Trey Harris plays hero in Blue Rocks comeback win over the IronBirds

Trey Harris celebrates his two-run go-ahead double getting down. Harris went 1-4 in the win on Friday. - Friday, May 17, 2024. / Photo via Ryan Griffith

The Wilmington Blue Rocks (18-17) carried the momentum from Thursday’s doubleheader sweep over the Aberdeen IronBirds (19-18) into the next day, as they took down the IronBirds with a 6-4 come-from-behind victory in front of 5,207 fans, which was the second largest crowd of the season.

The win also marked the team’s 13th at home, which is tied with Aberdeen for the most in the South Atlantic League North Division.

“This is the biggest crowd I’ve seen in a while, at least here,” Maxwell Romero Jr. said. “I know the guys that were here last year said the fans are showing up more, which is really exciting for us as a team…it’s been great. Being able to play in front of Wilmington has been awesome.”

Unfortunately for the fans in attendance, the game didn’t start off the way they may have hoped. Orioles No. 5 prospect Enrique Bradfield Jr. immediately flashed his 80-grade speed on the first at-bat of the game after he turned a single into shallow right-center into a hustle double. From there, his legs helped manufacture the IronBirds’ first run of the game after he stole third and then later scored on a wild pitch.

His legs proved to be a problem for Wilmington all night, as the 22-year-old center fielder recorded six putouts and showcased range, robbing the Blue Rocks of extra base hits all night long. His ability to get a great jump on the ball was one that the players recognized.

“I played with Bradfield for a long time, since we were kids,” Romero said. “He’s a great defender but if the ball goes over him, it doesn’t matter. You can’t defend the wall.”

Aberdeen continued to tack on some more runs in the opening frame after IronBirds’ first baseman Creed Willems hit a two-run home run to deep left-center field off Rocks’ starter Bryan Caceres. Isaac De Leon followed that up with a single through the right side, which led to a mound visit between Caceres, Romero, and pitching coach Mark DiFelice just five batters into the game.

“We just wanted to get him through the game,” Romero said. “My biggest thing with him was getting him through the fifth inning, which we did.”

From that mound visit on, Caceres was lights out. He induced a 4-6-3 inning, ending double play right after, and allowed just three hits, one run, two walks, and struck out six across his final 4.1 innings of work.

“Nice job bouncing back,” Manager, Mario Lisson said. “We talked a little bit in the dugout about being a little bit more aggressive and he followed through. He has good stuff, he just has to be more aggressive with it.”

One aspect that Caceres really cleaned up as his start progressed was his ability to hold baserunners. Through the first three innings, the IronBirds tried to run on Caceres three times and were successful twice, but didn’t attempt to run on him from the fourth inning on. In the third, Jalen Vasquez was sliding into third by the time Romero received the ball at the plate, but Bradfield had struck out to end the inning, so his excellent jump was in vain.

“That’s stuff that we talk about, knowing who’s on the bases,” Lisson said. “They got a couple guys that can run a little bit, so just making sure the times to the plate are consistent so it gives Max [Romero] a chance to throw guys out.”

While Caceres was battling on the bump, IronBirds’ starter Levi Wells was having his way with the Blue Rocks lineup, which produced just one baserunner through the first four innings.

“He was throwing hard,” Trey Harris said with a laugh. “He was throwing really, really hard. A lot of that rise stuff that makes it hard on hitters but I’m glad we stuck with it. They pulled him, that’s on them, and we had fun.”

Wells’ day was done in the fifth after the Blue Rocks finally got to him. Paul Witt got things started with a single to the left side and then advanced to third after a pair of wild pitches. From there, Romero brought Witt home to put the Blue Rocks on the board, and immediately after, TJ White hit an RBI single to score Romero and make it a 3-2 ballgame. 

The real damage wasn’t done until the bottom of the seventh though. With Wilmington down two and the bases loaded and two outs, Daylen Lile, the Rocks’ best hitter, stepped into the box. He immediately found himself down 0-2 but hit the third pitch of the at-bat through the left side to tie the game at four.

“When we don’t give ourselves up in the at-bat, that’s when we have a chance,” Lisson said. “Lile with two strikes, falling down 0-2 right away, called timeout and kind of got it together and was able to get that base hit.”

Then just two pitches later, Harris made everyone in Daniel S. Frawley Stadium erupt with a two-run, go-ahead double that was just over the head of the leaping Elio Prado in right field to give the Blue Rocks a 6-4 lead, which proved to be the difference. When the ball got over Prado’s head, Harris let out a giant fist-pump around first and showed a ton of raw emotion on second. 

“It felt good because I’ve been hitting the ball hard and it’s been getting caught, so to have it get down for the boys, that’s all I ask for,” Harris said. 

“I always play with a lot of emotion because I try to have fun with it but when that ball finally got down, you just know you did what you wanted to do. That shit is hard to do sometimes, so it’s fun when it works out for you the right way,” Harris continued. 

Now with their first lead of the game, Lisson turned to the 25-year-old right-hander Jaren Zinn to close the door, which is exactly what happened. Zinn retired the side in order in the eighth and ninth innings to give the Rocks the win and provide his manager with another option that can fill the void in the closer role, since Todd Peterson was called up to Double-A.

“Our staff has been great, our bullpen has been solid all year round,” Lisson said. “All those guys have the ability to close games. Zinn was very good today, it was probably one of his best outings. Three up, three down both innings is pretty good.”

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