FREDERICK, MD – Wilmington starting pitcher Jake Junis was masterful Saturday afternoon, tossing six shutout innings in his fourth start of 2015, but the Rocks blew a 3-0 lead and ended up losing 4-3 to the Frederick Keys. Wilmington drops to 7-9 on the season, while Frederick improves to 11-6. Austin Wynns delivered a game-winning solo homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to complete the comeback, after Frederick plated three in the eighth to tie the game.
In his six scoreless frames, Junis allowed four hits and a walk, while striking out six batters. The right-hander did not record a decision for the first time this year, and he lowered his ERA from 5.06 to 3.68. Frederick starter Mitch Horacek was let off the hook by his offense, as he went 6.1 innings, yielding three runs to the Rocks offense on nine hits and one walk, striking out two batters in the process.
The Keys had no answer for Junis all afternoon long. Even when the righty allowed a baserunner in the first inning and two in the second, he worked around the threats, producing scoreless frames each time. It was in the second inning when Junis began a stretch of 13 retired batters in a row, after Tucker Nathans walked with nobody out. Adrian Marin doubled with one down in the bottom of the sixth inning to finally put an end to Junis’s stretch of dominance. He would end his day having retired 15 of the last 16 men to bat against him.
The Rocks got on the board first on Saturday afternoon with a pair of runs in the second inning. Mauricio Ramos grounded out to begin the frame, but Zane Evans would follow with a walk, then Dominique Taylor and Cam Gallagher produced back-to-back singles to load the bases. That brought up Logan Moon, who grounded into a fielder’s choice, bringing in Evans with the first run of the game. With runners on the corners and two down, Wilmington took a page out of Frederick’s playbook, pulling off a perfect double steal. Moon swiped second and Taylor took home, giving the Rocks a 2-0 advantage. Frederick executed the same play against the Blue Crew at Frawley Stadium last week.
Wilmington tacked on another run in the next inning. Ramon Torres, Jack Lopez, and Frank Schwindel all singled to start the frame (with Lopez’s knock being a bunt single. Ramos would then ground into a double play to third baseman Drew Dosch. The twin-killing brought in Ramon Torres, and the Rocks would not be able to push across any more runs in the third.
There would be no more scoring until the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Keys would plate three. Nick Green would get the first two men, but John Ruetigger bunted for a hit with two down to end Green’s day. Robinson Yambati would be next for Wilmington’s bullpen, and he began his outing by walking Marin. Dosch would be next, and he continued to torment the Rocks, coming up with a two-run triple that finally got the Keys on the board. Trey Mancini was the next batter, and he wasted no time tying the ballgame up, knocking a single to left that brought Dosch in.
After a scoreless top of the ninth, Wynns stepped up with one down and the bases empty, and sent the crowd at Harry Grove Stadium happy with a walk-off solo shot over the wall in left-center field. It was the second straight 4-3 walk-off loss for the Blue Crew.
Wilmington looks to avoid the four-game sweep on Sunday when they battle the Keys in Frederick once again. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m., and fans can listen to the broadcast on 89.7 WGLS-FM.
PEBBLES OF KNOWLEDGE:
With Jake Junis going six innings on Saturday, he became the third Rocks pitcher in a row to complete the sixth frame. For Junis personally, Saturday marked the third consecutive time he was gone six innings as well. Eric Skoglund got through six in the series opener on Thursday, as did Luis Rico on Friday. Skoglund got the loss, while Rico and Junis picked up no-decisions. On the season, Wilmington starters have gone 3-5 with a 3.29 ERA over 82 innings pitched.
Dexter Kjerstad made his Advanced-A level debut with the Blue Rocks on Saturday. Kjerstad got the start in left field, and went 1-for-4 in his first game with the Blue Crew. He got his opportunity when outfielder Bubba Starling was promoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas earlier in the week. The native of Amarillo, Texas spent the entire 2014 campaign with the Low-A Lexington Legends, during which time he hit .275 with six home runs and 33 RBI’s in 80 games with the squad.
