Clutch Hitting and Great Pitching Earn Blue Rocks Victory

Wilmington Uses Wire-to-Wire Win to Open Series

Wilmington's third baseman Wander Franco drove in two runs in a 4-2 win for the Blue Rocks Friday night at Salem. (Brad Glazier)

By Wilmington Blue Rocks | August 12, 2017 1:20 AM ET

Salem, VA - The Wilmington Blue Rocks (62-55/23-24) used timely hitting and solid pitching to take the first game of a crucial three-game series against the Salem Red Sox (65-52/25-23) with a wire-to-wire 4-2 win Friday night at Haley Toyota Field. Wander Franco and Brandon Downes combined for three, two-out RBIs in the third inning to put the Rocks out front for good. Righty Jace Vines tossed 6.1 innings and allowed just an earned run in his second consecutive victory. With the win, the Rocks moved within 1.5 games of Salem for the Northern Division Wild Card spot.


Wilmington struck in the third inning thanks to clutch two-out hitting. With the bases loaded and two outs, Franco punched a single to left-center to score Nick Heath and Roman Collins to make it a 2-0 ballgame. Downes followed and on the first pitch he saw, ripped a base hit to left field to plate Nate Esposito to give the Rocks a 3-0 lead.


In the bottom of the inning, Salem scored a run on a fielding error by Jonathan McCray to make it a 3-1 ballgame. In the sixth, the Red Sox came within a run when Jose Sermo hit a two-out, solo homer to make it a 3-2 lead for the Rocks. Wilmington quickly responded in the top of the seventh inning thanks to an RBI hit from Collins to score Heath, padding the Rocks lead, 4-2.


Vines turned in a quality start for the Blue Crew and worked 6.1 innings, scattered seven hits, allowed two runs, one earned, walked one and struck out a pair to earn his second consecutive victory. Righty Franco Terrero came in relief and bridged the final 2.2 innings of the ball game and earned his sixth save of the season after he struck out Salem's Austin Rei, who represented the game-tying run, to end the ballgame.


The Blue Rocks will play the middle game of the series against the Red Sox on Saturday, August 12 at 6:05 pm. RHP Jared Ruxer (5-4, 3.26 ERA) makes the start for Wilmington while LHP Logan Boyd (2-0, 1.27 ERA climbs the mound for Salem. Fans can listen to the game as Matt Janus and Cory Nidoh will have the call on 89.7 WGLS-FM.


With the 4-2 victory on Friday at Haley Toyota Field, it marked just the second victory for the Blue Rocks at Salem this year. Their previous win came back on June 23 in a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox. The home team has dominated the head-to-head series so far as the Blue Rocks are 10-4 at the friendly confines of Frawley Stadium while just 2-6 down at Haley Toyota Field. Overall, the Rocks now lead the head-to-head match-up 12-10 and have won their last four straight games against the Red Sox, including a three-game sweeping of Salem at home from July 24-26.


Three different Blue Rocks delivered with RBIs including Wander Franco who led the offence with two runs batted in. It was his sixth multi-RBI game of the season while adding to his team-leading 112 hits this year. The third baseman for Wilmington paces the team in hits and multi-hit efforts with 31. Joining Franco was Roman Collins who added to his team lead in the RBI department with a run-scoring single in the 7th inning, pushing his total up to 47 on the year. Last season, Collins had 41 total RBI between Low-A Lexington and Wilmington and drove in five runs in 21 games last year as a Blue Rock.


Jace Vines turned in his second straight quality start after allowing two runs, one earned and worked 6.1 innings, which was a season-high for the starter since joining the Blue Crew. Featuring his sinker, which is his best pitch, he was able to induce three double play balls which the infield turned to tie a single-game high for double plays turned in a game. After allowing seven earned runs through his first two starts as a Blue Rock, the righty has allowed just an earned run in his last two outings, spanning 11.1 innings of work.


The Blue Rocks have had Mother Nature wreak havoc on their schedule in the last three weeks. With a short, 14-minute rain delay prior to Friday's game, it marked the ninth time in the last 21 days the Blue Rocks have endured rain delays. Thursday night in the series finale in Kinston, NC against the Down East Wood Ducks, the game was delayed 34-minutes before play would start. The Rocks went on to win that ballgame 5-2 in 10 innings.




"I thought (Jace) Vines was very good. He got three double play balls, his sinker was outstanding and he pitched with it a lot. It's a weapon for him. It's a hard heavy sinker as evidence of all the groundballs he got. He did a great job. (Franco) Terrero did a great job closing it out and pitching the final 2.2 innings of the game. Offensively, clutch hits were huge. (Wander) Franco's was huge with the two-out, two-run single and then (Brandon) Downes following it up getting us on the board again. We kept the lead from there and it was nice to get that add-on run in the seventh. It all starts with the starting pitching and Vines was great."


"The first start was a mulligan (On Vines improvement start to stat) so you can throw that one out. He was nervous. His second start was better and now he has confidence. We have him throwing his sinker. He doesn't need to mess around. It's a weapon and (Salem) just kept beating it in the ground. We told him he can survive throwing 90% sinkers and realizing it is an out pitch for him. You can get two outs with one pitch. He's trusting it and that's what he's going to live off."


"We won (Friday). (If momentum from extra-inning game on Thursday carrying into Salem series) We can only worry about the game ahead of us. So for Saturday, we will worry about that game and go from there. We have to rely on our starting pitching for our momentum and see what takes place. Our momentum for Saturday's game is Jared Ruxer who starts and we'll see what happens."


25 Years of Blue Rocks Baseball

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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