Paul Witt helps guide the Blue Rocks to a 4-1 win over the Renegades

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Paul Witt high-fives manager Mario Lisson after hitting a home run. Witt went 2-3 with 2 RBI in the Blue Rocks win on Thursday. - Thursday, May 2, 2024 / Photo via Ryan Griffith

After dropping the first two games of the series against the Hudson Valley Renegades (14-9), the Wilmington Blue Rocks (14-10) got back in the win column on Thursday, May 2 after a 4-1 win over the Renegades.

Hudson Valley got on the board first after Rocks’ starter Riley Cornelio ran into some trouble in the third inning. After Cole Gabrielson drew a leadoff walk, Kyle Battle hit a ball up the middle that just went off the glove of the outstretched shortstop Marcus Brown and into center field, allowing Gabrielson to advance to third. 

On the very next pitch, Cornelio spiked a ball into the dirt, allowing Gabrielson to cross home and give the Renegades a 1-0 lead. This would be the most trouble he’d run into all night though, as Cornelio didn’t allow anyone else to get into scoring position the rest of his night, which lasted 5.2 innings. 

“He mixed it very well,” Manager Mario Lisson said. “He was throwing quality strikes, that was the key; staying off the middle of the plate and mixing very well, he kept them off balance.”

The five and two thirds that Cornelio gave the team was crucial seeing as how the team used eight different relievers during the first two games of the series. He finished the night allowing just seven baserunners and struck out six. 

“I think that was the primary goal,” Cornelio said of pitching deep into the game. “Just trying to make the pitches as best I can.”

Hudson Valley’s lead didn’t survive the third inning, as Renegades starter Sebastian Keane failed to record the shutdown inning. With one out in the third and the count sitting at 1-2, Paul Witt recorded the first hit of the day for the Blue Rocks with a towering fly ball that went into the Renegades bullpen to tie it at one. 

“Just trying to let the ball get in deep,” Witt said. “Two strikes, you just got to fight. He gave me a good pitch, I reacted, and got a good swing on it.”

For Witt, the home run was just his fourth hit of the young MiLB season. On April 23, he was sent down from AA and entered the night hitting just .125 with a .222 OBP and one RBI.

“Just got to solidify the little things,” Witt said. “At this point, everybody can play, so you gotta work on the little things that can keep you up there. Same thing with Triple-A, big leagues, it’s the little things that keep you where you want to be and you just got to be a consistent baseball player.”

Witt made the most of his opportunity at the hot corner, coming up with every ball hit his way and finished the night with a 2-3 performance at the plate. He also drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning with an RBI double, an inning that proved to be the difference in the game, as the Rocks rattled off four straight hits to put Keane on the ropes. 

Then, with a 3-1 lead and runners on second and third, TJ White hit a sacrifice fly to score Branden Boissiere from third and end Keane’s night, as well as provide the game’s final margin. 

“It feels great [to have the bats backing him],” Cornelio said. “They do a great job and I know they were scrapping the last couple of games. Last night, they did a phenomenal job too, so tonight stringing together another great night of ABs, they’ve been getting hot, so it’s very nice.”

After giving up nine runs each of the past two nights, the bullpen went back into their early season form as the duo of Chance Huff and Jaren Zinn combined for 3.1 scoreless innings of work.

“They’ve been pretty good the whole year, you get those one or two days where it happens,” Lisson said. “You got to give them [Renegades] credit too, but today they got it done and hopefully we can continue to go that way.”

After he hit three home runs last night and went 3-6 in the series opener, the pitching staff today was able to shut down Jared Serna, who went just 1-4 with a leadoff single in the seventh inning. 

“Yesterday and the day before there were a lot of pitches in the middle of the plate,” Lisson said. “Today, the quality of the strikes were much better and mixing was pretty good too.”

The staff will look to keep Serna and the rest of the Renegades’ hitters at bay tomorrow for the fourth game of this six-game set against Hudson Valley. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.

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