The heartbreak continued for Wilmington on Saturday, as they dropped their second game in walk-off fashion to the Keys. Friday’s game was a 4-3 final as well, though it took 11 innings to complete. The Blue Rocks are now 1-4 in walk-off games this season, with their only time coming up on the right side of those games taking place during the home opener on April 16 against the Keys. The Blue Crew also blew their largest lead of the season on Saturday, leading by three at one point in the game.
Jack Lopez is coming alive offensively for Wilmington. The third year Blue Rock had two more hits on Saturday, notching his third straight multi-game. He now has seven total hits in the first three games of the series, two of which have been doubles. He has also scored twice, driven in one run, and stolen two bases in the series. Lopez was batting .163 coming into the weekend set, but thanks to a strong three-game stretch, he has raised that mark by .79 points to .242 overall.
THEY SAID IT:
Manager Brian Buchanan:
“I think we were in total control of that game until the eighth inning, and it happens quick. We had the right guys in the right spot, it’s just one of those things where a walk here, a base hit here, and then before you know it, it’s a tie game, and then the walk-off home run in the ninth (inning). (Jake) Junis threw well. He did outstanding, actually. We pushed across some runs , and…we were pretty much in control of that game, and we just let it get away from us in the eighth and ninth.”
“They didn’t really hit (Robinson Yambati) that hard except for that home run. The triple (by Drew Dosch) wasn’t hit real (well), and the base hit (by Trey Mancini) to tie it up was off the end of the bat, and they just put it in a good spot. That’s the baseball gods. They played well…and we just got to continue to work and get through it.”
“When you lose games like that, it’s frustrating, but I’m not concerned about how they’re playing. If they were playing poorly and pitching poorly, I’d be concerned, but they’re not, so there’s nothing really to be concerned about. We keep putting ourselves in situations to win games, and we’ll win a lot more than we lose that way. It’s one of those days that the ball bounces away from (outfielder Dexter Kjerstad), and if that ball doesn’t bounce so far away, then (Dosch’s triple) is probably a double, and maybe he doesn’t score on that single…It’s one of those things that happened quick, and we’ll back tomorrow and get them.”
“The first couple innings, (Jake Junis) was leaving a couple balls up. I think he made some adjustments from then on out. He threw the ball really well, he kept them off balance, and he made some good pitches when he needed to in those first few innings, so he did a nice job.”
Starting Pitcher Jake Junis:
“Those first two innings, I got myself into some trouble, but I made some pitches to get out of those jams, and they made some plays behind me, and after that I started throwing strikes. I started finding the strikezone more, and I kept my pitch count down, allowing me to go six innings. The defense played good behind me, I made some pitches when I needed to.”
“I just need to dial it in…just focus a little bit more and try to keep myself out of those jams, and make some better pitches the next inning. I’m not trying to get myself into jams, obviously, but when I get out of them, it’s fortunate. I want to be better the next time out, the next inning, and try to get in a rhythm, and I go in a little bit of a rhythm, and I got some one-two-three innings in there.”
“Establishing the off-speed (pitches) for a strike early is key to my game at least, because then that pitch that you throw in the dirt that they swing at, they wouldn’t swing at it unless they see it as a strike first. You (have) to establish your off-speed for a strike, and let them know that you can throw that for a strike. Eventually, later in the game, hopefully they chase some stuff and you make some pitches and get yourself some strikeouts or some key strikes in certain situations.”
“(The walk-off losses are) unfortunate. That’s baseball sometimes, though. It’s not going to fall your way. Things like that happen, but hopefully we get a couple of those that fall our way later on, and make up for those. We just got to keep at it, and come out here tomorrow and play like we did today but finish it off.”
“Top to bottom, our whole pitching staff can get it done. Starters are going deeper into the games and getting that load off the bullpen a little bit, and keeping them fresher, so when those guys come in, they’re ready to go.”