Wilmington, DE - In a game which they never led until the final inning, the Wilmington Blue Rocks (60-53/21-22) stunned the Frederick Keys (51-60/20-22) with a 5-4 walk-off win in 10 innings to earn a pivotal series win Sunday night at Frawley Stadium. Nick Heath tied the game with an RBI single before Roman Collins laced a base hit through a drawn in infield to earn the ninth walk-off victory of the season for Wilmington. With the win, the Rocks took three of the four games in the series and moved into third place in the Northern Division Standings.
In a back-and-forth game between the two divisional rivals, the Keys took their fourth lead of the ballgame when Ademar Rifaela clubbed his second homer of the game to put the Rocks down 4-3 in the top of the tenth inning. However, the rallying Rocks never wavered. Nate Esposito clubbed his second double of the game down the right field line to put the tying-run in scoring position. Heath followed with a game-tying single to left field to score Esposito and then advanced to second base on a fielding error by Frederick's left fielder Randolph Gassaway. Jecksson Flores dropped down a sacrifice bunt to advance Heath to third before Collins played hero and drove the game-winning single to complete the comeback.
The scoring commenced in the middle innings. In the top of the fourth inning, Rifaela lined a solo homer over the right field wall to make it a 1-0 deficit for the Rocks. In the home half of the inning, Wilmington answered with a run of their own. Collins led the inning off with a single, advanced to second on a fielder's choice and Wander Franco drove him home with a two-out single to tie the game, 1-1.
In the fifth, the Keys were at it again and used a two-out rally to regain the lead. Armando Araiza doubled and then Drew Turbin smacked a ground-rule double to plate Araiza to put the Rocks behind, 2-1. Again, the Rocks were able to knot the game thanks to a missed catch by Keys' third baseman Jomar Reyes on a snap throw from home to allow Jose Sanchez to score. Esposito tried to score the go-ahead run on the same play, but was thrown out at home by Gassaway in left field.
In the seventh, Frederick took its third lead of the game on a run-scoring single from Araiza to make it a 3-2 ballgame. However, the resilient Rocks rallied once again. With two outs, Sanchez drew a walk before Esposito ripped a double down the left field line to plate Sanchez to knot the game once more, 3-3.
The Blue Rocks are back in action on Tuesday, August 8 when they begin a three-game series with the Down East Wood Ducks. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with LHP Cristian Castillo (6-8, 3.65 ERA) making the start for the Blue Rocks. 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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The 10-inning affair marked the 12th extra-inning contest for the Blue Crew this season. With the win, they are now 7-5 in games that surpass regulation. The last extra-inning win for the Rocks was back on July 16 when they defeated the Potomac Nationals 2-1 in 11 innings. In addition, the Rocks played in their Carolina League-high 43rd one-run game on Sunday. The walk-off win is the ninth of the season for the Blue Rocks and sixth since July 12 when they produced a string of three consecutive walk-offs in their series against the Lynchburg Hillcats from July 12-14. Six of the nine walk-off victories have come in extra-innings.
With another multi-hit game, Wander Franco added to his team-lead with his 31st multi-hit game picking up three singles, including a game-tying RBI base hit in the fourth inning on Sunday. Franco paces the team with 109 hits in 103 games played this year. The three-hit game is his sixth, three-hit contest of the season. The second-year Blue Rock had 81 hits in 95 games, 23 multi-hit games and eight three-hit games in 2016.
The Rocks continued to add to their Carolina League-high with 43 one-run games played this season. No other team in the ten-team loop has played in more than 36 single-score affairs. The Rocks are now 24-19 in such contests. Wilmington opened the season just 4-13 in one-run games, then won 17 of their next 19, and now have won three of their last five.
The bullpen on for the Rocks was solid again on Sunday. Righty Jose Veras made his Wilmington debut and tossed two scoreless innings while Grant Gavin allowed the lone blemish with the home run in the final inning. On Saturday, Justin Camp made his first appearance since getting his second call-up from Lexington and pitched well, allowing an earned run on three hits and no walks over two and one- third innings pitched. Franco Terrero finished the game in near flawless fashion, allowing just one baserunner the rest of the way, which earned him his fifth save on the season. In the last 14 games, the Wilmington bullpen has surrendered just six earned runs in 42 innings, yielding an impressive 1.29 ERA during that span.
THEY SAID IT, JAMIE QUIRK:
"That's the old Blue Rocks right there. They score, we score, it kept going and they scored a heart-breaker in the tenth inning with two outs and they hit the homer to give them the lead. We come right back and (Nate) Esposito leads off with a double, Nick Heath with a base hit to left, the left fielder bobbles it, we score and Heath took second base. (Jecksson) Flores moved him over with a great bunt and Roman (Collins) gets him in. That's situational baseball to its best. Guys doing what they are asked of them and not do too much. It's the old cliché, but it works, move the line, do your job and good things happen. Defensively, Flores is playing an outstanding shortstop, Wander (Franco) is playing a great third base, Heath with the nice catch in center field, our defense has been playing great. The bullpen has been great and I'm proud of them. (Grant) Gavin gave up the homer to a guy who hits a lot of home runs, I'm not saying it's a good thing, but we answered right back. (Jose) Veras first time here, pitched two scoreless and (Jared) Ruxer did a great job. All around a great effort."
"It might get (the offense) jumpstarted with a win like Sunday, absolutely. Everyone contributed up and down the lineup in the game which was great. You can't count on certain guys every single night, it's just not going to happen. Esposito and Collins had big hits, Franco had three hits, that's how you win games. You can't rely on your three, four, five hitters every night. That's what we were doing, but we haven't been doing lately, so hopefully this win will get us in the right frame of mind."
(On Jose Veras) "I've never seen him pitch. We heard about him. We just get pitching reports from the manager and pitching coach in Lexington. Esposito caught him (in Burlington) last year so he was familiar with Veras which made it comfortable. That was the first time we saw him, but I liked what I saw."
25 Years of Blue Rocks Baseball
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