Blue Rocks hot offense not enough in 10-8 loss to Renegades

Blue Rocks shortstop Erick Mejia receives a throw from the catcher to catch a runner stealing second. Thursday, May 25, 2023. Staff Photographer / Joe Capuyan

The Wilmington Blue Rocks were unable to replicate their magic from Wednesday, being defeated by the Hudson Valley Renegades 10-8 on Thursday, May 25 in game three of the six-game series.

Despite the loss, the offense continued to make strides. Fresh off their ten run performance on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday’s eight run display marked the first time all season that the Rocks’ lineup was able to string together two consecutive eight-run outings.

“We stayed with our approach,” Manager Mario Lisson said. “That’s our key, if we stay with our approach we have a pretty good shot to score runs, and we’re doing that.”

A big reason for that was once again the bat of James Wood. The 20-year-old Wood, who is ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Nationals’ organization, contributed a three-hit performance for the second straight game. 

They were big ones, too. Wood’s RBI single in the first inning opened the scoring, and his two-run bomb in the sixth gave Wilmington their first lead since that first inning. The home run marked Wood’s seventh of the year, and his three RBIs on the night upped his season total to 34.

“Swing’s feeling good, my preparation’s been good,” Wood said. “I’m just going out there and trying to do what I can to help the team win.”

For the past two games, the Blue Rocks have mostly been able to keep pace with the Renegades’ high-powered offense. Although Wilmington knows the lineup they’re facing is dangerous, Wood feels no added pressure within the team to go stride-for-stride with them.

“We just gotta stay focused on what we’re trying to do,” Wood said. “Just try and execute ourselves.”

Wood wasn’t the only member of the Rocks’ lineup to come up with clutch hits on Thursday. With the Rocks down three in the bottom of the third, Will Frizzell came up to the plate and poked an RBI single through the right side, making it a 5-3 game.

That would end up being just the beginning, as Frizzell was at the dish again in the bottom of the fifth and blasted an RBI triple into the left-center field gap to cut the deficit to one. Two batters later, Frizzell was rewarded with a run thanks to a balk by Hudson Valley starter Zach Messinger.

“Whenever you have guys in the lineup doing what James [Wood] is doing, and then you have Trey [Lipscomb] behind me whose been consistent all year, it takes a lot of pressure off me to be on time and have a free and easy swing,” Frizzell said. “It felt really good.”

Overall, Frizzell turned in a 2-4 day with those two RBI. After recording three walks on Wednesday, he believes his patience paid off for him during Thursday’s battle.

“Any time you can walk, I think it’s a win,” Frizzell said. “Just controlling at-bats is really what I’m trying to do. Being in control of each and every one puts me in a good position to hit.”

Although Frizzell is a new member of the squad, he’s mostly seen it all in the minor leagues. The Blue Rocks are the fourth MiLB team that the 24-year-old has been a part of, and ever since the Rocks got shut down in game one of the series, the former eighth-round pick out of Texas A&M has seen the offense evolve in the ensuing two games.

“People are taking walks and everything, but as a whole, our team has a really good morale,” Frizzell said. “Every day, get to the park and everyone is themselves. It puts us in a good opportunity to do well offensively, for sure.”

On the contrary of the offensive explosion, Wilmington’s pitching was subpar. For the second straight game, the starting pitcher for the Blue Rocks failed to make it farther than three innings on the mound. The bullpen did not have their sharpest stuff, either, as Wilmington relievers gave up five earned runs on Thursday after giving up four on Wednesday.

Lisson recognized that the pitching can certainly be better, but was quick to praise Hudson Valley’s deep lineup.

“They’re pretty good hitters over there,” Lisson said. “Sometimes it happens, it’s a part of it. We just gotta keep competing.”

Specifically for the Renegades, Aaron Palensky has been a threat out of the three-hole in the two games he’s played in this series. After going 3-4 with an RBI, two walks and four runs scored on Wednesday, Palensky continued to rake in game three on Thursday, going 3-5 with three RBI and three runs scored. The highlight of his night came in the top of the fifth, where he smashed his 12th home run of the season well over the left field fence.

Lisson knows what his pitchers have to do to contain him as the series progresses.

“We just gotta execute our pitches,” Lisson said. “We’ve missed our spots, and he’s taking advantage of it.”

Despite the loss, a silver lining from this game is the fact that the Blue Rocks found a way to crawl back from a deficit once again. After coming back from a 7-0 deficit on Wednesday, the Rocks found themselves in a 5-2 and a 6-3 hole in the middle stages of Thursday’s game. Although it ultimately ended in a loss, Wilmington slowly chipped away and was never truly out of it.

That has been the case all season long, as the Blue Rocks have willed their way back from countless deficits, with many leading to celebratory walk-off wins. Those are the things that bring teams together, and Wood senses something special about this specific group.

“We just got a lot of fight,” Wood said. “We’ve been down the past two games, we obviously lost today, but we put up a fight each time.”

The Blue Rocks will look to even up the series on Friday, May 26 in game four against the Renegades.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.