Blue Rocks close out first half with 4-2 win over IronBirds

Bryan Caceres delivers the pitch. Caceres threw five shutout innings in the win. - Thursday, June 20, 2024. / Photo via Ryan Griffith

It was the last day of the first half for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (31-35) and Aberdeen IronBirds (34-32). With both teams eliminated from playoff contention, they both wanted to end the first half on a good note.

The Blue Rocks were able to win this one by a score of 4-2.

For the first five innings of the game, it was a pitching duel between Wilmington’s Bryan Caceres and Aberdeen’s Jackson Baumeister, who was able to keep Wilmington hitless until the fifth inning. This is nothing new for Baumeister, who has one of the best ERAs in High-A with a 2.26.

“He was working with his fastball and curveball throughout the game,” Johnathon Thomas said. “He was trying to get us up in the zone with the fastball, and I was just trying to look at it so I could get some pitches.”

On the other hand, Caceres has struggled for Wilmington throughout the year but had his best start of the season today. After giving up 11 walks the previous night, the team really needed this start from Caceres. While he only had one strikeout, he had his second start of the season where he did not issue a walk, and his third start of the season where he did not allow a run.

“I think he kept the ball in the zone,” development coach Mark Harris said. “He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes, and he looked a lot more focused out there.”

The only time it got a little dicey for Caceres was when the bases were loaded with one out. Carter Young hit a line drive right at Kevin Made, who made the catch and was able to throw over to third to get the force out and end the inning. A similar play happened to Made yesterday, so it must have been nice for him to be on the other end of the play this time.

The first bit of offense for the day for either team was in the bottom of the fifth. Jeremy De La Rosa had an impressive ten-pitch at-bat that ended with a walk. Gavin Dugas followed that up by hitting a single to shortstop Carter Young but used his speed to beat out the throw. The Blue Rocks had some momentum.

“I do believe that hitting is contagious,” Dugas said. “We have a lot of good players on this team, so I give all the credit to those guys.”

Maxwell Romero Jr. then followed it up with a risky bunt with two strikes to advance both runners to scoring position.

“That was on his own,” Harris said. “It obviously proved to be huge for us; that inning we did a lot of good things situationally.”

Aberdeen took Baumeister out of the game after the Romero Jr. bunt. With Baumeister out, the IronBirds put in hard-throwing righty reliever Luis Sanchez. Thomas saw the first pitch and hit a blooper out into right field to plate the first run of the game for the Blue Rocks.

“I know that he throws 98 and 97,” Thomas said. “He was gonna come in and start off with the fastball. I wanted to hop on it and get the job done for the team.”

Elijah Nunez followed that up with a sac fly to make the lead 2-0.

Jeremy De La Rosa put the exclamation mark on this game with a home run to the deepest part of the park in center field in the bottom of the sixth. The ball was hit so hard, that even Dugas knew from the on-deck circle that it was gone.

The Blue Rocks were able to add one more run in the sixth. Dugas was hit by a pitch and stole second. Romero Jr. followed it up with a single to score Dugas.

The IronBirds were able to score two runs across the seventh and eighth innings, but the game never felt within reach for Aberdeen.

Matt Cronin was able to get the save across 1.2 innings of work.

The Blue Rocks will start the second half of the season against Aberdeen. They will be looking to make the postseason with a second-half division title.

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