Luke Young shines in Blue Rocks’ win over Drive

Luke Young gets ready to deliver the pitcher. Young recorded eight strikeouts in six scoreless innings. - Friday, April 19, 2024. - Photo via Payton Tuorto

Bolstered by a great pitching performance, the Wilmington Blue Rocks took down the Greenville Drive by a score of 5-3 in the fourth game of this six-game set on Friday, April 19.

Toeing the slab for Wilmington was right-hander Luke Young, who was making his third High-A start of his career. In his first two starts, Young totaled six strikeouts in 9.1 innings of work, while allowing nine hits and four runs, leading to one key observation between the difference in Low-A and High-A.

“Hitters are better for sure, that’s for sure,” Young said with a laugh.

However, tonight, Young had his way with the Drive’s hitters, throwing six shutout innings and striking out eight, while allowing just five baserunners. Only one of the five base runners made it into scoring position against Young.

“He was very good,” manager Mario Lisson said. “Attacking the strike zone with everything that he had, mixing very well. Kept them off balance and kept them in check and honest, that’s what he does. He throws a lot of strikes and fills the strike zone with all of his pitches.”

A large part of his success was due to the command of his curveball and fastball. As Lisson alluded to, he fired 50 of his 76 pitches in for strikes, with an emphasis on attacking righties inside and working away from lefties.

“We all talk,” Young said. “Me, him [pitching coach Mark DeFelice], [catcher] Max [Romero Jr.], and some pitchers, we all bounce off each other. That’s just what we figured worked best today so that’s what we attacked with.”

After retiring the side in order to open the game, the Blue Rocks gave Young some instant run support. Daylen Lile smoked a ball into the right-center field gap for a triple and then scored a pitch later after Drive starter Connelly Early balked. Later that inning, Branden Boissiere reached base after a catcher’s interference, which was the Drive’s second one in as many games.

“With the catcher’s interference, you’ve kind of seen that a lot throughout the game because the catchers are trying to steal pitches, so they really get close to the batter nowadays,” Lisson said. “We have been on the good side of it. We’re going to take advantage of that as much as we can.”

This was all the offensive action until the fourth when John McHenry recorded the first hit of his High-A career with a single through the left side. Drive shortstop Luis Ravelo made a great play to get to the ball deep in the hole, but his throw didn’t have enough on it to beat out the speeding McHenry.

“It felt good,” McHenry said. “Obviously I didn’t get off to the best start in High-A but once I saw that ball go through, it was time to go.”

McHenry showcased his speed during the following at-bat by stealing second, which ultimately led to a run after Marcus Brown hit a single through the right side to score him and make it 2-0. 

“He’s a scrappy player,” Lisson said of McHenry. “He comes in and fights in at-bats. He’s played solid defense. That’s what we want, to take competitive at-bats and give us a shot. He had two good ABs [at-bats] today, one of them was really good and ended up in a run, so that’s what we want.”

The duo, which locked down the left side of the diamond defensively, also got the scoring started in the sixth after McHenry recorded his second single of the game and Brown got hit by a pitch. Both players would come around to score after Viandel Pena ripped a double down the left-field line. 

After shortstop Sammy Infante went down with a lower-body injury on Thursday, both McHenry and Brown should see an uptick in playing time, and so far, they’ve made the most of the opportunity.

“It’s all in the preparation,” McHenry said. “When that number is called, or if I know I’m in the game prior to the game, it’s the same thing every day, so when it’s time to go it’s just the same as it’s been before. I believe that you don’t have to get ready if you just stay ready.”

McHenry and the rest of the Rocks will look to stay ready for the final two games of this series, with the next one scheduled for Saturday, April 20 at 6:05 p.m. 

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