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Wilmington Wins 5 of 6 in First-Ever Series Against SAL Champion Greenville Drive

The Blue Rocks took five of six games in their first-ever series against the Greenville Drive, the reigning 2023 South Atlantic League champions.
April 24, 2024

After sweeping the Brooklyn Cyclones in their first three games at home, the Wilmington Blue Rocks had a lot to live up to in their second homestand of the season. Fans anxiously piled into the stadium for more, and they were not disappointed. Not only did they witness another stunning

After sweeping the Brooklyn Cyclones in their first three games at home, the Wilmington Blue Rocks had a lot to live up to in their second homestand of the season. Fans anxiously piled into the stadium for more, and they were not disappointed. Not only did they witness another stunning and successful winning series from the Blue Rocks, but fans were also a part of league and team history.

This series marked the first time the teams played one another in MiLB history. It was also the first time in franchise history that two former Blue Rocks players faced off as managers. Greenville’s Iggy Suarez played for Wilmington in 2005 and 2006, while Wilmington’s Mario Lisson played the following season in 2007.

Game 1

Tuesday night’s series-opening game started slow, with no runs from either team in the first three innings. It wasn’t until the top of the fourth inning that things seemed to unravel, when the Drive scored three runs off Wilmington’s starter Rodney Theophile.

The contest quickly became an uphill battle, but one that the Blue Rocks were determined to win. Wilmington picked up a run in the bottom of the same inning, and Theophile shut out the Drive in the fourth and fifth to close out his start. Concurrently, the Blue Rocks offense battled back and added two more runs in the fourth courtesy of a two-RBI home run from Sammy Infante, and the game was tied at three heading into the sixth inning.

Blue Rocks’ reliever Dannel Diaz took the mound in the sixth and let up three runs. The team’s offense answered once again that same inning. TJ White picked up two of his three RBIs on the day, sending home Johnathon Thomas and Daylen Lile, who both reached on singles.

Carlos Romero relieved for Wilmington in the seventh and eighth. He shut out the Drive to give the Blue Rocks a chance to come back, but it wasn’t until the ninth inning that the bats got moving again. Jaren Zinn took command and held the Drive to their 6-5 lead. Branden Boissiere and Infante singled to put runners on the bases, and Viandel Pena cemented the 7-6 win with a two-run RBI double. For the third time this season, the Blue Rocks won in walk-off fashion at Frawley Stadium.

Game 2

In Tuesday night’s game, the Blue Rocks always seemed to be fighting back. Game two was similar in this regard, but, unfortunately, the comeback never fully came to fruition. Andry Lara started for Wilmington and shut out the first two innings before finding himself in some trouble in the third. He was relieved by Nick Pogue, who saw the Drive score six runs before being relieved by Marlon Perez to close out the fourth inning.

Despite allowing a one-run home run in the sixth, Marlon Perez, Wander Arias, and Brendan Collins closed out the final few innings well and gave the Blue Rocks an opportunity to come back from a 7-1 deficit. An RBI from Johnathon Thomas and a fielding error for Greenville scored two runs in the sixth, and a two-run RBI single from Viandel Pena in the seventh made it a two-run game heading into the eighth. Unfortunately, the Rocks were unable to bring home any more runs and suffered their first home loss of the season, 7-5.

Game 3

After having trouble offensively throughout the majority of game one and allowing the team to succumb to these struggles with a loss in game two, Thursday night’s game was a breath of fresh air.

Eight Blue Rocks batters had at least one hit, and Jared McKenzie led the group with three and a run after missing the first two games of the series. Kevin Made led the team with two RBIs off two hits, while four other Blue Rocks each picked up one RBI.

The win can be largely accredited to the Blue Rocks’ productive at-bats and base running, but starting pitcher Bryan Caceres and his determination throughout four innings, as well as the steadiness of the relievers, played major factors as well. After allowing two runs in the first inning, Caceres dialed in and shut out the Drive for the remainder of his start.

Thursday was undoubtedly a big night for the Blue Rocks, but it also resulted in an injury to third baseman Sammy Infante, who has been a major source of offense and reliable defense in the infield. He hurt his ankle running around third base in the fifth inning and was promptly replaced by John McHenry, a recent roster addition from Fredericksburg.

Game 4

The Blue Rocks kept the momentum of their hot bats from Thursday night and carried it early into Friday’s matchup against the Drive. Daylen Lile put the team ahead early by hitting a triple and subsequently going home on a balk in the first inning. This marked their first first-inning run in the series. In what seems like a common pattern to start the season, the rest of Wilmington’s runs came in the middle of the game. Mirroring the following night, multiple players put runners on base and points on the board, including Viandel Pena, who led the team with two RBIs, and John McHenry and Kevin Made, who each had two hits.

The 5-3 win was, once again, an all-around effort from both the pitchers and batters. Luke Young had one of the most impressive pitching performances the team has seen this season. Through six innings, the right-handed starter allowed only three hits and no runs, walked one batter, and struck out eight. Similar to other games in the series, the relief pitching started a bit rough, but proper management of the bullpen allowed them to get back on track.

Game 5

Although it evidently included a lot of offense for Wilmington, the 6-3 win on Saturday is better remembered for the Blue Rocks’ work on defense. It marked Riley Cornelio’s third start of the season, and the right-hander went five innings, allowed two hits and two runs, walked four batters and struck out seven. Relievers Dannel Diaz, Wander Arias, and Marquis Grissom Jr held the Drive to only four hits and two runs, but a stunning play from Johnathon Thomas at the top of the ninth was the highlight that sealed the win.

With a full count, two outs, and a man on first base, Greenville’s batter Ronald Rosario had an opportunity to keep the Drive in the game. He rips a line drive deep into right-center field, but Thomas utilizes his speed to quickly catch up and make a miraculous diving catch, putting Greenville’s chances of coming back to rest.

Game 6

Sunday’s win has a very deceiving aspect to it. Although the score was close at 5-4, this does not reflect how the majority of the game went. The Blue Rocks got ahead early with an RBI from Kevin Made in the first, and the team capitalized on fielding errors and wild pitches to pick up three more runs in the fifth, all while starter Rodney Theophile held the Drive to zero runs.

Heading into the sixth up 4-0, it took three relievers to get out of the inning, and, at that point, the damage had been done. The game was tied 4-4. Brendan Collins in the seventh, Chance Huff in the eighth, and Todd Peterson in the ninth shut out the Drive. A pair of stolen bases in the seventh courtesy of Viandel Pena and Johnathon Thomas gave the Blue Rocks the lead and ultimately, the win. This was Todd Peterson’s fifth save of the season, and he currently leads the MiLB in the category.

The second homestand in Wilmington was full of positive takeaways, as well as some slight areas of concern moving forward. New acquisitions John McHenry and Marcus Brown proved to be valuable ones with many offensive contributions throughout the series. Other batters like Daylen Lile and Kevin Made and quick baserunners Johnathon Thomas and Viandel Pena solidified their roles as key pieces to the team’s offensive efforts. While pitching looked shaky at times, the starters and bullpen were able to dial in and rely on one another to put together a winning product.

Looking Ahead

Finishing the series 5-1, the Blue Rocks are now the top team in the South Atlantic League, and look to keep it that way when they take on the Brooklyn Cyclones this week.