In a tense, 11-inning battle between the Wilmington Blue Rocks and the Aberdeen IronBirds, the Blue Rocks would fall just short of success after the IronBirds broke a late-game tie to win 3-2.
Wilmington would score the first run of the night in the bottom of the first after Yasel Antuna hit his fourth home run of the season during the Blue Rocks’ third at-bat.
“I come, every day, to the field to do my best,” Antuna said. “So today, the pitcher threw a pitch for me and I put in my best swing.”
As the top-ranked team in the South Atlantic League, the IronBirds couldn’t allow for Wilmington to hold onto the 1-0 lead for too long. After Donta’ Williams reached on a throwing error by third baseman José Sánchez, he was batted in by Davis Tavarez on a line drive to center field, tying the game 1-1.
The next three innings would remain scoreless for both teams, although the IronBirds would come close at the top of the third if not for a quick throw from center fielder Jeremey Ydens to second baseman Cole Daily before reaching catcher Onix Vega and tagging Colton Cowser out at home.
It was Omar Meregildo that secured the 2-1 lead for the Blue Rocks after he hit a ground-rule double towards left field to send Ricardo Méndez home.
“For me it’s the same– the same approach,” Meregildo said. “Every at-bat, nobody on base, standing on base. It’s the same [approach every time].”
The IronBirds would take until the top of the ninth to respond to Wilmington’s lead, when Darell Hernaiz tripled on a fly ball to right field before coming home after Cowser ground out, tying the game 2-2.
With the Blue Rocks unable to capitalize in the bottom of the ninth, the game quickly progressed to its tenth inning. Although the IronBirds came close to scoring in the top of the tenth, an obstructive play occurred when pinch-runner Billy Cook nearly collided with shortstop Jordy Barley as he attempted to stop a line drive hit by Williams. This invalidated the two runs the IronBirds had made simultaneously and led to Cook recording the innings first out.
However, neither team was able to use this extra inning nor their runner placed on second base to end the game.
The runner on base would come in handy for the IronBirds at the top of the eleventh, as Hernaiz singled on a ground ball to center field and sent Tavarez home to give Aberdeen the 3-2 lead.
After two consecutive strikeouts from relief pitcher Xavier Moore against Wilmington, Moore and IronBirds’ catcher Ramon Rodriguez walked Meregildo to prevent him from driving in another run.
“I think it’s a little respect for me [from the IronBirds],” Meregildo said. “In the beginning of the series I bat very, very well. So [this at-bat] the catcher, he said go to first.”
Kevin Strohschein would be the Blue Rocks’ final hitter for the night, hitting a ground out after just two pitches and ending the game in the IornBirds’ favor, 3-2.
Moore’s final strikeouts and 16 strikes thrown over 22 pitches would lead to his first win of the season while Wilmington’s final pitcher, Garvin Alston, and the run he gave up at the top of the eleventh would earn him the loss.
Despite missing the chance to tie this series with this loss, the Wilmington Blue Rocks will look to end their week on a high note on Sunday, May 28, when they take on the Aberdeen IronBirds for the final time this series at 1:05 p.m.
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