Lopez Plays Hero, Sends Blue Rocks to Mills Cup Championship Series
WILMINGTON, Del. - With Game Two of the Northern Division Championship Series tied at two in the bottom of the eighth inning on Friday, Jack Lopez delivered a two-run home run to give Wilmington a 4-2 lead, and the Rocks would hold on to defeat Lynchburg 4-3. The win completed the Blue Crew's sweep over the Hillcats in the N.D.C.S., and it sent the Rocks to a matchup with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Mills Cup Championship Series.
Unlike Game One, the Hillcats were the first to strike on Friday evening. In the top of the second inning, Bobby Bradley and Joe Sever began the frame with singles, with Bradley moving to third base on Sever's knock thanks to an error in right field by Elier Hernandez. The next man up, Eric Haase, got the scoring started with a sacrifice fly that plated Bradley. Mike Papi followed with a double that chased Sever to the plate, giving Lynchburg a 2-0 lead.
After being held at bay through four innings, the Rocks finally broke through against Lynchburg starter Jayson Aquino in the bottom of the fifth. Cam Gallagher got things started with a single, and then moved up to second base courtesy of a sacrifice bunt from Humberto Arteaga. Following a walk by Dominique Taylor, Aquino struck out Logan Moon, but the third strike escaped Haase behind the plate, and both runners moved up a base on the wild pitch. That would prove costly for Aquino, as Carlos Garcia smacked a single right up the middle that scored both Gallagher and Taylor, tying the game at two at the end of five.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Lopez provided the drama that pushed the Rocks into the Mills Cup Championship Series. With one out, Garcia got on base with his second single of the night. Lopez followed by cranking a home run well over the left field fence. Lopez hit six long balls in the regular season, and his seventh of 2015 gave Wilmington a 4-2 lead.
Estarlin Cordero came on in the ninth, and although he allowed a run to score on a single by Yhoxian Medina, the lefty ended up striking out the side, securing the 4-3 victory for Wilmington.
Matthew Strahm gave the Blue Rocks 5.1 innings in Game Two. The lefty allowed two runs on five hits and a walk, striking out six in the process. Ashton Goudeau picked up the win, working 2.2 scoreless frames, allowing only one hit and striking out a pair of batters.
The Blue Rocks will enjoy a day off on Saturday before beginning the Mills Cup Championship Series against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on Sunday. Games One and Two will be held at Frawley Stadium, with Game Three and then the potential Games Four and Five taking place at TicketReturn.com Field. First pitch of Game One is scheduled for 5:05 on Sunday, and fans can listen to the broadcast on 89.7 WGLS-FM. For tickets, call 302-888-BLUE, or visit www.bluerocks.com.
THEY SAID IT:
Manager Brian Buchanan:
"(The celebration) is a lot better (than when we clinched the first-half title). They don't get old, that's for sure. (The team) did a heck of a job this series. (Starting pitcher Matthew) Strahm today, (and) the bullpen came in and did their job, we got some big hits…we're all excited."
"(Jack Lopez's two-run home run) was awesome. That's one of the furthest balls we've seen hit this year. He got a pitch to do it, and I'm so happy for Jack. It's his third year here, and he's been through some good times and bad times this year, and that was just awesome."
(Carlos Garcia's) numbers weren't that great against lefties, and…I wasn't going to play him, and then he went 4-for-4 (in Game One) and I had to stick him in there. He did a heck of a job. He swung the bat great, and he's definitely the most valuable player in my eyes of this series. Everyone did great, but he got some big hits, and did what he needed to do as a leadoff man. He was amazing."
"(The top of the ninth inning) was unbelievable, and as soon as that first guy got on, I was like 'Oh, here we go'. Another one-run game for us. (Estarlin) Cordero made some pitches when he needed to, and it was fun to be a part of."
"It was a tale of two seasons for us. You win the first half, and then we struggled in the second half a little bit. (The team) worked hard, and they battled, and this is the reward for them, so this is great."
Infielder Jack Lopez:
"I was looking for something in my zone, something middle-in, and the first pitch I saw him throw a fastball and I felt good taking it. I knew eventually he had to come in and I saw my pitch and was trying not to miss it and I didn't."
"It was crazy (at the end of Friday's game) I don't have too much pop but I hit it and just tried to contain myself running around the bases all the way to the dugout and I was cheering during those last three outs. Estarlin Cordero told me to be quiet a few times but I was just going crazy out there so it feels good."
"It is unbelievable (to get a home run in the postseason.) Everybody keeps asking me, 'What do you do, how do you stay up with that kind of luck?' I try to just be there for my teammates, if I am not doing it offensively I will try to do it defensively and vice-versa. I was able to come through for my teammates (on Friday) and that is the least I can do for them."