Blue Rocks split second doubleheader of the week against Renegades

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T.J. White loads up at the plate. The 20-year-old went 1-2 with an RBI double in Game 2 of the Blue Rocks' doubleheader against the Renegades. - Thursday, June 6, 2024 / Photo via Payton Tuorto

The Wilmington Blue Rocks split their doubleheader against the Hudson Valley Renegades on Saturday, June 8. Wilmington dropped Game 1 by a final score of 4-0, but bounced back in Game 2, winning 4-2.

It was a tale of two games offensively, as Ben Shields was able to shut down the Rocks’ offense over six strong innings in Game 1, allowing just one hit and striking out eight.

“I felt like we were passive with the fastball over the plate,” manager Mario Lisson said. “We’ve got to stay within our approach and stay aggressive with it, trust it. It doesn’t matter if he flips a curveball here and there or a changeup, we just have to stay with our approach.”

T.J. White did not play in Game 1, but he made his own observations about Shields in addition to getting a detailed scouting report from his teammates at the plate.

“He established his fastball early and got guys to swing at his changeup and slider,” White said. “It just felt like he kinda had us on a string a little bit and got us off the fastball.”

Wilmington was able to quickly flip the script in Game 2 though, as timely hitting willed them to a victory to salvage the evening.

“Staying in the zone, attacking the fastball,” Lisson said. “If we do that, we have a better shot. When you expand the zone, that’s when you get in trouble.”

“We just came out on attack, scoring in the second and third inning,” said Will Frizzell, who went 1-2 with an RBI in Game 2. “Being able to hold a lead felt good.”

White got the start in left field in Game 2 and contributed to a three-run second inning by ripping an RBI double to right that scored Frizzell. The 20-year-old listened closely to Lisson’s message following Game 1, which allowed him to be aggressive in his first plate appearance of the night.

“His [Lisson’s] big thing was ‘If you’re gonna swing at the first pitch, drive it,’” White said. “I was just trying to get a pitch in my zone. He [Blane Abeyta] threw me two good, solid strikes and I took one then fouled the other one off. Then I was just like ‘If you get one here, you can’t miss it.’”

Although the Rocks’ offense wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders over the course of both games, the same cannot be said for their pitching staff. Bryan Caceres started his 11th game of the year in Game 1, and despite taking the loss, pitched five innings of two-run ball. Then in Game 2, Lisson shifted towards a bullpen-focused approach, handing the ball to Miguel Gomez for his first start of the year.

The 22-year-old, who entered the contest sporting a microscopic 0.68 ERA on the season, set the tone for the rest of the staff by pitching three scoreless innings and striking out four. Jared Zinn, Marlon Perez, and Brendan Collins finished the job, as Zinn earned his second win of the season and Collins shut the door in the ninth for his second save.

“They’ve been good all year,” Lisson said. “Gomez has been great for us. He’s been doing a good job from the pen and then starting he did great, hopefully he can continue to do that. Overall, whoever comes up gets the job done.”

The strong performances on the mound also had a positive impact on the lineup, as Frizzell mentioned the pitching as a main factor in keeping the offense relaxed throughout the game.

“It feels good when guys are going out there and having quick innings, for sure,” Frizzell said. “It gives the offense a bit of energy.”

The Blue Rocks have now played seven games in five days and currently trail their eight-game series against the Renegades four games to three. Wilmington will have the opportunity to earn a series split against Hudson Valley in the series finale on Sunday, June 9 at 1:05 p.m. EDT.

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