The Wilmington Blue Rocks (41-56) dropped their second game in a row to the Hudson Valley Renegades (56-43) on Thursday 6-2, but not before a couple of newcomers made their presence felt.
Rehabbing from an oblique strain suffered in mid-June, Nationals 2016 first-round pick Carter Kieboom joined the Blue Rocks for the early August homestand yet had been taken out of the previous two games early. On Thursday, manager Mario Lisson and the coaching staff at large were willing to see Kieboom go the distance.
“I feel good now, I think it was just a matter of time getting reps back in the game and just seeing pitches,” Kieboom said. “I know things will come back and then you build that trust up again.”
Following two strikeouts, Kieboom’s third and fourth at-bats of the game spoke to the power he hopes to harness once healthy. In the sixth inning, a line-drive solo home run to right-centerfield got the Blue Rocks on the scoreboard, and in the eighth inning, a robbed extra-base hit on an amazing play by Renegades outfielder Spencer Jones at the wall in center field.
“It was really just a matter of continuing to see pitches, get the timing back and then I slowed down in the box,” Kieboom said. “Once I was really able to get some more at-bats under me I started to feel more comfortable.”
In a lineup that struggled on Thursday, debuting second-basemen Cortland Lawson provided a silver lining for Wilmington, tallying two hits and a walk. He would score the Blue Rocks’ second run in the eighth courtesy of an RBI groundout from Daylen Lile.
“It was great being up here,” Lawson said. “I know a lot of guys that are in this club, and it’s just a great day. Didn’t get the win, but the vibes were great.”
In 55 games with the Fredericksburg Nationals (Single-A), Lawson batted .279 with four home runs and 55 runs batted in. Following his High-A debut on Thursday, he hopes to contribute consistently with his hot bat.
“I feel real comfortable at the plate right now,” Lawson said. “I feel like I’m letting the ball travel, letting it get deep in my swing and really laying off pitches I shouldn’t be swinging at, which was kind of my issue earlier [in the season].”
Unfortunately for Blue Rocks starter Kyle Luckham, the Renegades would bring some pop to the plate. A solo home run from Christopher Familia in the fourth, and a three-run home run from Agustin Ramirez in the fifth illustrated the uncomfortable outing for Luckham.
Most notably, a rain-dampened mound had Luckham kneeling to clean off his cleats on multiple occasions. Having never gotten situated, the righty was tacked for four earned runs and three walks in just five innings of work.
The Renegades would add two more runs in the ninth, shaping out their 6-2 victory. They now have the series lead 2-1.
The two squads will battle again on Friday, first pitch at 6:35 p.m.
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