Blue Rocks sweep Saturday double-header, win series against IronBirds

Rocky Bluewinkle is all smiles during the double-header sweep. Thursday, April 27, 2023. - Staff Photographer / Joe Capuyan

The Wilmington Blue Rocks (10-9) leaped above .500 after sweeping their Saturday double-header against the Aberdeen IronBirds (7-12). 

In game one, the Rocks would jump out to an early lead and never look back. A one-out single from Jacob Young was followed up with an RBI double off the bat of James Wood, who had a big day at the plate in both games, to make it 1-0 and spark a three-run first inning. 

The Rocks sent Dustin Saenz out to start the first game and he was sensational, going 5.0 innings and allowing one run on three hits while striking out six and walking none. 

“The approach coming in was just to give my team a chance to win,” Saenz said. “Throw strikes, give my infield a chance and get them work and my outfield some work but overall it felt good.”

The win would be Saenz’ first win of the season, which he credits to building confidence and a certain pitch combination.

“Just more confidence, being here and getting a feel for everything,” Saenz said. “My changeup is helping a lot too, playing that off of my fastball has been really good work so far.”

In the bottom of the fifth, Young would blast a solo home run into the left field bullpen for an insurance run. In the top half of the sixth, IronBirds second baseman Max Wagner scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-2, making Young’s home run more valuable for Tyler Schoff who came in for the five-out save. 

In game two, the teams would see a different start but the same result as the Blue Rocks climbed back to sweep the double-header.

After a quick 1-2-3 first inning from Blue Rocks starter Kyle Luckham, the IronBirds got things going in the second with a two-out rally. After catcher Adam Retzbach drew a walk with one out, first baseman Isaac De Leon flew out to center field. With two outs, Luckham would surrender back-to-back singles to bring home Retzbach and make it 1-0.

Luckham would settle in after that inning, only allowing one more run in the third off an RBI double from right fielder Dylan Beavers. Luckham would go 4.0 innings, allowing two runs on five hits while allowing one walk and striking out eight. 

“It [pitching] was good,” manager Mario Lisson said. “Saenz did a good job attacking the strike zone… Luckham too, attacking the strike zone with two-seams and doing a good job.”

After going down 2-0, the Rocks were only able to muster up two hits through four innings. In the fifth, the bats would wake up. A leadoff double off the bat of shortstop Jordy Barley sparked a three-run inning that was capped off by a go-ahead two-run home run from James Wood that silenced “overrated” chants from visiting fans.. 

“It felt pretty good,” Wood said. “I was a little nervous there, the dude almost caught it when he jumped up… It was a big hit, obviously it gave us the lead…Big win for sure.”

Internally, Wood might have felt nervous but externally, he was anything but. After making contact Wood stared into his dugout, flipped his bat and let out an emphatic “let’s go!” 

“We’re just trying to string some wins together here,” Wood said. “I just had to find a way to hype my team up and be able to take the lead, I was just excited about that.”

In the sixth, Lucas Knowles would strike out the side and in the seventh, Jack Sinclair was sent in to shut it down and complete the comeback win. 

“We’re always going to be fighting no matter what,” Lisson said. “We’re gonna be competing night in and night out.”

The Rocks walk away with a series win with Sunday’s series finale being postponed due to inclement weather. Sunday’s game will be made up on June 21, where the two teams will play two seven-inning games with the first game beginning at 5:00 pm. 

The Rocks will now travel to Fishkill, New York to take on the Hudson Valley Renegades in a six game series that begins on Tuesday, May 2.