Blue Rocks fall to the IronBirds in a pitcher’s duel

Riley Cornelio gets ready to deliver the pitch. Cornelio allowed two runs in five innings. - Wednesday, June 19, 2024. / Photo via Ryan Griffith

After a win last night, the Wilmington Blue Rocks looked to go up two in their series against the Aberdeen IronBirds. Unfortunately for the Rocks, they fell by a score of 2-1.

Riley Cornelio got the start on the bump for Wilmington. He did not have his best stuff throughout the day but was able to pitch five innings while giving up only two runs.

“They just gotta keep competing out there,” Lisson said. “You are not always going to have your best stuff going, and he did a good job of just battling out there. Just kept getting outs. Just two runs, so just a good job overall.”

Cornelio’s biggest flaw in this start was his command. He walked five of the IronBirds batters throughout the game.

“Obviously a night where I was really struggling,” Cornelio said. “[Matt] Suggs picked me up; he threw out two baserunners after two of my walks. It is very big for me, our defense continues to pick me up.”

Matt Suggs did help control the run game, throwing out two of the seven runners stealing. Enrique Bradfield, the Orioles’ No. 5 prospect, was able to steal four bases.

“They are a good running team,” Cornelio said. “Sometimes going to the slide step can jeopardize pitch accuracy. For the most part, I am an offspeed guy, so it makes it tough on the catchers to throw them out. The more I could get the ball around the strike zone, the more they were able to throw them out. Kudos to those guys; I did not do good enough today.”

Bradfield laid a bunt down on the first pitch of the game and was able to reach first safely. This caused third baseman Gavin Dugas to play in, and it worked when Bradfield popped it up right at Dugas in the top of the seventh.

“He is a great athlete; he plays the game fast,” Dugas said. “He has got the tools to run, he will put the ball down if he can, he is a good player, and you just gotta be aware.”

The Blue Rocks’ only run came in the bottom of the third. It all started with a Dugas single; then Elijah Nunez walked, and a Johnathon Thomas single loaded the bases for Viandel Pena. Pena grounded into a double play, but since there were no outs, it allowed the run to score.

Starter Luis De León was lights-out from that point on for the IronBirds.

Michael Forret came in for relief and pitched three strong innings for Aberdeen. He had eight strikeouts and picked up the win.

“He was just throwing strikes,” Dugas said. “When a pitcher is throwing around the zone, it is just really hard to hit sometimes.”

The Blue Rocks threatened to tie up the game in the bottom of the eighth after Nunez, Thomas, and Pena all reached base safely. This brought up Kevin Made, who hit the ball hard but right back at the pitcher, who caught the ball and made a heads-up play to double up Nunez at third.

“It was perfectly hit to where the pitcher’s glove was,” Lisson said. “We just have to do better with baserunning; we were a little bit too aggressive at that point. It is all part of baseball, we have to learn from this and move forward.”

Joe Naranjo was also unable to come through on a groundout that was too short to end the eighth. That would be the last time the Rocks would threaten to score.

The biggest problem for Wilmington throughout the game was the difference in walks and strikeouts between the two teams. Aberdeen walked 11 times while striking out 10 times. On the flip side, Wilmington struck out 15 times and walked just four times.

The Blue Rocks will play the final game of the first half against Aberdeen tomorrow, Thursday, June 20.

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