The Fayetteville Woodpeckers lost a heartbreaker in extra innings to the Wilmington Blue Rocks on Tuesday Night at Segra Stadium. Brett Conine allowed just one run in five innings on the mound, while Jojanse Torres competed the backend of the tandem by stretching his franchise best scoreless streak to eighteen consecutive innings. Behind the performances on the hill the Woodpeckers were down just 1-0 until the bottom of the ninth when a string of singles and Miguelangel Sierra's sacrifice fly, completed a Woodpeckers rally to force another frame. However, Wilmington's offense came up big in the top of the tenth, notching three scores to cement a 4-1 victory in game one of a three game tilt on Hay Street.
Brett Conine got out to a solid start on the mound for the Woodpeckers, pitching a scoreless frame and leaving Brewer Hicklen stranded who reached on an error. The Woodpeckers offense got one baserunner in the bottom of the frame against Blue Rocks starter Rito Lugo, as Michael Papierski drew a one out walk. The Wilmington hurler locked in, retiring Corey Julks and fanning Chandler Taylor to end the inning. In what was clearly a pitcher's duel from the start, Conine pitched quick second inning as well, walking Nick Pratto but then sending down the next three Blue Rocks in order. It was not until the third inning with two gone that Wilmington finally knocked a hit on the Woodpeckers starter. Brewer Hicklen stepped up the the plate and smacked a solo homer over the left field fence to suddenly make it 1-0 Blue Rocks. It was the seventh bomb of the year for Hicklen and his 36th RBI giving Wilmington a slight lead heading into the bottom of the third.
The Woodpeckers offense continued to struggle against Lugo, who tossed another three up, three down inning in the bottom of the third. Fayetteville finally ruined the no hitter in the bottom of the fourth when Michael Papierski sliced a leadoff single. Lugo, however, got Corey Julks to ground into a double play and then struck out Chandler Taylor to still send down the Woodpeckers in order. It was a similar situation in the bottom of the fifth for the Woodpeckers still down 1-0, Scott Manea roped another single to start the frame. Manea moved to second when Miguelangel Sierra flew out to right field, but he was left stranded when Lugo again retired the next two batters he faced.
Brett Conine pitched five innings on the mound for the Woodpeckers giving up just one run on the homer, on three hit, and four strikeouts. Jojanse Torres replaced Conine in the top of the sixth on the backend of the Woodpeckers tandem. The Fayetteville hurler fanned both Dennicher Carrasco and Nick Pratto for his first two outs on the mound, reaching 100mph on strike two of Pratto's at bat. Torres ended the frame with a 5-3 putout that put 23-year-old in the Fayetteville record books, having tossed a franchise best 15 inning straight without allowing a run. The Woodpeckers hurler faced more of a challenge in the top of the seventh, trying to hold on to the 1-0 score. MJ Melendez started the inning by popping up to Miguelangel Sierra at shortstop. Kyle Kassar then laced a single up the third base line, followed by a two out single from Ricky Aracena to put two on for Wilmington. Torres was unfazed, sending down Brewer Hicklen to leave the insurance runs stranded for the Blue Rocks.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Woodpeckers finally got two runners on against new Wilmington arm Collin Snider. With one away and still down a run, Scott Schreiber slipped a perfectly placed ball up the first base line for a single. Enmanuel Valdez went down on strikes, but then Cal Stevenson drew a base on balls to put the tying run in scoring position. Snider silenced the Woodpeckers rally by forcing Michael Papierski to fly out to force Fayetteville to attempt a walk off in the bottom of the ninth.
Jojanse Torres stretched his franchise best scoreless streak to 18 consecutive innings, by sending the Blue Rocks down in order in the top of the final frame. With one more chance in the last half inning against Wilmington closer Tad Ratliff (3-2), Corey Julks put the tying run on by tapping a ball to left field for a leadoff base hit. Chandler Taylor followed by smacking another single this time to right field, but a 9-5 outfield assist threw out Julks trying to move to third. With now one away, Scott Manea knocked the third consecutive single, pushing Taylor to third on the play. Miguelangel Sierra flew out to right field, giving Taylor enough time to tag up and just barely beat out a throw from Hicklen in right to tie the game up and send it to extra innings.
With the game knotted at 1-1 in the tenth, Tanner Duncan (0-3) took the mound for the Woodpeckers. Colby Schultz immediately slapped a double in the right field corner that scored the free runner to quickly make it 2-1 Wilmington. Ricky Aracena moved the runner to third on a sacrifice bunt, followed by an intentional walk by the Woodpeckers to Brewer Hicklen. Hicklen and Schultz scored when Kyle Isbel slapped a single to left field that Corey Julks misplayed, making it 4-1 Wilmington on the base hit combined with the E7. Duncan fanned Carrasco and then ended the inning when Valdez grabbed a line out off the bat of Nick Pratto.
The Woodpeckers fall to 54-60 on the year while Wilmington moves to 65-48. The Blue Rocks lead the season series with Fayetteville seven-to-five. The Woodpeckers have a chance to even the series tomorrow in game two at Segra Stadium. Luis Garcia is set to climb the hill for the Woodpeckers, while Jonathan Bowlan will start for Wilmington. First pitch is set for 7:00pm.
The Fayetteville Woodpeckers are the Advanced Single-A affiliate of the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros and play in their Inaugural Season at beautiful Segra Stadium in downtown Fayetteville. Segra Stadium, a $40 million state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue, features space for over 5,200 fans, natural grass, a 25x70 LED video scoreboard, six luxury suites, four field boxes, the premium AEVEX Veterans Club level, Healy's Bar and outdoor party deck, a kid's zone, and more. With a rich history of baseball in the city of Fayetteville and Cumberland County, the Woodpeckers are thrilled to write a new chapter with their inaugural campaign on Hay Street. Fans are encouraged to visit FayettevilleWoodpeckers.com to purchase tickets, learn more about the team, and find out about upcoming events and promotions at the ballpark. Fans may also reach the Woodpeckers by visiting the BB&T Box Office in front of Segra Stadium, calling (910) 339-1989, or emailing Woodpeckers@Astros.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.