LAKEWOOD, NJ - The Delmarva Shorebirds finally put away the Lakewood BlueClaws with a big 13th inning, winning 9-5 in the season's final game on Monday afternoon at FirstEnergy Park.
The Shorebirds finish with a winning record at 68-66, including 33-34 in the second half. The winning season is Delmarva's third in the past four years. The BlueClaws cap the regular season at a franchise-best 87-51; they will meet Wild Card winner Kannapolis in Wednesday's opener of the Northern Division Championship Series.
With the teams conjoined at the hip for much of the hot afternoon, the game soldiered onto the 13th tied at 4-4. Ben Breazeale started the frame at second base, and Kirvin Moesquit wasted no time getting him around. Moesquit singled into left, and Josh Stephen's bobble on the short line drive allowed Breazeale to sprint home to put the Shorebirds up 5-4.
Mason McCoy followed with a walk, and Branden Becker laid a perfect bunt up the third base line for a single to load the bases. After a strikeout, Trevor Craport took a Tyler Fallwell fastball off his back, forcing in another run. Ryan Ripken returned the favor, pounding a line drive off Fallwell's body and into center for a two-run single; Ripken and Craport advanced another base on a wild throw home. Fallwell exited in favor of Lakewood catcher/DH Colby Fitch, and Cadyn Grenier hit a deep grounder to short to get Craport home and make it a five-run 13th to put the Shorebirds up 9-4.
Diogenes Almengo came in for the ninth inning and the BlueClaws got their free runner home on a groundout and wild pitch, but Almengo shut it down from there, getting Jose Antequera to ground out to short to end the Shorebirds' longest game by innings this season, not to mention the season itself.
Nick Vespi (6-6) blew a save opportunity but won it for the Shorebirds, allowing a pair of unearned runs over the 11th and 12th innings. Fallwell (1-1) lost it for the BlueClaws, giving up six runs (three earned) on four hits over 1.1 frames.
Delmarva spot-starter starter Cameron Ming owned the headlines through the early innings, scattering five hits across six scoreless frames while walking none and striking out five. The Shorebirds backed him with a pair of runs in the top of the second. Craport beat out an infield hit to lead off, and Ryan Ripken belted a double into the right field corner to put men on second and third. After a strikeout, Will Robertson dropped a shallow flyball into right for a base hit, scoring Craport and Ripken to make it 2-0 Delmarva.
The BlueClaws waited until Ming's exit and hit Tim Naughton hard in the seventh. Madison Stokes and Gregori Rivero led off with back-to-back singles. After a popout, Antequera hit a grounder to the right side that Ripken scooped and fired high to second, loading the bases. Simon Muzziotti laced a single into center to get one run home, and Jack Scheiner lifted a sac fly into right, scoring Rivero to tie it at 2-2.
Max Knutson shut down the BlueClaws over three scoreless frames, and both teams went quietly into extras. After a scoreless 10th, the Shorebirds nudged ahead in the 11th. Moesquit bunted free runner Breazeale up to third base, and Becker singled him home two batters later to make it 3-2. In the bottom of the 11th, Fitch started at second and took third on a Fitch single. Two batters later Stephen chopped a grounder to the right side for a fielder's choice, scoring Fitch to tie it at 3-3.
In the top of the 12th, Grenier hit a one-out single to move free runner Craport to third base, and Craport scored on a wild pitch to get it to 4-3. Lakewood answered soon after as Scheiner singled home Antequera from second with one out in the bottom of the 12th. The BlueClaws put two more men on as Maton reached on an error and Jhailyn Ortiz walked, but Fitch pegged a screaming liner right at second baseman Mason McCoy, and Stokes popped out to second, setting up the Shorebirds' big 13th.
Ripken went 2-for-6 with a double, run and two RBIs for the Shorebirds, while Craport finished 2-for-4 with three runs and an RBI. Moesquit managed two hits, scored once, and stole his 49th base of the year, finishing the season tied with Tim Raines, Jr. (1999) for third-most in single-season Shorebirds history. Becker and Zach Jarrett also had two-hit games in their final turn for Delmarva.
Stokes and Rivero punched three hits each for the BlueClaws, while Scheiner drove in a pair. Lakewood starter Kyle Young lasted four innings in his first BlueClaw start since July 4, allowing two runs on five hits.
The Shorebirds open the 2019 schedule on Thursday, April 4, at the Lexington Legends. Delmarva's first home game will be Thursday, April 11, against the Lakewood BlueClaws. Fans can visit theshorebirds.com all offseason for more information on the upcoming 24th season of Delmarva Shorebirds baseball.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.