The Wilmington Blue Rocks are one of those teams trying to prove that they are contenders in the South Atlantic League South. They begin their August with a six-game stretch against the one-seeded Aberdeen IronBirds. The Blue Rocks entered the series as the second seed in the division and were eight games back of Aberdeen before the start of the series on Tuesday, August 2.
In the first game of the series, the Blue Rocks gained a game on the IronBirds in a 9-8, 13-inning victory.
The bats were quiet for most of the beginning half of the game. Both teams’ starting pitchers began the game strong, as neither the IronBirds’ Jake Lyons nor the Blue Rocks’ Lucas Knowles allowed a run in each player’s innings.
Aberdeen decided to replace their starting pitcher with reliever Dan Hammer at the start of the bottom of the fifth inning. The decision backfired on the IronBirds, as Hammer walked three of the first four batters he faced. He then hit Jeremy Ydens with a pitch while the bases were loaded, which brought Onix Vega home to give the Blue Rocks a 1-0 lead.
n the top of the seventh inning, the IronBirds tied the score up at 1-1. Similar to the Blue Rocks’ first score, the run was a product of pitching mistakes made by a relieving pitcher. Andrew Alverez threw two wild pitches, which allowed an IronBirds’ baserunner to advance to both third base and home plate.
Wilmington answered quickly to Aberdeen’s score in the bottom of the seventh. They tallied on two runs to put them in front 3-1. The lead did not stand, as the Blue Rocks sacrificed their advantage by giving up four runs in the top of the eighth frame.
Aberdeen gave one of those runs back to Wilmington in the eighth inning when a balk by IronBird reliever Wes Robertson allowed Onix Vega to score. The score was 5-4 in favor of the visiting IronBirds heading into the ninth inning.
Orlando Ribalta took control of the mound for the Blue Rocks in the ninth inning. He did not allow the opposing team to score any runs, which gave his team life. Jordy Barley was inches away from winning the game after trying to score off of a Drew Millas single, but he was called out and the team had to settle for extra innings with the score knotted up at 5-5. Although, the game was far from over from that point on.
The two teams matched each other run for run for three straight innings. The game was not decided until the thirteenth inning, which featured the Blue Rocks walking off the game with a 9-8 victory thanks to a Drew Mendoza RBI single. The team is now only seven games behind Aberdeen with five head-to-head games left to play in this series.