The Fayetteville Woodpeckers rallied in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull off a come-from-behind victory against the Wilmington Blue Rocks in game three of the Mills Cup Championship Series. Nivaldo Rodriguez tossed six innings of one run ball, but Fayetteville still trailed 1-0 late in the contest. However, David Hensley smoked a double off Kris Bubic that notched two scores and gave Fayetteville a narrow 2-1 lead heading into the seventh. Cesar Rosado and Humberto Castellanos combined to shutout the Wilmington offense for the last three frames and Fayetteville pulled off a one run victory a Segra Stadium. The Woodpeckers now control the best of five series two games-to-one with a chance to win it all tomorrow.
Nivaldo Rodriguez started his stellar day on the mound for the Woodpeckers by sending down the Blue Rocks in order and fanning two straight to end the first. Kris Bubic did the same as the starting hurler for Wilmington, striking out two and pitching a scoreless frame. Despite the clear pitching duel brewing, the top of the second saw the Blue Rocks tally to take an early lead. Kyle Kasser led off the frame by lacing a single, advancing on a ground out and scoring thanks to a single from MJ Melendez. It was the 5th RBI of the post season for Melendez and also made it 1-0 Wilmington heading into the bottom of the second.
In the next frame the Woodpeckers earned their first baserunner when David Hensley drew a one out walk. However, the inning ended when Bubic fanned Miguelangel Sierra and Melendez caught Hensley trying to swipe second in the same breath. The Woodpeckers finally knocked their first hit in the bottom of the third, as Michael Papierski laced a single to right field. Still, Bubic continued to dominate, forcing a double play and then a ground out to end yet another inning scoreless. In the bottom of the fourth Fayetteville had their best chance yet to even the game. Jeremy Pena was clipped with a pitch to lead off the inning, with the Woodpeckers putting two on the base paths for the first time in the game when Marty Costes earned a free pass. Chandler Taylor smacked a fly out to right field that gave Pena enough time tag up and move to third, but Bubic got out of the frame unscathed when Costes was forced out due to a fielder's choice.
After giving up the one run in the top of the second Nivaldo Rodriguez tossed four straight shutout frames on the hill for the Woodpeckers. The Fayetteville starter allowed just two more baserunners, giving up just one more hit and fanning eight total batters through the sixth. Eventually the Woodpeckers offense backed up their starting hurler by finally cracking Kris Cubic in the bottom of the sixth. The Wilmington starter made swift work of the first batter he faced in the frame, fanning Jeremy Pena to quickly put one away. However, Cal Stevenson followed with a single up the middle for just the Woodpeckers third hit of the night. The next batter in Marty Costes chopped a ball to short that had twin killing potential, but Wilmington could not turn the double play which allowed Costes to replace Stevenson at first. Chandler Taylor followed with a base hit to right field, sending up the Woodpeckers hottest hitter. David Hensley, who is batting more than .350 in the playoffs, whacked a double into the left field corner that cleared the bases and gave the Woodpeckers their first lead of the game. The Fayetteville slugger now has seven RBIs in the postseason, with the clutch two-bagger also putting Fayetteville up 2-1. The knock drove Bubic out of the game, as Wilmington sent out Robert Garcia who immediately forced Miguelangel Sierra to fly out to end the inning.
With Fayetteville now in the lead Cesar Rosado took the mound for the Woodpeckers, who tossed two shutout innings on the hill. The righty even fanned the first three batters he faced to keep Fayetteville up through the top of the eighth. The Woodpeckers looked to tack on some insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, with Pena once again reaching to start with a sliced single to left. Cal Stevenson then pushed Pena to second with his third sacrifice bunt of the series. Costes and Taylor followed by loading the bases off a walk and an infield single, respectively, however a double play ended the inning and kept it just a one run game heading into the top of the ninth.
The Woodpeckers turned to Humberto Castellanos to end the game, with the Fayetteville bullpen arm pitching a scoreless half inning to cement a 2-1 Woodpeckers victory. The win gives Fayetteville a two games-to-one lead in the Mills Cup Championship Series, with a chance to take the title tomorrow night. Game four is set for 6:00pm from Segra Stadium.
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.