All season long, the Wilmington Blue Rocks have not shied away from the big moment. That was once again the case on Wednesday, May 24, as the Rocks dug their way out of a 7-0 deficit to walk-off the Hudson Valley Renegades 10-9 in ten innings.
“Getting guys on base, quality at-bats,” Manager Mario Lisson said in reference to what sparked the comeback. “Early in the game, we were out of our approach. We got back to our approach, and that’s when we’re most successful. Props to the guys for getting back to that approach in the second half of the game and being able to come back.”
As can be interpreted, Wilmington did not kick off this game on the right foot. Starting pitcher Kyle Luckham ran into some early trouble, struggling to find his command and giving up five earned runs through two innings pitched. Overall, the Rocks found themselves down seven after the fourth inning.
The fifth inning is where the tide began to turn. After Erick Mejia crossed the plate thanks to a wild pitch, James Wood stepped up to the dish and crushed a two-run home run to deep right field, his sixth of the year, which cut the deficit to 7-3.
Overall on the day, Wood went 3-5 at the plate with two RBI and that long ball, which marks two straight games since coming home to Frawley Stadium in which Wood has recorded multiple hits. The 20-year-old described his mindset at the dish with the weather getting warmer and the team approaching midseason.
“I’m just trying to stay consistent,” Wood said. “Stick to my plan, go up there with a plan and try my best to execute.”
According to Lisson, the Rocks’ lineup would not be the same without him, and noted the Nationals’ No. 1 ranked prospect’s impact is second to none.
“He’s very talented,” Lisson said. “As long as he sticks to his approach and stays in the strike zone, he has a good opportunity to do damage. And when he gets his pitches, he does.”
Although they were down, everyone in the Rocks’ dugout knew they were not out. Lisson’s team has often displayed a ‘bend don’t break’ mentality this season, as Wednesday’s win marked one of many come-from-behind wins that Wilmington has conducted this season.
“We knew it wasn’t over,” Wood said. “We have a lot of guys who have been swinging hot bats, we just had to string some hits together… Being down 7-0, obviously you’re struggling the first three or four innings to get something on the board. We were just trying to get on base and get something going, and we were able to do that.”
Down 9-4 following the top of the sixth, the Blue Rocks were able to tack on three runs in the bottom half of the inning to make it 9-7, and two more in the seventh inning to tie it at nine and send the game to extras.
Then, it was Jeremy De La Rosa’s time to shine. After a masterful pitching display by Tyler Yankosky to keep Hudson Valley off the board in the top of the tenth, De La Rosa came up with two men on and knocked a single up the middle, scoring James Wood and sending the fans home happy.
“Really nice, that’s a great feeling with the team,” De La Rosa said. “My team is proud of me, you know? It’s a really good feeling.”
De La Rosa was also left in awe of the Rocks’ resilience in the midst of the comeback.
“Stay fighting, every time,” De La Rosa said. “Don’t throw any at-bats away, don’t throw any pitches away. We stay focused every pitch, every at-bat, and that’s successful.”
A big reason why Wilmington found themselves in a big hole early in the game was the Renegades’ three and four hitters, Aaron Palensky and Spencer Henson. Palensky and Henson went a combined 7-12 at the plate with four RBIs, two walks and six runs scored.
Despite their big day, Lisson noticed great things out of his pitchers late in the game that he believes can be useful as the series continues.
“[Todd] Peterson and [Tyler] Yankosky did a great job of attacking early in the count and not missing spots,” Lisson said. “Earlier, they were getting good pitches to hit. We made the adjustment and got them out when we needed it most.”
Although Wilmington’s offense kicked off the game, and the series, on the wrong foot, they were able to pick it up in the second half of this game en route to the win. Wood noticed positive signs that the team can take with them into the remainder of the series.
“We can take those last six innings and continue to build off that,” Wood said. “Just keep the momentum, keep swinging the way we’ve been swinging.”
The Blue Rocks will look to gain the upper hand in the series in game three on Thursday, May 25 at 6:35 p.m.
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