Wilmington, DE - The Wilmington Blue Rocks (51-42/12-11) offense was held in check as they dropped the series finale to the Lynchburg Hillcats 7-4 Saturday night at Frawley Stadium. Lynchburg's starter Triston McKenzie fired six no-hit innings before the Rocks tried to rally late in the game. Roman Collins, Jecksson Flores and Colton Frabasilio combined to drive in the four runs for the Blue Rocks. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Wilmington.
The Hillcats scored in the first inning for the third time in the four-game series, when Martin Cervenka roped a two-run, two-out double to put Lynchburg out in front 2-0. In the fifth inning, the Hillcats broke the game open with a five-run outburst. Lynchburg sent 10 men to the plate, used six hits and scored five runs, highlighted by three straight run-scoring hits to make it a 7-0 deficit for the Blue Rocks.
Wilmington could not figure the riddle that was McKenzie through the first six innings as he flirted with a no-hitter. It took the Blue Rocks until the bottom of the seventh inning Brandon Downes reached on an infield single to break up the no-no before Chris DeVito laced a double to put runners at second and third. Collins followed suit with his own double scored the two runs to dent the deficit, 7-2. The Blue Rocks tacked on a single run in the eighth on a double from Flores to make it 7-3 before Frabasilio scored the final run for the Blue Rocks on an RBI groundout to give the game the final score of 7-4.
Wilmington begin a three-game series with the Potomac Nationals starting on Sunday, July 16. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. with RHP A.J. Puckett (8-7, 4.18 ERA) making the start for the Blue Rocks while LHP Taylor Guilbeau (2-2, 4.12 ERA) starts for the Nationals. Fans can listen to the game with Matt Janus and Cory Nidoh on 89.7 WGLS-FM.
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The bullpen was the backbone of the Blue Rocks during the series against Lynchburg. The relievers were lights out and combined to pitch 21.2 scoreless innings over the four-game set, which included a nine inning outing in Wednesday night's extra-inning contest. Seven different pitchers contributed out of the bullpen and struck out 31 batters during the stretch. Grant Gavin was especially impressive, throwing six shutout innings while surrendering just four hits and striking out eight batters. Jacob Bodner also pitched well, striking out six batters in four innings of work while picking up his fourth win of the season on Wednesday.
Roman Collins had another solid night at the plate on Saturday. The outfielder tallied two RBIs on a his 18th double of the season and now has six RBIs in his last five games. Collins has heated-up with the July weather, slugging six extra base knocks in his 14 hits during the month. During the four game series against Lynchburg, the Minnesota-native reached base seven times and tallied a pair of runs. The left fielder has feasted off Lynchburg pitching, hitting .326 (15-for-46) with seven extra base hits and eight RBIs.
The defense for the Rocks had a rough night, tying a season-high with four errors in Saturday night's contest. The Rocks only other game with four mishaps came way back at the beginning of the season against the Carolina Mudcats on April 11, in a game Wilmington won 3-2. Overall, the Blue Rocks defense has been solid, committing just 78 errors while turning 67 double plays. Coming into the contest, the Rocks were second best in the Carolina League with a .977 fielding percentage.
The conclusion of the four-game series against Lynchburg is the last time the Rocks will see Hillcats until September. Lynchburg will visit Frawley Stadium for a final four-game set between the two division rivals starting September 1. Thanks to Rocks series win this weekend, the Blue Rocks have taken control of the head-to-head matchup with an 8-5 record, winning seven of the last nine matchups. The Rocks have outscored the Hillcats 44-31 in that span.
THEY SAID IT, JAMIE QUIRK:
"(Cristian Castillo's) numbers looked really bad, but he just couldn't put anybody away. Lots of two-strike hits, he wasn't himself (Saturday). They got the runs early and we knew (Triston McKenzie) was really good. Castillo was actually ahead of him in ERA before the game, but this kid is a very good pitch. We knew we were going to be in a low scoring game on our part. We just got behind, was going to be tough to catch up. Castillo just could not get the swing and miss at the end. (Lynchburg) did a good job of staying on him and hitting balls the other way. We knew we had our hands full with McKenzie.
"It wasn't planned (to have Colton Frabasilio catch). It was 7-0 at the time and I thought this is a good time as any to get him back there. It's been really hot and Chase Vallot has caught seven of nine games. I thought, let's just give him a blow. He will be back in there but I thought this is a good time to give Frabasilio a couple innings back there.
"I looked at the league numbers (Saturday), Roman Collins is up there in the top five in at-bats. Lots of our guys are playing a lot. They go out there every single day. Collins is coming into his own. He has figured it out, he is gradually getting in there, he is becoming an RBI guy, he is learning how to drive balls like that double (on Saturday). That ball was hit really well. He sits right there in middle (of the lineup) and just lulls everybody to sleep and then boom, he is hitting bullets and RBIs. He is doing very well."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.