Cyclones beat Blue Rocks 7-2 in series finale

Kyle Luckham delivers to home plate. Sunday July 9th, 2023. - Staff Photographer / Tyrese Williams

The Wilmington Blue Rocks were unable to secure a series tie against the Brooklyn Cyclones on Sunday, July 9, dropping the series finale by a final score of 7-2.

All day long, the Blue Rocks struggled offensively. Overall, the Rocks struck out 15 times and left 13 men on base.

The performance left Manager Mario Lisson displeased with his team’s approach in the box.

“Not very good,” Lisson said. “We were taking too many fastballs for strikes, and we got in trouble. We gotta get on the fastball, that’s where we’re gonna make our money.”

Despite the less-than-stellar numbers, Wilmington had a prime chance to light up the scoreboard in the bottom of the third. With Jared McKenzie stepping up to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs, he ripped a ball deep to center field. Alex Ramirez made a fantastic play, however, leaping over the wall and robbing McKenzie of his fourth round-tripper of the year.

Lisson shared his reaction to the acrobatic catch.

“A great play,” Lisson said. “Nothing you can do about it, just keep hitting it.”

Aside from the offensive struggles, one bright spot for the Blue Rocks on Sunday was pitcher Kyle Luckham. After tossing six innings of one-run ball on Tuesday against the Cyclones, Luckham was equally dominant on Sunday, going six innings, allowing just three hits and one run while striking out three.

Luckham spoke about his approach heading into his second start of the week against Brooklyn.

“Same approach,” Luckham said. “Threw well against them early in the week, they still have to beat my best pitches. Made a few adjustments with some guys, but for the most part was just going in there and challenging them.”

Back in May, the 23-year-old right hander endured a bit of a rough stretch. From May 12 to May 24, Luckham allowed a total of 13 earned runs through three outings, ballooning his ERA to 4.11. Since then, he’s allowed one earned run or less in five of seven starts.

The 2022 fifteenth-round pick discussed how he’s been able to turn it around.

“Just focusing on pitch-by-pitch,” Luckham said. “Not trying to think too far ahead and look into the sixth inning before we’re there. So kind of just taking it a pitch at a time, and really just winning each pitch and give us a chance to win.”

Luckham’s dominance allowed Wilmington to carry a 2-1 lead into the fourth inning, but for the third time in the series, the bullpen allowed a late lead to slip away in the late innings.

Lisson knows what he needs to see out of his relievers moving forward.

“Throw strikes, get ahead in the count,” Lisson said. “That’s when we get the best out of them.”

The All-Star break has now arrived for the Blue Rocks, as the team will get four days off before returning to the field against Aberdeen on Friday, July 14. Lisson shared the message he’s sending to his team ahead of the break.

“Rest up,” Lisson said. “Make sure that when you come back, you’re ready to compete and fight for games. That’s the main goal.”

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