Blue Rocks can’t complete the comeback, fall to Drive for first home loss of the year

Andry Lara delivers the pitch. Lara struck out seven in 2.2 innings of work. - Friday, April 5, 2024. Photo via Payton Tuorto

The Wilmington Blue Rocks fought hard but were unable to muster up enough runs to come back in the 7-5 loss against the Greenville Drive on Wednesday, April 17.  

Blue Rocks starter Andry Lara started off great, striking out the side in the top of the second en route to five strikeouts in his first seven batters.

Two errors and three singles hurt the Blue Rocks in the third, setting them behind 3-0. All three runs were unearned due to the errors.

“Pitch count went up man,” manager Mario Lisson said. “He was doing a good job, the defense kind of missed some routine plays and we paid for it.”

Lara was pulled with 67 pitches before the third inning would conclude. In the bottom half of the inning, the Blue Rocks loaded the bases, something they did four times in the contest. A balk from Drive starter J.D Encarnacion scored Viandel Pena to cut the lead to 3-1.

“We want to cash those in,” Lisson said. “We had a bunch of runners on base, we just couldn’t get the big hit early in the game. Even throughout the game, we had a bunch of opportunities, but we just couldn’t get those runs in.”

Nick Pogue entered in relief to try and mitigate the damage, but the fourth inning was more trouble.  Pogue couldn’t stop the surge, giving up three straight hits and a sacrifice fly to make the game 6-1. 

After Marlon Perez gave up a solo home run to his first batter in the fifth, he, Wander Arias, and Brendan Collins shut down the Drive for the remainder of the game, giving up no runs and only one hit the rest of the way.  

“When they give a chance to stay in the game like they did today,” Lisson said. “We had the tying run on base in I think the seventh. That’s what we wanted; they can hold the game for us to come back.”

The Blue Rocks started rumbling back, securing two runs in the sixth on a fielder’s choice from Johnathon Thomas and a throwing error on a Thomas’ steal attempt that brought home Pena from third.  

After his walk-off in the first game of the series, Pena continued his hot streak, going 2-2 with two walks, two runs and two RBI. His RBI came on a two-run single, in a two-strike count that cut the lead to 7-5.  You could sense another huge comeback win in the air.  

“Just quality at-bats and fight man,” Lisson said. “It’s not easy trying to stay alive with two strikes.  Just find a way to put the ball in play and good things will happen.”

Solid relief pitching kept them in the game, but Wilmington just left too many opportunities on the bases earlier in the game. After three walk-offs this early in the season, it wasn’t in the cards for the Blue Rocks, as they went 1-2-3 in each of the final two innings, crushing their hopes of another magic finish.

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