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An Opening Series Worth Remembering

Wilmington Blue Rocks defeated the Brooklyn Cyclones in all three of their opening series games at Frawley Stadium.
April 9, 2024

The Wilmington Blue Rocks kicked off the 2024 season with a bang – literally and figuratively if you include the Opening Night fireworks. The team swept the Brooklyn Cyclones in a three-game homestand and starts the season undefeated.

The Wilmington Blue Rocks kicked off the 2024 season with a bang – literally and figuratively if you include the Opening Night fireworks. The team swept the Brooklyn Cyclones in a three-game homestand and starts the season undefeated.

Game 1

The celery-brations began at Frawley Stadium Friday night when Philadelphia sports radio icon Howard Eskin threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Shortly after, Andry Lara took the mound as Wilmington’s Opening Day starter and matched up against Brooklyn’s Noah Hall. Lara picked up his first win of the season, but the 4-1 win couldn’t have happen without the Blue Rocks’ bats, which hit early and often. A sacrifice fly from Murphy Stehly in the first inning and a triple from Daylen Lile in the second put them up 2-0 to start the game.

In the fourth, Kevin Made hit a lead-off single. The next batter, Maxwell Romero Jr., broke it wide-open with a stunning home run, adding two more runs to the Blue Rocks’ lead. The Cyclones were able to score one on reliever Brendan Collins in the seventh, but ultimately were unable to come up with enough offense to overcome the Blue Rocks. In five innings, Lara struck out six batters and allowed just four hits and two walks. Wilmington picked up a 4-1 victory, Lara earned the win, and reliever Todd Peterson picked up his first save of the season.

As the fireworks flew behind him, catcher Romero Jr., who had a stellar offensive performance in his Wilmington debut, explained how he and the pitchers kept the game together on defense.

“We worked our butts off in Spring Training to really get that relationship going,” he said. “It’s all about knowing what works for them and what they’re feeling that day. I’m just glad that they trusted me.”

His thoughts on the chance to play in his first High-A game?

“I’m glad God gave me the opportunity to be here.”

Game 2

Saturday night, it took a while for the momentum from the Blue Rocks’ first game to kick in. The bats were cold thanks to the tricky pitches from Brooklyn’s left-handed starter Felipe De La Cruz. Like De La Cruz, Brad Lord held the Cyclones to zero runs through four innings, but allowed two runners to get on base before being relieved by Bryan Caceres in the fifth. Both runners advanced to home to put the Cyclones up 2-0.

De La Cruz was also relieved in the fifth by Jordan Geber, but it wasn’t until Daylen Lile was hit by a pitch in the sixth that the Blue Rocks got going on offense. Back-to-back singles by Kevin Made, T.J. White, and Murphy Stehly followed directly after. Stehly picked up two RBIs sending Lile and Murphy home and tying the game to go into the seventh inning.

As the game progressed and the score stayed locked, it seemed as if extra baseball was imminent. However, Jared McKenzie had other plans. After watching Sammy Infante walk right before him, McKenzie stepped up to the plate, and swung at the first pitch, sending up and over the right field wall. The walk-off home run gave the Blue Rocks their second win with a final score of 4-2.

Game 3

Sunday’s matinee was not only the final game of the series, but it was also Wilmington’s first game as Rocas Azules de Wilmington, their alter-ego as part of Minor League Baseball's Copa De La Diversión program.

It was the ultimate pitching duel to start the game with Wilmington’s Luke Young making his High-A debut against Brooklyn’s Calvin Ziegler. The Cyclones’ pitcher recorded nine strikeouts (eight consecutively) and allowed no hits to shut down the Blue Rocks’ offense through the fourth inning. Young also held his opponents to zero runs, recording four strikeouts and allowing four hits and one walk in the first five innings.

On-point pitching, combined with stellar defensive plays like the awkward pop up catch from Daylen Lile in center field to the quick snatch from Murphy Stehly at third, set Jared McKenzie up to do what he does best – walk-off wins.

Johnathon Thomas started the bottom of the tenth inning on second as the Blue Rocks’ ghost runner. Cyclones reliever Joshua Cornielly intentionally walked Stehly, and Branden Boissiere managed to successfully advance the runners to second and third with a flyout to left field.

This put Cornielly in a tough spot, with both Maxwell Romero Jr. and Jared McKenzie up next, the two batters that homered in the first two games of the series. With only one out, Cornielly intentionally walked Romero Jr. to load the bases for McKenzie, allowing him to hit a sacrifice fly and end the game with a final score of 1-0.

Looking Forward

Sitting atop the South Atlantic League North standings, the Blue Rocks will take their 3-0 record the short thirty minute drive down I-95 to Aberdeen to face the Ironbirds who are coming off a 1-2 road series loss to the Jersey Shore BlueClaws for a six-game series starting Tuesday April 9th.