Robert Hassell III Plays a Key Role in Wilmington Blue Rocks Victory

Robert Hassell III waits for Yasel Antuna at the plate after his home run. Hassell and Antuna recorded a combined total of five hits and five RBIs in their Friday night victory. Friday, August 12, 2022. - Staff Photographer / Tyrese Williams

The Wilmington Blue Rocks stepped on the field Friday, August 12, looking to get back in the win column. After an action-packed night and even a little drama, the home team did just that, defeating the Brooklyn Cyclones 7-1.

It was an outing this team absolutely needed to pick themselves up after dropping two in a row. Their offense finally got a boost of energy with practically everyone in the lineup contributing to their 11 hits and their pitchers were able to shut down Brooklyn throughout the whole night.

“It was a good team win,” Blue Rocks’ Developmental Coach Mark Harris said. “The pitching was outstanding for us, it gave us a chance to stay in the game.”

Performances from some of the top prospects in the Washington Nationals farm system was what really put the Blue Rocks over the edge Friday night, the biggest one coming from their brand-new No. one prospect, Robert Hassell III.

Hassell went three for four in the matchup, recording his first multi-hit game since joining the team last week, with three hits and two RBIs.

“It was good, I just told myself coming into yesterday’s game I felt a lot better at the plate, back to myself, but just to simplify things,” Hassell said. “This is a pitcher’s field, Aberdeen was kind of a pitcher’s field, it plays bigger, but just telling myself to be ok with the singles I’m hitting, just hit the ball hard somewhere and it happened tonight and it was good, good result.”

Along with Hassell, the second highest ranked prospect with the Blue Rocks, Yasel Antuna, led the offense with two hits, one being a home run to right center field. 

Starting the night on the mound was another young, top 30 prospect in Wilmington, Dustin Saenz, who went six full innings with only one run and four hits allowed. 

The high level of play on the field for the Blue Rocks almost overshadowed the fact they played without their manager, Mario Lisson, for six innings. Lisson was ejected from the game after Wilmington’s three run third inning.

The Blue Rocks had Hassel at second base and Drew Millas at first with two outs when Antuna hit a single to center field that looked to have the potential to bring in a fourth run. As Hassell was nearing home, Millas was tagged out a third, ending the inning before he could touch the plate according to home plate umpire Nicholas Mull. 

“That’s on me, I got to be running hard all the way there. That’s a play when I’m rounding third base, I got to be looking at the fielding, knowing the play, knowing if there is going to be a play at third base and running all the way through that,” Hassell said. “I don’t know if I was safe, I know my manager [Lisson] thought I touched the plate before but who knows.”

Lisson made it very clear that he thought Hassell made it home in time, and after less than a minute of arguing with Mull over the call, was thrown out. Mark Harris took over Lisson’s duties the rest of the night.

The change did not slow down the team one bit as they went on to add on four more runs with Harris at the helm. Overall, it was a very consistent game offensively, something they hadn’t had since the series opener on Tuesday night. 

“It’s something that we stride to do. I think it really helps when guys get more confidence as they go and they feed off each other and the offense gets going,” Harris said. “Tonight, we put some hits together, plus it was good to get Robert Hassell going. You know he had three hits and you know he excites you when he’s on the bases and makes things happen.”

The Blue Rocks hope to keep this success going as they head into the final two games of the series tied with Brooklyn 2-2.

“Just take it at-bat for at-bat. You know, me for example, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a couple times where I went up to my next at-bat thinking about the previous one,” Hassell said. “So just getting over those sort of things… I see the talent from both sides of the ball, so as long as the pitching and the hitting, we get a little something going every game on the offensive side and the pitching is going to settle on, we play together like that, that’s how we’re going to win games.”

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