On Friday, May 27, the Wilmington Blue Rocks returned home midway through their series against the Aberdeen IronBirds to finish the last three games at home. The Blue Rocks went into this matchup down 2-1 and their series deficit grew larger as they fell to the IronBirds on their home field 5-4.
All the way up until the ninth inning, this wasn’t how the game looked like it was going to go. Despite a tough outing from starting pitcher Mitchell Parker and some mistakes throughout the night, the Blue Rocks had the lead through 48 outs.
It wasn’t until the top of the ninth, with Wilmington’s best closer, Zach Brzykcy, on the mound, that Aberdeen’s Jacob Teter would hit a two-run homer to give the IronBirds their first and only lead of the night. This was all they needed to win.
“It’s a tough loss, it’s disappointing,” Blue Rocks Manager Mario Lisson said. “All of them are the same. It’s upsetting when we lose a game and it’s exciting when we win a game. It’s no different from any game.”
Before the last inning, Wilmington had to work through multiple jams to put themselves in the position to have the lead.
It started in the first inning when Parker walked three batters back-to-back to load the bases with one out. Despite being able to work himself out of it, this was a problem again in the second as he walked two more. Parker would be pulled after 1.1 innings of work and five walks.
“He needs to throw strikes, period,” Lisson said. “Actually, the bullpen did a great job for most of the game, even in the seventh inning when they scored their runs, the defense let that happen, but the bullpen was pretty good.”
The first man out of the bullpen for Wilmington was Michael Kirian, who struck out all five batters that he faced in his outing, including two in the second inning to leave more IronBirds stranded.
While Kirian provided support on the mound, the Blue Rocks got going on the offensive side of the ball to give themselves some breathing room.
In the bottom of the first, Wilmington got on the board when they used a little league base-running tactic to send Cole Daily home from third while Ricardo Mendez was caught stealing second. The Blue Rocks would then extend their lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the third when Mendez hit a two-run homer.
This would be where the game stood going into the seventh when the Blue Rocks hit more trouble.
The IronBirds managed to tie the game when they scored three unearned runs off a throwing error from shortstop Jordy Barley and a fielding error from Mendez. For Mendez, he was unable to secure a flyball at the wall in center, which allowed Aberdeen’s second run to score and their eventual third run to reach first.
“That was a tough play, that was a tough play,” Mendez said. “I was trying to make a play, but [errors like that are] going to happen.”
Going into the bottom of the inning, the Blue Rocks once again were able to work themselves out of trouble when Jose Sanchez hit a single to send Omar Meregildo home to take the 4-3 lead.
“It was great that we were able to answer back, [Omar] Meregildo got us going with a double,” Lisson said. “Again, we take every inning the same. We’re trying to compete and get people on base and hit the ball hard and we did in that inning.”
However, Wilmington’s luck would run out as they weren’t able to answer back one last time in the bottom of the ninth. While it was their closer who gave up the winning runs, it was the defensive mistakes made in this close matchup that lost them the game.
“In the beginning of the game, I felt really good,” Mendez said. “We played and we did the little things, but we need to continue to do that, we need to continue the little things and [since we didn’t] that’s why we lost again.”
The best the Blue Rocks can do now is end the series in a tie, which is what they will attempt to do, starting on Saturday, May 28, in game five.
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