Starting pitching shines for Blue Rocks and Cyclones in Thursday’s Matchup

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Blue Rocks pitcher Dustin Saenz delivers to home. Thursday, May 11th, 2023.- Staff Photographer / Tyrese Williams

In a series headlined by offense and crooked run totals, Thursday’s matchup between the Wilmington Blue Rocks (14-15) and Brooklyn Cyclones (11-16) favored a classic pitchers duel, and starters Dustin Saenz and Cameron Foster delivered.

In his last outing, Saenz dominated the game tallying a career-high nine strikeouts and only surrendering one hit in six innings of work against the Hudson Valley Renegades. His command carried over into Thursday’s start, striking out six batters, allowing only three hits, and surrendering an unearned run in the top of the sixth, breaking the scoreless tie.

“[We were] establishing the corners in and out and make sure we were getting ahead [in the count], that was a big part of it,” said catcher Caleb Farmer about the lefty’s performance. “When we got ahead, we were able to expand with his offspeed.”

The Cyclones’ aggressive approach at the plate did wonders for Saenz when throwing his changeup, which he located consistently in the lower third of the strike zone. When throwing it ahead in the count after his fastball, Brooklyn hitters were consistently thrown off by the change in velocity and late drop.

Brooklyn pitcher Cameron Foster began the season working in relief for the Cyclones, but has been starting ever since his last outing in April. His command was in step with Saenz, as he had Blue Rocks hitters off-balance through his scoreless five innings of work.

“I think we were just pressing too hard,” Farmer said. “It’s kind of been the motto this whole year.”

Foster conceded five hits and two walks Thursday but received help from poor baserunning on the part of the Blue Rocks. Three runners were caught stealing by the end of the fourth inning, including one off of a pick-off attempt from the Cyclones’ arm.

Foster finished his outing without allowing a run for the first time this season. He was relieved by Joshua Cornielly in the bottom of the sixth, holding a one-run lead after William Lugo scored on a throwing error by Nick Shumpert in the top half of the inning.

The Blue Rocks broke even in the bottom of the seventh as Farmer blasted a solo home run into the left-field bullpen, locking the game at 1-1.

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“I thought I was seeing the ball well early in the night, just wasn’t on time, so. I just tried to make a little bit of an adjustment starting a little bit earlier, a little sooner, and was able to get my pitch,” Farmer said.

The Blue Rocks had a chance to take the lead in the eighth inning following a lead-off double from shortstop Jordy Barley. Despite a clean sacrifice bunt from Viandel Pena to move him to third with only one out, Cornielly was able to pitch a shallow flyout and groundout to end the chance.

Unfortunately, Farmer’s swing was the only source of offense for Wilmington, as Cyclones relievers Cornielly and Kolby Kubicheck limited the damage. Brooklyn took the lead in the top of the ninth inning in the wake of an RBI double from Chase Estep. Cyclones win 2-1 and even the series at two wins a piece. They will be back at it on Friday at 6:35 p.m.

“I mean it’s still early in the year we’ll figure it out,” Farmer said. “We just got to start getting some rallies going and get some great pitches to hit.”

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