Wilmington, DE - The Wilmington Blue Rocks (49-41/10-10) won on a walk-off wild pitch in the bottom of the 13th inning to take a 5-4 victory over the Lynchburg Hillcats (53-36/13-7) Wednesday night at Frawley Stadium. With two outs in the bottom of the 13th inning, Wander Franco scored from third base on a wild pitch by Lynhcburg's Justin Garcia to give the Rocks their first walk-off win since June 8. It was the fourth extra-inning win for Wilmington this season and the Blue Rocks added to their league-leading total of one-run games played improving to 18-15 in contests decided by one run.
In the final inning of the marathon affair, Franco drew a leadoff walk and advanced first to third on a wild pitch with two outs. With Jecksson Flores at the plate, Garcia uncorked the fourth wild pitch in extra-innings for the Hillcats in the game, which allowed Franco to score for the game-winning run.
Wilmington rallied to force extras and erased a 4-3 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning. After back-to-back walks by Roman Collins and Colton Frabasilio, Flores laid down a bunt single to load the bases with nobody out. D.J. Burt tied the game with a sacrifice fly to left field, making it a 4-4 contest.
Both offense struck early and often to begin the game. Sicnarf Loopstok won a 13-pitch at-bat against Wilmington starter Andres Machado and launched a solo homer to make it an early 1-0 deficit for the Blue Rocks. Wilmington quickly responded with a pair of runs in their first look at Hillcats' starter Shao-Ching Chiang. After a walk and error, Chris DeVito singled to left field to tie the game. Roman Collins followed two batters later with a RBI single to center field to give the Rocks a 2-1 lead.
In the second inning, Nick Heath cashed in with a two-out, run-scoring single up the middle to score D.J. Burt to extend Wilmington's lead 3-1. However, Lynchburg battled back in the top of the third inning. Gavin Collins hit an RBI double before Connor Marabell tied the game with an infield single to third base to tie the game 3-3.
The bullpen played a huge role in the victory for Wilmington. The arms of Matt Tenuta, Grant Gavin and Jacob Bodner combined to pitch nine innings, allowed one run on six hits and struck out 10 batters. Gavin delivered a gutsy performance and worked around a leadoff triple in the top of the 10th inning and struck out the side
Wilmington continues the series with Lynhcburg on Thursday, July 13. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. with RHP Scott Blewett (5-6, 3.80 ERA) making the start for the Blue Rocks while RHP Shane Bieber (5-1, 3.16 ERA) climbs the mound for the Hillcats. Fans can listen to the game with Matt Janus and Cory Nidoh on 89.7 WGLS-FM.
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The Rocks earned another one-run victory and improve to 18-15 in such contests, winning 14 of their last 16. The win was also the first walk-off win for the club since June 8 when the beat the Buies Creek Astros in a 15-inning affair that lasted five-hours and two-minutes. The 13 innings played on Wednesday marked the second-longest game of the year in terms of innings played for the Blue Rocks. The Rocks are now 4-5 in extra-inning games this season. The Blue Rocks also became the first team to beat the Hillcats trailing after eight innings. Lynchburg was 37-0 when leading after eight innings prior to Wilmington's win.
Wilmington has now won five of their last six games against Lynchburg, including three consecutive wins. In that span, the Blue Crew have outscored the Hillcats 29-16. The Rocks struggled against Lynchburg to start the season, dropping three of the first four games of the head-to-head matchup with the lone win coming in the initial meeting between the two teams on May 23.
Brandon Downes returned to the lineup Wednesday night after missing the previous three games to a small injury. Although the outfielder was hitless in his first game back, it was only the sixth game Downes has not recorded a hit in 25 games played. That signals Downes' productivity this season, as he has slugged nine homers and 17 extra base hits in that span despite battling injuries throughout the year. The outfielder is remarkably second on the team in home runs with those nine home runs, trailing team-leader Chase Vallot , who has 11 on the year.
