Following an electric 10-3 win against the Hickory Crawdads on Friday, April 22, that concluded with post-game fireworks, the Wilmington Blue Rocks continued their winning ways in style on Saturday, April 23.
The ballgame was a 2-2, back-and-forth battle going into the bottom of the ninth when first baseman Drew Mendoza emerged as the hero with a walk-off RBI single that brought home second baseman Darren Baker to win the game 3-2.
“With the bases loaded and nobody out, I knew they had to attack me,” Mendoza said. “Just trying to get a pitch to hit, hopefully, get something to the outfield and score that run.”
Manager Mario Lisson was thrilled with the outcome of the game after the win.
“It’s exciting,” Lisson said. “Hopefully, games like this continue to lift us up and put us in a good spot offensively and defensively.”
This win would not have been possible without the performance of starting pitcher Seth Shuman out on the mound. Shuman went six innings, while only allowing two hits, one earned run and striking out five Crawdads in the process.
Shuman chimed in on what was working for him out on the mound.
“Just attacking the zone, letting our defense work,” Shuman said. “Our defense played really well and that’s the key. If you play great defense, you’re usually going to come out with the W.”
Although the bats slowed down compared to Friday’s win, Lisson isn’t concerned at all with his team’s ability to rake on any given day.
“Every game is unique,” Lisson said. “The pitchers you’re facing, the way the ball is coming off of the bats, every day is unique. Just because you have a really good day offensively one day, doesn’t mean that on the next day you’re going to have the same one. You could get no-hit one day and then the next day score 20 runs… We want our guys to have a good approach at the plate, have quality at-bats, stay on the fastball, and then whatever happens after that is a plus.”
After the Crawdads tied up the game at two runs apiece, they had Trevor Hauver on first with two outs when Jake Guenther ripped a double down the right-field line.
As Hauver hustled around the bases, determined to score, a relay ensued with right fielder Gage Canning who fired to the cutoff man Darren Baker. Baker returned the favor by throwing a strike to catcher Israel Pineda, which allowed him to tag out Hauver at home.
That play made up for a number of defensive mishaps from the Blue Rocks in the earlier stages of the game.
“That’s what we practice a lot before the games, relays, being at the right place,” Lisson said. “The play doesn’t start if Canning doesn’t hit Baker in the chest. That’s a part of the stuff that we do daily. We take pride in our defense because pitching and defense is what helps you win games more often than hitting.”
The Blue Rocks have won two-straight games and have the 3-2 advantage in this six-game series against Hickory. Wilmington will now be looking to secure the series win on Sunday, April 24, during their final game against the Crawdads until they meet again in July.
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