In what was the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ third game of the series against the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Blue Rocks, 12-12, secured their second win against the second-ranked team in the South Atlantic League.
The night started slowly with the first five innings of the game being scoreless as starting pitcher Jake Irvin struck out two batters and the Blue Rocks’ fielders picked off the remaining hits from the Hot Rods.
On the opposing side, the Hot Rods’ starting pitcher, Mason Montgomery, struck out ten Blue Rocks players and only allowed for three hits over the six innings he pitched.
The first run of the night came at the bottom of the sixth from the Blue Rocks. After center fielder Israel Pineda and designated hitter Omar Meregildo had the first back-to-back hits since the second inning, first baseman Drew Mendoza doubled on a line drive to left field, sending Pineda home.
“I’m just trying to get guys in and give our team a chance to win,” Mendoza said. “We’re just trying to get runs in when we can.”
The Hot Rods would quickly respond to the Blue Rocks’ aggression after first baseman Alexander Ovalles singled to send Oslevis Basabe home in the top of the seventh. The Blue Rocks swiftly got out Diego Infante at home for the inning’s first out, followed by a pop-out from right fielder Heriberto Hernandez and Ovalles getting caught stealing home.
With the game tied 1-1, the Blue Rocks were unable to score again until the bottom of the eighth. Yasel Antuna hit a double off Hot Rods relief pitcher Matthew Peguero before he advanced to third on Peguero’s wild pitch. Pineda would send Antuna home to advance the lead to 2-1.
Although the Blue Rocks have struggled in the past with scoring runs while there are men on base, this game they sought to capitalize on every opportunity to score.
“[Hitting with men on base], that’s something that we work on and prepare every day on,” Hitting Coach Tim Doherty said. “Situational hitting is a big thing for us and moving runners in scoring positions.”
The Blue Rocks focused on keeping the Hot Rods off base throughout the top of the ninth as relief pitcher Zach Brzykey strike out two back-to-back players. After a near-back pick that would have ended the inning, third baseman Jose Sanchez was ejected after arguing that Hot Rods’ Osleives Basabe was out at third during his triple. Basabe would go on to tie the game 2-2 on a line drive from Hernandez.
At the bottom of the ninth and with tensions high, Jordy Barley struck out in six pitches against Peguero. Darren Baker made an aggressive attempt at a double that was unsuccessful and resulted in the Blue Rocks’ second out of the inning. With two outs and a full count, it was Antuna who hit the game-winning home run for a walk-off victory, 3-2. This was Antuna’s second home run of the season.
“I’m putting in more concentration,” Atuna said, regarding his mentality in these high-stakes situations. “The season– it’s early. It’s a long season. So every day we get better.”
Peguero, who gave up five of the Blue Rocks’ 11 hits and three of their runs, was handed the loss. Victory was given to Brzykcy and his four strikeouts.
The Blue Rocks will look to continue their game-winning aggression against the Bowling Green Hot Rods for their fourth game of the series on Friday, May 6, with the first pitch set for 6:35 p.m.
For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.