KINSTON, NC (WOOD DUCKS MEDIA RELATIONS) – A thrilling rally in the last three innings came up just short in the Wood Ducks’ loss to the Blue Rocks 5-4. Chuck Moorman had three hits for the second straight night and Brett Martin struck out ten in a losing effort.
While the final three innings belonged to the Woodies, the first three were favored for the Blue Rocks. A two-out single in the first by Anderson Miller brought in the first run of the game for Wilmington.
Then in the third, Elier Hernandez hit his second home run of the series – a three-run blast to straightaway center to leap ahead 4-0. The next batter walked but Martin hunkered down and retired the next 11 batters in a row to close his start after six innings. He had two innings of fewer than ten pitches and only allowed three hits with three walks.
A.J. Puckett stymied the Down East bats for the first six innings of the game. The right-hander only allowed two hits and two walks through six innings. In the seventh, the Woodies made their move.
Singles by Moorman, Ledarious Clark, and Josh Altmann loaded the bases for Arturo Lara with one out. He would hit a sac fly to right to score one, then Jairo Beras scored another with a single. The game was suddenly within reach 4-2 and the Blue Rocks opted for their bullpen with two outs and runners on first and second.
Andres Machado allowed an infield single to Brallan Perez , which was thanks to a diving stop by the shortstop Nicky Lopez to save a run. Lopez was just getting started. Carlos Garay was next and hit a bouncing ball up the middle that Lopez again made a diving stop on, and flipped to second to end the inning.
Adam Choplick worked a perfect seventh inning and was lifted for Steven Bruce . He allowed a bloop single to Lopez to start the inning and then was bunted over to second. Hernandez would strike again with an RBI single through the left side to stretch the lead to three, 5-2.
In the bottom half of the eighth, Clark knocked a two-out RBI single to left to score Moorman from second base and make it a two-run game headed to the ninth. Altmann made a great diving stop in the top of the ninth with runners on the corners to end the inning and keep things close for the offense.
Gabe Cramer worked the final inning and allowed the first two batters to reach: Lara with a walk and wild pitch, and an RBI single from Beras. With no one out, Perez laid down a sac bunt to move Beras into scoring position as the tying run. Garay was next and dropped a pop-up single down the right field line to put runners on the corners.
Michael O’Neill hit a bouncing ball toward the middle that Lopez not only smothered, but touched second and threw to first to end the game in heartbreaking fashion for the Woodies.
On Sunday the Woodies go for the split with the Blue Rocks to close the ten-game homestand. Right-hander Richelson Pena (2-1, 2.95) will throw for Down East while lefty Cristian Castillo (1-2, 3.90) will go for Wilmington. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and you can listen to every pitch of the 2017 season live on Sports/Talk 960 The Bull or streamed live on the TuneIn Radio app.