Blue Rocks defeats IronBirds 7-6 in homestand opener

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Jared McKenzie daps up Jose Sanchez as he crosses home plate. Tuesday, June 20, 2023. Staff Photographer / Joe Capuyan

The Wilmington Blue Rocks (29-34) defeated the Aberdeen IronBirds (31-32) 7-6 in a big bounce-back win.

After losing their final two games against the Jersey Shore Blue Claws, the Rocks sent out southpaw Andrew Alvarez to get things back on track.

After a quiet first two innings, Alvarez found himself in trouble in the third after hitting the leadoff batter. Alvarez would surrender an RBI groundout to second base from Orioles number one prospect Jackson Holliday to give the IronBirds an early 1-0 lead. 

Alvarez would only allow one more base runner for the remainder of his outing keeping the IronBirds at bay. 

“Alvy [Andrew Alvarez] did a good job for us,” Blue Rocks manager Mario Lisson said. “He threw six innings really nicely…it’s not as easy as it looks.”

In his last two starts combined, Alvarez has gone 11.0 innings, allowing one run on four hits while walking two and striking out six. 

“I’m just trying to stick to what I’m good at,” Alvarez said. “Just trying to fill up the zone. My defense has been great, I’m getting a lot of ground balls so I gotta give a lot of my success up to them and them having my back.”

On offense, the Rocks would respond in the bottom half of the third. A two-out double for Jose Sanchez was followed up by an RBI single for Viandel Pena to tie the game at one.

The new look Rocks offense seemed to build some chemistry as they would then go on to score in each following innings, feeding off of each other after each at-bat.

“The main thing is setting up a culture,” Lisson said. “When whoever comes in, they know what we’re about, they have to follow the team…Just follow up, follow suit and we’ll be in good shape.”

In the sixth, Will Frizzell led off with a solo home run to deep right field to make it 4-1. In the seventh, Jared McKenzie hit an RBI triple to bring home Pena to make it 5-1 Rocks. 

In the eighth though, the IronBirds would capitalize on a leadoff walk. One batter later, Max Wagner would hit a deep fly ball to left that Yasel Antuna misplayed, leading to a double and the IronBirds being set up with runners on 2nd and 3rd and nobody out. After another RBI groundout for Holliday made the score 5-2, Dylan Beavers drew a walk and Creed Willems blasted a game-tying, three-run home run to right center field to knot the game at five.

The Rocks would respond in their half of the eighth. Back-to-back walks for Jeremy De La Rosa and Antuna made it first and second with one away for the Rocks. After catcher Matt Suggs struck out swinging, hot-hitting first baseman TJ White ripped a go-ahead RBI single down the right field line to bring in De La Rosa and make it 6-5. Sanchez would follow that up with an RBI single of his own to bring in Antuna and give the Rocks a little insurance.

“That was good, we need his [TJ White’s] help,” Lisson said. “He’s a big part of our team and he’s going right now so hopefully he can continue that.” 

In the ninth, the IronBirds would not go down quietly, scoring once more but eventually having the door shut on them by Tyler Schoff. 

The Rocks and IronBirds will play a doubleheader on Wednesday to make up for an April 30 postponement with game one beginning at 5:00 p.m. 

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