SALISBURY, MD - Jean Carlos Encarnacion belted a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, and the Delmarva Shorebirds turned potential infamy into one of the more unlikely wins in franchise history, stunning the Lakewood BlueClaws 7-5 on Saturday night at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
The Shorebirds (7-1) were in danger of being no-hit as the BlueClaws (3-7) took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Seamus Curran flew out to left center to begin the frame against Lakewood's James McArthur, then Will Robertson drew a full-count walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Ben Breazeale came up next and smashed a line drive to deep center that one-hopped to the wall for a double, breaking up the no-hitter and the shutout to make it 5-1.
Lakewood made a pitching change and brought in Robinson Martinez, who got Andrew Fregia to pop out to second on the first pitch for the second out. Up came Nick Horvath, who had the first pitch graze the back of his batting helmet. Cadyn Grenier followed with a double that split the gap in left center, scoring both Breazeale and Horvath to get the Shorebirds within 5-3.
Robert Neustrom walked and Adam Hall got hit with a 1-2 pitch on the belt buckle, loading the bases to bring Encarnacion to the plate. After fouling Martinez's first two pitches to the backstop, Encarnacion powered one high in the air and down the left field line. BlueClaw left fielder Carlos De La Cruz followed it to the corner and ran out of room, watching it sail mere feet over the wall for a grand slam. The game-ending shot set off a wild celebration for the 4,057 who in attendance, as they had been witness to a script rewrite for the ages, authored by Encarnacion, the No. 13 prospect in the Orioles' system.
Gray Fenter (1-0) was the beneficiary of the dramatic win for the Shorebirds; he pitched four scoreless innings out of the bullpen, allowing two hits and walking none while striking out eight. Martinez (0-1) swallowed the loss for the BlueClaws after giving up five of the seven runs in a third of an inning.
The BlueClaws had the game in cruise control right from the get-go. Malvin Matos led off the first inning with a single and took second on a passed ball. Alec Bohm then walked, and two batters later Abrahan Gutierrez loaded the bases with an infield hit. De La Cruz lined a single into left to score two, but Gutierrez was thrown out trying to take third. After a De La Cruz stolen base, Luis Garcia singled him home to put Lakewood up 3-0.
It was more of the same in the top of the second. Cole Stobbe led off with a triple, and Matos singled him home two batters later. Matos then stole second himself, and two batters later Ben Pelletier singled him home to make it 5-0 BlueClaws.
The Shorebirds had a prime opportunity to get back into the game in the bottom of the first. Grenier, Neustrom, and Hall all drew walks to load the bases with nobody out. But Encarnacion was caught looking, Curran popped out, and Robertson fouled out to end the threat.
The zeroes piled up for Delmarva in the runs and hits column as the BlueClaws closed in on their fourth no-hitter in less than two calendar years. Lakewood kept the door open a crack, though, by issuing nine walks in the contest. Two of those free passes came in the ninth, along with the two hit batsmen, and in an identical situation to the one he saw in the first inning, Encarnacion didn't throw away his shot.
Encarnacion's slam was his second home run of the season and the first Delmarva grand slam since Ryan Ripken did it on May 30, 2018 at Kannapolis. Grenier added a walk to his two-run double, and Hall walked three times before the crucial HBP. Delmarva finished with just three hits on the night to Lakewood's 12.
Matos, Pelletier, Gutierrez, and Garcia each finished with two hits for the BlueClaws and combined for all five RBIs.
Both starting pitchers only lasted four innings. Delmarva's Drew Rom settled down after a shaky first two, allowing five runs on nine hits in four frames with one walk and six strikeouts. Matt De La Rosa came on to pitch a scoreless fifth and serve as a bridge to Fenter.
Lakewood's Kevin Gowdy started the bid for history with four no-hit innings, retiring 12 in a row after walking the bases loaded to begin the game. He also struck out seven. Ethan Evanko handled the fifth before giving the ball to McArthur, who gave up the first two runs of the ninth and one hit in his 3.1 innings.
The win is the Shorebirds' fifth in a row and their second already this season when trailing by multiple runs in the ninth. Delmarva was down 4-1 at Kannapolis on April 9 before tying it in the ninth and winning 8-5 in the 10th.
The Shorebirds go for the sweep of the BlueClaws in the series finale on Sunday afternoon. Nick Vespi (1-0, 2.25) will make his long-awaited first start for Delmarva against Lakewood tandem Colton Eastman (0-1, 9.00) and Ethan Lindow. First pitch is set for 2:05 p.m. with gates opening at 1:00. Sunday is the first Perdue Strike Out Hunger Sunday of the season; two canned food items will get you a $3 Upper Reserved ticket, with everything collected going to local food banks. It's also another Hit the Books Game presented by Dr. Crouse at The Brace Place, plus a Kids Run the Bases game presented by Chili's. Pregame coverage on Fox Sports 960 AM and the MiLB First Pitch App beginning at 1:50 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.