Roman Collins had a standout night at the plate, stroking three hits including a run-scoring hit and his team-leading fifth triple of the season. It was his fourth three-hit game as a Blue Rock this season and 17th overall. Collins has heated-up with the July weather, slugging five extra base knocks in his 11 hits during the month. The left fielder has feasted off Lynchburg pitching, hitting .363 (12-for-33) with six extra-base hits and four RBIs. Collins is in the top-five on the team in doubles, triples, RBI and runs scored.
THEY SAID IT: Jamie Quirk
"Good ball game (on Wednesday night), both sides. (Lynchburg) got a run in the first, we came right back. (Shao-Ching Chiang) is a good pitcher, we have hit him well. He is one of their better pitchers but he has trouble against us. Got the lead, got two runs and then one run, but they tied it up. The key there to me was our bullpen. Matt Tenuta came in, gave up the homerun but pitched four innings, allowed one run. Grant Gavin was outstanding. He gave up the leadoff triple (in the 10th) and then he strikes out the side. Jacob Bodner pitched two (scoreless) innings. When your bullpen can do that, it gives you hope and a chance to get one run. Our bullpen was outstanding, and the guys kept coming. We scored on a wild pitch (in the 13th) but Wander Franco hustled, got to third, put pressure on them and he did that on the other wild pitch instead of stopping at second base. When you get a runner on third anything can happen.
"(The bullpen outing on Wednesday night) is really good because we lost two of our three big pieces (Richard Lovelady and Yunior Marte ). Guys go up (to Double-A) and all that. We had a bit of a meltdown right after those guys left us. It was like ok, here is the opportunity for somebody to be the guy. You are going to get innings and someone is going to step up. Ever since we had that meeting, we have played great. Yeah, we lost our good players but someone else is going to have to be the guy. The bullpen has stepped up, they have had different roles. Gavin hasn't pitched in a lot of meaningful games and (Wednesday) was a meaningful game and he did his thing. Tenuta has been very good since he got here, that wasn't a surprise. Walker Scheller got the last out two days ago (Monday) when Luis Rico was done. Even though it was 7-3, you still have to get that last out. Guys are getting an opportunity and running with it.
"(On Gavin striking out side after leadoff triple) That was gigantic. I didn't expect that. He could have caved in, but he came back and struck out three guys. He delivered and did his thing and showed what he is capable of doing in tight situations. It gives me confidence; next time I'm not afraid to use him in any situation. One run game, we were down and I put him in for the ninth. Bodner was warming up but after we tied it, I said sit him down and put Gavin in. I wanted to save Bodner. Gavin gave us three great innings and then we ended up having to use Bodner too. Gavin changes now by the way he pitched today.
"On the road, we are very good (at scoring early in games and late). I love hitting first and getting out and these guys do too. They love coming out and boom, getting on the board. It's a great thing to do, score early and score late. We do fall into little traps where we go into lulls in the middle of the game. They come out ready to play, their focus is great but they kind of actually lose focus there. It's like ok, we have to pick it up. I talk to them about staying with it for nine innings. No one is good enough to just flip the switch but whatever they are doing is working. We have that tendency to score early, shut it down, and then we have the ability to score late. It's a good thing to have but it drives me crazy.
"(Roman Collins) is working with (hitting coach) Abraham Nunez a lot about driving the ball, getting ahead in the count, when he is ahead in the count, try and hurt the ball. He is doing that. Collins is a big kid. I said to somebody a week ago, he is kind of my sleeper. When he realizes how good he is, he is going to take off. He is going to wake up one day and realize, I'm good. He is starting to do that because he is not just a punch-and-junny guy. He is 215 pounds and a big kid. He is starting to drive the ball and has been working on it with Nunez. When he gets 2-0, 3-1 in the count, I give him the 3-0 swing a lot. He's got juice when he is there, he just has to realize I can do this."
25 Years of Blue Rocks Baseball
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