the broadcast on 89.7 WGLS-FM. The Blue Rocks return home on Wednesday, June 25, to open up a three-game homestand against the Lynchburg Hillcats. For tickets, call 302-888-BLUE or visit BlueRocks.com.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
Both Daniel Rockett and Zane Evans hit their first home runs of the season Saturday for the Blue Rocks. Rockett hit 11 homers last season for the Rookie-Level Idaho Falls Chukars and his most recent long ball was on September 2 against the Orem Owlz. Evans launched four homers for the Chukars a year ago and his most recent dinger was on August 14 against the Billings Mustangs. The two blasts were also Wilmington's first homers as a team in the second half. The Blue Rocks are last in the Carolina League in home runs. Collectively, they have hit only 27 this season. Each of the other seven Carolina League teams has hit at least 35.
Bubba Starling stayed hot Saturday night in Myrtle Beach and went 2-for-5 with two runs, a double and two RBIs. In the first three games of the second half, Starling is a combined 7-for-14 with a triple, two doubles, four runs and three RBIs. The outfielder endured a rough close to the opening half of his season and entered the All-Star break mired in an 8-for-57 slump. Starling has had moments of brilliance this season, though. His defense in center field has proved to be the best in the Carolina League. He also strung together a 15-game hitting streak between May 12 and May 26. The highlight of Starling's season may be the grand slam he hit off of Washington Nationals star Gio Gonzalez on June 6. Gonzalez was on a rehab assignment with the Potomac Nationals at the time. Overall this season, Starling is batting .202 with 15 doubles, three triples, three homers, 38 runs and 33 RBIs in 68 games.
Glenn Sparkman struggled Saturday for the first time as a starting pitcher. Entering play, Sparkman had yielded just one run on 14 hits and five walks in 23.2 innings since moving to the rotation in May. Last time out, he saw a streak of 21.2 scoreless innings as a starter snapped. Saturday, he let up three runs on five hits and one walk over three frames of work. On the season, Sparkman has posted a 3-1 record and a 1.79 ERA in 17 games (six starts). He has punched out 48 and walked 13 in 50.1 innings pitched.
Wilmington Blue Rocks manager Darryl Kennedy was ejected in the third inning for arguing a balk call that forced in the tying run at the time. The balk also moved the go-ahead run into scoring position. It was Kennedy's third ejection of the campaign and his first of the second half. On June 4, he was ejected between the sixth and the seventh innings by home plate umpire Chase Eade after he came out to argue following a Zane Evans strikeout. Kennedy's first ejection of 2014, also in Myrtle Beach, was on April 19. In that game, both Kennedy and Raul Mondesi were thrown out in the fourth inning after arguing a strike call by home plate umpire Ryan Wills. Mondesi was hit in the foot by a Cody Ege pitch, but Wills called it a strike, ruling that the 18-year-old prospect had swung at it. Mondesi and Kennedy argued their case, but were both quickly thrown out.
Saturday night's win in Myrtle Beach was the Blue Crew's first win at TicketReturn.Com Field this season and it improved the Rocks' record against the Pelicans this year to 3-10. Still, though, Wilmington has been outmatched both at home and on the road this season against Myrtle Beach. The Rocks are 2-4 at Frawley Stadium against the Pelicans and they are now 1-6 at TicketReturn.Com Field. Wilmington's numbers against Myrtle Beach this year are not pretty. As a team, the Rocks are batting just .207 with 45 runs scored and three home runs in 13 games against the Pelicans. The pitching staff has posted a 5.64 ERA against the Pelicans, who are collectively batting .272 against Blue Rocks hurlers. Myrtle Beach has also slugged 10 home runs against the Blue Crew, far and away the most allowed to any team by Wilmington. No other team in the league has hit more than four dingers off of the Rocks' pitching staff. Pelican pitchers have a 2.58 ERA in the head-to-head series, but they have walked 57 Rocks in 111.2 innings.
THEY SAID IT:
Manager Darryl Kennedy:
"I'll tell you what. I'm extremely proud of the way they battled tonight. Time after time, getting some clutch base hits. I'm just very proud of the way they kept fighting. They fought tonight. I knew they had it in them. I was just hoping we'd get that one game, and maybe this is that one game, that we needed to start believing a little bit in ourselves. They did it tonight. Zane [Evans], you know, has been looking for that home run all year, especially since the one that was called foul. It was fun to watch, sitting here watching the TV, him connect with that. As soon as he swung the bat and hit it, I knew it was gone. It was fun, a very fun game to watch. I'm just extremely proud of the guys."
"We're three games into the second half and I really liked what I saw tonight from those guys. Especially from the guys who struggled in the first half, the guys coming from rookie ball [like Zane Evans and Daniel Rockett], who have started to settle in. Hopefully we can get those two guys going and continue [with] our other guys getting it going; [Raul] Mondesi tonight with three hits [for example]. He and Bubba [Starling] are a big part of our lineup and you look tonight and, between the two of them, they had five hits and scored five runs. If those two guys can contribute on a nightly basis, I think we should be all right."
Catcher Zane Evans:
"I'd been seeing a bunch of off-speed pitches all day…I was getting all off-speed. I got two sliders to start and then I chased those. Then I got two changeups and fouled them off. Then I knew he was coming back with a slider and it was right where I was looking for it. I was really trying to battle right there and I just put the bat on the ball and things went my way, so it was nice."
"[Raul Mondesi's stolen base] kind of changes my at-bat. Now I can kind of just get the ball out to the outfield somewhere and I know he's going to score because he's so fast."
"To start the season, [Daniel Rockett and I] had a bet going, where the first person to hit a home run would get 20 bucks. As you can tell, in the first half, we both hit zero. We were walking back the other night to the hotel after our first game and he was like, 'we need to take the bet off because it might be a little jinx on us.' So we took the bet off and we both came through tonight and got a home run. It was difficult in the first half. I got some different pitches I wasn't used to seeing. I got a lot more off-speed and had to make a nice adjustment. Hopefully I can continue off of tonight."
Right-Fielder Daniel Rockett:
"We always, for some reason, have a tough time for Myrtle Beach. We'll go up early and then they'll just come right back. And then it just kind of takes a breath out of us, just playing them. It was just long and luckily we came out with a win."
"[This was big], especially since earlier in the season we were getting torn up by them. They were stroking our pitchers and their pitchers were striking us out. It felt really good to get the win."
"I kind of have to give some credit [for the home run] to [Michael] Antonio, because he saw a bunch of pitches and I saw pretty much every pitch that he had even though I wasn't at the plate yet. He was throwing a lot of [off-speed pitches], even when he was down in the count. Whenever I got down, I was just kind of, I don't want to necessarily say looking off-speed, but I was just looking for it."
Blue Rocks Baseball = AffordaFUNability!
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