LEXINGTON, KY - Jean Carlos Encarnacion pounded a two-run homer in the top of the 10th inning as the Delmarva Shorebirds spoiled the Lexington Legends' banner night, winning 6-5 on Thursday night at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
With the game tied 4-4 after nine innings, Robert Neustrom began the 10th on second base for the Shorebirds (1-0). On a 1-2 pitch, Encarnacion turned on a hanging curveball, walloping it down the left field line and out of the park. It was the first Delmarva home run of the season and more importantly put the Shorebirds up 6-4.
The Legends (0-1) refused to go quietly on the night they raised their South Atlantic League championship banner from the season before. Nathan Eaton laced a one-out double to right, bringing in free runner Rubendy Jaquez to cut it to 6-5. After an Eric Cole groundout that moved the tying run in Eaton up to third, Chase Vallot got grazed by an inside fastball, and Reed Rohlman worked the count to 3-1 before Naughton signaled for the intentional walk.
With the bases loaded and the runs that would tie and win the game in scoring position, the flamethrowing Timothy Naughton showed off his finesse, getting Juan Carlos Negret out in front of a 2-2 offspeed pitch for the game-ending strikeout to ensure the Shorebirds would shake hands on the field first this season.
Naughton (1-0) struck out the side in the ninth inning before contorting his was through the 10th. He gave up an unearned run on one hit, walking one intentionally and striking out five.
Kyle Hinton (0-1) got saddled with the loss after serving up Encarnacion's blast. He allowed two runs (one earned) on one hit in two frames.
Lexington uncorked the scoring for the year in the bottom of the third inning. Freddy Fermin slapped a one-out single into right and promptly stole second base. Two batters later, Michael Gigliotti pounded a double to deep left, bringing Fermin around with the game's first run.
Delmarva responded in kind in the top of the fourth. Nick Horvath coaxed a one-out walk and swiped second base himself. Seamus Curran then rolled a sharp grounder through the hole on the right side, bringing in Horvath to tie it at 1-1. Doran Turchin got hit by a pitch and Branden Becker walked to loaded the bases. That brought up Adam Hall, who guided a grounder to the right side for a fielder's choice at second, scoring Curran to put the Shorebirds up 2-1.
Vallot wasted no time getting his team back into it, crushing a solo home run to left center in the home half of the fourth to knot it up at 2-2.
Turchin broke out from the eight-spot to drive in the Shorebirds' next two runs. In the sixth, Curran took one off the body to go to first, and Turchin rocked a liner through the left center gap for an RBI triple. In the eighth, Horvath looped a double into no-man's land in right field. Turchin poked an RBI single up the middle two batters later to make it 4-2.
The Legends then put together a rally in the bottom of the eighth. Gigliotti led off with a base hit and stole his way to third. Three batters later, Vallot brought the big lumber again, banging a triple off the wall in dead center to score Gigliotti. Reed Rohlman then chipped the next pitch on the ground toward third base, beating out the quick Encarnacion throw to first for an infield single to tie it again at 4-4.
Hinton and Naughton traded three-strikeout frames in the ninth, setting up the dramatic 10th.
Encarnacion, the Orioles' No. 13 prospect, finished 1-for-4 with the two-run bomb, his third home run since joining the Shorebirds last August 1 in the Kevin Gausman trade. Turchin went 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs, while Horvath an dCurran each scored twice. Cadyn Grenier banged a pair of doubles in the first and third innings.
Vallot led the Legends charge from the plate, going 2-for-3 with a triple, homer, two runs, and two RBIs. Gigliotti finished 2-for-5 with a double, run, RBI, and two of Lexington's five stolen bases.
Blaine Knight started the opener for the Shorebirds but didn't factor into the decision. The No. 10 Orioles prospect lasted 5.2 innings, allowing two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out three on 70 pitches. The outing was the longest of his professional career after a brief stint in short-season Aberdeen last August.
The Legends' Charlie Neuweiler lasted five innings in a no-decision. He allowed two runs on three hits, four walks, three hit batsmen, and four strikeouts.
In the extremely broad sense, the Shorebirds have now played in back-to-back extra inning games. Delmarva outlasted Lakewood 9-5 in 12 innings on the last day of the 2018 season, seven months and one day before Thursday night's win.
The Shorebirds go for two in a row to start the year on Friday night against the Legends. Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the 11th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and the Orioles' No. 5 prospect, makes his Delmarva debut against lefty Zach Haake for Lexington. Friday will be the first time the team plays as the "Gallos de Delmarva" as part of the MiLB Copa de la Diversíon; the Legends will play as the "Lexington Leyendas." First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m., and pregame coverage on Fox Sports 960 AM and the MiLB First Pitch App beginning at 6:50 with Will DeBoer on the call.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.