The Wilmington Blue Rocks and the Aberdeen IronBirds faced off for the third-straight night on Thursday, June 23, as Wilmington looked to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their six-game series.
The result was just that, with the Blue Rocks ultimately taking the win by a final score of 1-0 in what was a pitcher’s duel all night long.
There was little to no offensive action in this game up until the bottom of the eighth inning. Both starting pitchers, Matt Harvey for the IronBirds and Tim Cate for the Blue Rocks, shut the opposing lineup down and the bullpen on both sides did their job.
“They were pitching well, you have to give them credit,” Manager Mario Lisson said in reference to the offense. “Obviously you want to get hits and runs every night, but it’s a competition.”
Harvey, pitching in his first game since September 2021 due to suspension, tossed a solid game in his return to the pros, going six innings while allowing four hits, zero runs, and striking out four Blue Rocks batters. Cate returned the favor, however, tossing seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits, two walks, and striking out eight.
Lisson had high praise for Cate after the win.
“Outstanding, that’s what he can do,” Lisson said. “Good curveball, good fastball, good changeup. That’s what he does.”
In what was a scoreless game heading into the aforementioned bottom of the eighth, the Blue Rocks struck first, scoring the only run of the ballgame thanks to an RBI single by Jose Sanchez that scored Jeremy Ydens. Sanchez got an opportunity to bat following a battle at the plate by Cole Daily in the previous at-bat, which resulted in a walk. Sanchez cashed in on the opportunity and emerged as the hero.
Every single player that stepped up to the plate in the eighth battled like the season was on the line, and Lisson was very pleased with that as well as the outcome of the inning.
“That’s what we try to do, compete in every at-bat and fight,” Lisson said. “Jeremy [Ydens] with a big at-bat, got on base, then a big stolen base. Then Daily, with a great at-bat, set the table for Sanchez, who’s swinging the bat well.”
In the bottom of the ninth, pitcher Malvin Pena got an early birthday present, shutting the door on the IronBirds and recording his first save of the season.
Another unique storyline from this game is that of Jarrett Gonzalez, who in his first start of the season, recorded the first hit of his professional career. It was a great moment for Gonzalez and the team.
“Outstanding day for him, man,” Lisson said. “We’re very proud of him, he works very hard. He got the start today, and he did an outstanding job. We’re all very proud of him.”
The Blue Rocks have now recorded four straight wins, tied for their longest of the season, and they will be looking to make it a season-high five straight in game four against Aberdeen on Friday, June 24.
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