Wilmington, DE - The Wilmington Blue Rocks (67-68, 28-37) saw their playoff hopes come to an end after dropping a tough, extra-inning affair 1-0 to the Down East Wood Ducks (59-76, 35-31) on Thursday night. In the top of the 12th inning, with a runner on second and two-out, Down East's shortstop Josh Morgan smoked a groundball past the third baseman that scored the go-ahead run for the Wood Ducks. Wilmington was unable to rebound in the bottom of the frame. The loss eliminates the Rocks from the Northern Division Wild Card Race.
The Rocks best scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the ninth inning. With one-out, Jecksson Flores singled into left field, and Roman Collins grounded one up the middle to put two runners on. A batter later, Brandon Downes drove a towering fly ball to deep left field that looked to be the game winner, but Down East's left fielder Josh Altmann made an over-the-shoulder basket catch at the track to rob the Rocks of a run. That sent the game into extras, where Down East would tally the lone run.
Colin Rodgers was lights out, striking out five batters and allowing five hits over six innings of work. Franco Terrero pitched well in relief, throwing three scoreless frames while stranding a runner at third with no outs in the seventh. Justin Camp (0-2) ultimately gave up the run in the 12th. Down East's starter Steven Bruce threw a career high 8.1 innings while striking out a career-best seven batters.
The Rocks begin their final four-game set against Lynchburg on Friday, September 1 with first pitch slated for 7:05 p.m. RHP Scott Blewett (7-9, 3.78 ERA) will start for Wilmington. Fans can listen to the game as Matt Janus and Cory Nidoh have the call on 89.7 WGLS FM.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
Coming into Thursday night's game, the Rocks had to win their remaining five contests of the 2017 campaign with Frederick losing their remaining games to stay in the playoff picture. It marks the second straight year Wilmington will end their season without postseason play. The Rocks last appeared in the playoffs in 2015, where they swept Lynchburg in the Division Series, but ultimately fell to Myrtle Beach in the Mills Cup Championship. Wilmington was also in the first half hunt for the Northern Division crown, but were unable to keep up with Lynchburg despite finished 1.5 games out of first.
Thursday's game against Down East wraps up the series between the two squads during the 2017 season. Overall, the Rocks held the advantage 7-6, but Down East dominated in the second half. The Wood Ducks took five of their last six meetings against the Rocks, including sweeping Wilmington during their first visit to Frawley Stadium since 2011. During the final six games of the series, Wilmington was outscored 27-15, while only scoring two runs in the final three games.
The Rocks 1-0 loss is the second shutout in the last two days that Wilmington has been on the bad end. During Wednesday's doubleheader, Down East blanked the Rocks 2-0 in the first game. It is also the third time the Rocks have been shutout in the last five games. Overall, Wilmington has been shutout 10 times this season and four times in August. The 1-0 loss also marks another one-run loss to put the Rocks at 25-23 in that category. Wilmington has now dropped nine of its last 12 one-run contests.
Despite the offensive struggles, Jecksson Flores has stayed hot in the final games of the regular season. The shortstop picked up two more hits on Thursday, making it his 21st multi-hit game on the season. For Flores, nine of those have come in the month of August. During the last full month of play, the 23-year-old has slugged 10 of his 14 doubles and two of his three triples, all while providing stellar defensive.
They Said It: Jamie Quirk
"First of all, great pitching on our part (on Thursday). Colin Rodgers, Franco Terrero, and Justin Camp did a great job. All of them pitched their tails off and it was nice to see. Once again, it goes back to the offense. Brandon Downes hit that ball well (in the ninth inning) but it was the wrong night; the ball wasn't going anywhere (on Thursday) and the left fielder (Josh Altmann) made a nice play on it. They were playing way in to cut the run off and Altmann stayed with it and ran it down. Once again, we just aren't scoring."
"Jecksson Flores is playing outstanding. Ever since Nicky Lopez left, he has had a chance to play shortstop. He has played every inning of every game since Lopez left except for one inning when I gave him a break. He has played outstanding. His defense is just tremendous and he makes all the plays. He is the one guy that is playing inspired baseball through all of this. He got an opportunity to play and he is taking advantage of it. Perfect example was he was starting the year as a utility player, waiting and waiting, doing a good job but we had D.J. Burt and Lopez playing all the time. When Lopez went up, he got his opportunity and he has made the most of it. He has showed at least me, and I hope the organization, that he can play."
"We are going to show up and play again (Friday). Lynchburg is a very good team. We haven't seen them in a while but they are going to play and get themselves ready for the playoffs. They are the best team in the league and I'm sure they are going to try and come in and keep momentum going. We will see what happens but we will be ready to play."
Colin Rodgers, Pitcher
"I felt great (on Thursday). Just tried to get ahead of guys and establish the fastball down and away, try and get outs as quickly as I could. (In pressure situations) I threw mostly fastball low and away and kept them honest by changing speeds when I needed too. The defense was amazing; they just made so many good plays. Nate Esposito behind the plate, he did a great job back there. All the credit to them."
"There are a lot of things that I have learned. I would say I definitely learned how to be more consistent. There are 10 teams in the Carolina League now, but you play the same teams over and over again. You get used to guys and guys get used to you. It comes down to a battle. I think taking things day-by-day (has helped him get better). Throw every pitch with a purpose and take it one day at a time. Don't try to look into the future or into the past, just be here now."
25 Years of Blue Rocks Baseball
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