Jared McKenzie is inevitable: Blue Rocks walk-off Cyclones for the second straight game

The Blue Rocks swarm Jared McKenzie following his second straight walk-off. - Sunday, April 7, 2024 / Photo via Payton Tuorto

The fireworks continued for the Wilmington Blue Rocks on Sunday, April 7, as they defeated the Brooklyn Cyclones in ten innings by a final score of 1-0 to sweep the series and start the season 3-0 for the first time in over 20 years.

As the final score indicates, this game was a pitcher’s duel for its entirety. In his A+ debut, Wilmington starter Luke Young pitched five innings, allowing just four hits, and struck out four.

Blue Rocks manager Mario Lisson couldn’t have been more pleased with what Young brought to the table.

“Very good, very poised on the mound,” Lisson said. “Attacking hitters, breaking ball was good, threw some good changeups. He did a good job, man, and he has to continue to do that.”

Cyclones’ starter Calvin Ziegler was just as dominant, pitching four hitless innings while striking out nine of the 12 batters he faced. The 21-year-old’s masterful performance caused the Blue Rocks to fail to record a hit through four innings for the second consecutive game.

“That’s baseball, man. It’s hard to hit,” Lisson said. “We’d like to get hits all the time, but the reality is it’s very difficult. Their guy was mixing very well, had good stuff, so we had a little trouble with it. Our pitchers did a good job of giving us a chance to stay in the game; a one-run game when you have no offense is pretty good.”

“The first guy today was really good,” said Jared McKenzie, who went 1-3 on the day. “I think he punched out eight of us in a row, he had really good stuff. Thankfully he only went four; our pitching kept us in the ballgame, and we got an opportunity to score.”

Although Young only went four innings, that didn’t stop Wilmington from keeping Brooklyn off the scoreboard. The Rocks’ bullpen was shut down once again, as Wander Arias, Marlon Perez, and Todd Pederson combined for five innings pitched, one hit allowed, and six strikeouts. Throughout the team’s first three games, the pen has combined for 14 innings, seven hits, one run, and 16 strikeouts.

When his bullpen is as effective as it’s been, Lisson feels the ultimate freedom in how he can manage his starters.

“We still want our starters to go; especially early, we want to see them compete and go out there and see what they can do,” Lisson said. “It is really nice to have the bullpen that we have right now. A lot of trustworthy arms with good stuff, they’ve been doing a good job for us.”

After a scoreless nine innings, the game went into an extra frame, and Jared McKenzie got his chance to shine once again. Less than 24 hours after blasting a walk-off bomb over the right field wall, the 22-year-old stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the tenth and poked a deep fly ball to left field, allowing Johnathon Thomas to score from third and winning the game for the Blue Rocks.

“It’s pretty fun, especially this early in the year,” McKenzie said. “Got the opportunity again; if I wasn’t gonna do it, Max [Romero Jr.] was gonna do it before, so it’s pretty cool.”

As previously mentioned, the Blue Rocks are off to a tremendous start as they prepare for their first road trip of the year against Aberdeen. Shooting out of the gates comes as no surprise to Lisson though, who saw major potential in his team during Spring Training.

“We’re still gonna continue to work; I think we had a really good Spring Training, our kids are ready to compete,” Lisson said. “But we’ll still take our days off, they’re always good.”

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