- Despite dropping the opener of an impromptu doubleheader, 4-3, and then seeing starting pitcher Noel Arguelles
lose a no-hitter with one out in the final inning, the Wilmington Blue Rocks found the intestinal fortitude to erase a pair of one-run deficits and earn a 4-3 walk-off, extra-innings win over the Potomac Nationals in the nightcap on Tuesday at Frawley Stadium.
The only runner Arguelles had allowed entering the last frame of the scheduled seven-inning finale came courtesy of a Gerard Hall error in the third. That string came to a close however, when he issued a leadoff free pass to Francisco Soriano. After the Potomac shortstop was sacrificed into scoring position, Arguelles appeared poised to move one out from the third no-hitter in franchise history. He got Destin Hood to launch a routine fly ball to right, but Yem Prades lost the ball in the dusk-grey sky. When Hood's batted ball landed behind the right fielder, the no-hitter was gone, as it resulted in an RBI triple and a 1-1 tie.
The Rocks were then forced to bring the infield in and a visibly frustrated Arguelles allowed Justin Bloxom to follow with a run-scoring single up the middle that gave Potomac its first lead of the game.
Wilmington somehow got off the canvas and managed to pull even in the bottom of the seventh. Julio Rodriguez sent a blooper to shallow right that Hood attempted to make a diving catch on. When the ball squirted by the Potomac outfielder the catcher motored his way into second with a double. Brian Rupp inserted pinch runner Deivy Batista, a move that paid off when he slid into home just in front of the tag on Joey Lewis' ensuing single to center.
Potomac regained the advantage in the eighth. J.R. Higley doubled and then moved to third one out later on Eury Perez's infield single. That set up a sacrifice fly to center by Soriano that made it, 3-2 P-Nats.
Again Wilmington had a response in the home-half of the frame. Prades atoned for his earlier mistake by opening the inning with an infield single. He then went to second on Carlo Testa's sacrifice bunt, but when John Whittleman grounded out to short the Rocks were down to their final out.
To the plate stepped Kurt Mertins, who knotted the game with his liner to left. Mertins also put Wilmington in a position to win the contest with his heads up base running. The second baseman took off for second on the throw home. He then advanced to third when Potomac's attempt to gun him down there was errant. Tim Ferguson followed with a grounder back through the box that gave Wilmington the dramatic win.
Both Hector Nelo and Joe Testa blew saves for Potomac, with Testa (5-1) taking the loss. Ryan Dennick (2-4) yielded a run in his lone inning of work but still got the win.
Arguelles and Potomac starter Danny Rosenbaum took the tough-luck no decisions. Rosenbaum fanned six and walked only one in six strong one-run frames. Arguelles was two outs shy of a no-hitter that arguably should have been his. He ended his outing having allowed two runs on two hits while whiffing three and issuing just a single free pass in seven sterling innings.
The Wilmington win was a necessary pick-me-up for the Rocks after they fell in the opener by a single score. In a contest that was resumed in the fifth inning of a 1-1 tie, the Rocks saw Potomac quickly gain the lead. With two on and two down at resumption, Hood grounded a single back through the middle against reliever Dusty Odenbach. The P-Nats would add an insurance run off Odenbach in the seventh on Souza's RBI single.
Wilmington attempted to rally in the bottom of the ninth. Down 4-1 and with two away in the inning the Rocks saw four consecutive batters reach. The big hits were a solo homer by Batista and an RBI double by Testa. But the rally came up short when Whittleman flied out to center with the potential winning-run at first base.
The four-game series continues on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. as the Rocks send right-hander Tyler Sample (6-7, 5.42) to the hill. Potomac counters with southpaw Sammy Solis (3-1, 3.91). For tickets call 302-888-BLUE or visit bluerocks.com
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
The Rocks' defensive misery continued on Tuesday. Besides Yem Prades missing the playable fly ball that cost Noel Arguelles his chance at a no-hitter in the seventh, Gerard Hall committed a third-inning error at shortstop. Wilmington has now had a defensive miscue in 17 of its last 19 games. The Blue Crew's 105th error of the season makes for 28 over the team's last 18 games.
The defensive lapse not withstanding Prades enjoyed a standout night at the plate. The Cuban outfielder went 4-for-5 with a triple, an RBI and two runs scored in the opener. He followed that up with a 3-for-4 performance that included the game-tying run scored in the eighth.
Joey Lewis found his first real offensive success in the month of July. The first baseman went 2-for-3 with an RBI in the dramatic Wilmington win. Entering Tuesday, Lewis had just three hits total in 32 July at-bats.
John Whittleman found no success at the dish. The third baseman went a combined 0-for-8 in the two contests, striking out twice and leaving eight men on base. His only silver lining was a walk in the fifth inning of game two.
Had Arguelles finished off the no hitter it would have been the first tossed by a Blue Rock since Brian Sanches held the Lynchburg Hillcats hitless at Frawley Stadium on May 2, 2000.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.