With Class A Advanced Wilmington staring at a 2-0 deficit in its best-of-5 Mills Cup Finals, MJ Melendez kicked in the door left ajar by Fayetteville.
Kansas City's No. 9 prospect delivered a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning as the Blue Rocks rallied past the Woodpeckers, 5-4, to even the Carolina League Championship Series at a game apiece Wednesday night at Frawley Stadium. It was the first Finals victory for Wilmington since 2004.
Gameday box score
The Blue Rocks entered the frame trailing, 4-2, but a two-run single by Dennicher Carrasco and a walk to 10th-ranked Nick Pratto set the stage for Melendez. The 20-year-old followed with a liner into right field that pushed across the go-ahead run.
Wilmington took advantage of a rare miscue by Fayetteville second baseman Ruben Castro. Eighth-ranked Kyle Isbel led off the inning with a grounder to the 23-year-old, who played errorless ball over 24 regular-season games for the team. His first error of the playoffs set the stage for three unearned runs against against reliever Riley Cabral.
The 22-year-old plunked Royals No. 15 prospect Brewer Hicklen before notching consecutive strikeouts. Cabral (0-1) jumped ahead of Carrasco, 0-2, but the 23-year-old worked the count full before dropping a single into right that evened the score. Melendez followed with what proved to be the game-winning single.
It marked the continuation of a strong postseason for Melendez, who also singled and walked. The native of Daytona Beach, Florida is hitting .286 with three doubles, four RBIs, two runs and six walks through seven playoff contests after a sub-par debut season in the Carolina League. The 2017 second-round pick batted .163 over 110 games after posting an .814 OPS with 54 extra-base hits for Class A Lexington in 2018.
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Tyler Hill homered and went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for the Blue Rocks, who are searching for their fifth championship but first since 1999.
Starter Jonathan Bowlan, Kansas City's No. 16 prospect, was charged with three runs on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings. Josh Dye Andrew Beckwith (1-0) and Tad Ratliff combined to surrender an unearned run over the final 5 1/3 frames.
Chandler Taylor homered, doubled and walked twice while Scott Manea also went deep for the Woodpeckers.
Fayetteville's Austin Hansen surrendered a run on two hits and five walks with six punchouts in three innings.
The series moves to Fayetteville's Festival Park for Game 3 at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday.