The Fayetteville Woodpeckers went up one game-to-none against the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the first of a potential five game championship series. The Blue Rocks struck early, pulling off a successful double steal to take 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third. However, David Hensley's 3-for-5 day and his two-run shot in the fourth propelled the Woodpeckers to a comeback victory. Marty Costes added some insurance in the ninth, notching his fourth RBI of the postseason and Fayetteville escaped game one at Johnson Field with a 3-1 win.
Despite giving up a one out walk to Cal Stevenson, Daniel Lynch pitched a scoreless first frame for the Blue Rocks by fanning two consecutive batters to end the inning. Parker Mushinski followed by tossing a shutout frame as well, walking Tyler Hill but leaving him stranded when Nick Pratto flew out to left field. Neither pitcher allowed a hit until the third inning as Scott Schreiber finally earned a knock against Lynch with one away in the top of the third. The Blue Rocks hurler fanned Jeremy Pena and then forced Cal Stevenson into a 4-3 putout to keep it 0-0 heading into the bottom of the third. After sending down two straight to start the frame, Mushinski gave up his first hit when Kyle Isbel laced a single into right field. Brewer Hicklen followed for Wilmington by slicing a base hit of his own, allowing for the speedy Isbel to move to third. With Tyler Hill at the plate the Blue Rocks pulled off a double steal of home that sent Hicklen to second, drew a throw from behind home plate and then allowed Isbel to tag up and score. Mushinski retired Hill on a fly out to end the frame, but after three the Woodpeckers found themselves down 1-0.
Fayetteville did not waste much time launching a comeback in the top of the fourth, with Chandler Taylor kicking off the rally with a one out free pass. David Hensley followed by crushing his first homer of the year into the Wilmington bullpen to give the Woodpeckers their first lead of the game. Lynch allowed two more baserunners when Michael Papierski drew a walk and Scott Manea roped a single, but the Blue Rocks starter fanned Schreiber to end the frame and limit the damage to just two runs.
With his team now leading 2-1 Mushinski locked in, allowing just two more baserunners through the fifth inning. All in all, the Woodpeckers starter gave up just three hits, one run, and fanned eight batters in his stellar night on the mound. However, despite ample opportunity the Woodpeckers offense struggled to add an insurance run against Wilmington. With Lynch still on the mound in the top the fifth Jeremy Pena smoked a leadoff double to the corner in left field, moving to third when Stevenson laid down a successful sacrifice bunt. Marty Costes drew a base on balls to put runners at the corners, but Lynch struck out Taylor and Hensley in order to end the frame and leave Pena stranded 90 feet away. With Wilmington reliever Austin Lambright now pitching in the top of the sixth, Fayetteville again put a runner in scoring position. Scott Manea and Scott Schreiber drew back-to-back walks but the Woodpeckers could not bring the Scotts home. keeping their lead just 2-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Cody Deason took over as the new Woodpeckers hurler in that frame, making quick work of the Blue Rocks who went down in order. Things got a little bumpier in the bottom of the seventh for Deason who walked MJ Melendez, with the runner moving to second on a E1 pickoff attempt. A fly out put Melendez at third, with Wilmington adding another baserunner when Cristian Perez reached on a free pass. Michael Gigliotti laid down a one out squeeze bunt on the first base side to try and tally the run. However Schreiber sniffed it out, charging in and zipping the ball home to throw out Hicklen and stop the tying run from tallying. Deason fanned Kyle Isbel to end the frame and get out of the jam unscathed, keeping the Woodpeckers up 2-1 heading into the final two frames.
In the top of the eighth Fayetteville once again put another runner at third thanks to a leadoff single off David Hensley's bat against Wilmington reliever Collin Snider. Hensley reached third on a wild pitch followed by an error at shortstop on a high chopper from Ruben Castro, but a backwards K ended the frame again scoreless. In the bottom of the inning Deason fanned Hicklen, allowing a baserunner when Tyler Hill knocked an infield single. The Wilmington hurler got out number two when he fanned Pratto, but Fayetteville made a pitching change for the final out. The Woodpeckers leaned on Humberto Castellanos to get end the frame, with the Fayetteville reliever doing his job by swiftly fanning Dennicher Carrasco.
In the top of the ninth Jeremy Pena smoked a double in the left field corner to start the final inning versus Snider. Another sacrifice bunt from Cal Stevenson moved Pena to third with Fayetteville finally scoring that long-awaited insurance run when Marty Costes flared a base hit into center field. That was the fourth RBI of the postseason for Costes and stretched the Woodpeckers lead to two runs. Snider sent down Taylor but allowed Hensley's third hit of the game on a single to center field. However. Miguelangel Sierra batted the breeze to end the frame and keep it 3-1 heading into the final frame. Castellanos gave up a single to Kyle Kasser but managed to strike out the side, earn the save, and solidify a 3-1 Fayetteville victory. The Woodpeckers swiped game one of the Mills Cup Championship Series and will finish out the stint in Wilmington tomorrow in game two. First pitch is set for 6:35 from Johnson Field.
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.