SALISBURY, MD - The Delmarva Shorebirds' season came to an abrupt end as the Hickory Crawdads prevailed in a tense 1-0 10-inning contest to sweep the Northern Division Championship Series on Friday night at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
The Crawdads now move on to face the Lexington Legends, who swept Augusta in two games to win the Southern Division Championship Series. With the loss, the curtain comes to a close on a historic season for the Shorebirds, who won 90 regular season games to set a franchise record.
With the game scoreless heading into the 10th inning, Hickory's Kole Enright earned a free pass to begin the frame and Matt Whatley followed by getting hit by a pitch. After a wild pitch moved each runner up 90 feet, Frainyer Chavez walked. Jax Biggers then executed a safety squeeze bunt to score Enright and plate the first and only run of the game.
The Shorebird wouldn't go down without a fight, however. With one away in the bottom of the 10th, Adley Rutschman rocked a single to left and Jaylen Ferguson was subsequently hit by a pitch. Kelvin Gonzalez locked in for the Crawdads, though, getting Shayne Fontana to ground into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play and setting off a wild celebration in front of a stunned Perdue Stadium crowd of 3,863.
Hever Beuno (1-0) earned the win in relief for the Crawdads, tossing 2.2 perfect innings and striking out three. Kade Strowd (0-1) was hung with the loss for the Shorebirds, allowing a run without giving up a hit but issuing two walks, plunking one, and striking out one in an inning of work. Gonzalez picked up his second save of the series, both in one-run games, with a scoreless 10th.
Starters Gray Fenter and Abdiel Mendoza kept both offenses at bay for the first 6.1 innings, respectively. Fenter struck out a career-high 13 batters in an all-time performance, including seven in a row from the third through fifth. He finished with 6.1 scoreless four-hit frames, walking none.
Mendoza was equally as dominant, taking a no-hitter into the seventh and retiring 18 of the 21 he faced. He gave up just one hit in 6.1 innings with one walk and three strikeouts.
Hickory had the first scoring chance in the seventh. With one away, Pedro Gonzalez lashed a single to left, forcing Fenter out of the game. With reliever Nick Roth now in, Ryan Anderson swatted a base hit to left, moving Gonzalez to third. With the Delmarva infield drawn in, Enright bounced to Adam Hall at short, who threw home to catch Gonzalez in a rundown where he was tagged out by Adley Rutschman. Matt Whatley then flew out to center to extinguish the threat and keep the game scoreless.
Delmarva had the same opportunity in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Johnny Rizer worked a walk, and Rutschman moved him to third by scalding a base hit the other way, the Shorebirds' first of the game. This marked the end of the line for Mendoza as Bueno came on to replace him. Hickory maneuvered out of the pickle as Bueno got Jaylen Ferguson to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The Crawdads threatened again the eighth. Chavez worked a walk to lead off the inning. Chavez then moved to second on a bouncer back to the mound and then to third on a wild pitch. Reliever Morgan McSweeney buckled down, though, and struck out back-to-back Hickory batters to keep the game level until the 10th.
The Shorebirds had just two hits in the game, both singles from Rutschman who went 2-for-4 and also threw out a would-be basestealer in the ninth. Hall and Ferguson were each hit by pitches while Rizer worked a walk to account for all of Delmarva's baserunners in the game.
Anderson and Gonzalez each went 2-for-4 for Hickory, with Gonzalez also picking up a stolen base. Chavez reached base safely three times, finishing 1-for-2 with two walks.
The Shorebirds will be back in action for their 25th season of baseball on Thursday, April 9, at Perdue Stadium against the Asheville Tourists. Follow along at theshorebirds.com and the Shorebirds' social media pages all offseason for more information.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.