Tonight is Judy Johnson Night in Wilmington. This used to be my family’s favorite game of the season. We would take a look at the promotional schedule and circle this game as the one we would most definitely attend (we still do). Before the game, the Blue Rocks honor some of the great Negro League players and their families. I remember seeing the great Buck O’Neil. The best part was hearing their stories.
Judy Johnson is a Hall of Famer and the namesake of the field at Frawley Stadium. His statue stands outside the ballpark. He was a key member to some of the best teams in Negro League history. You can find out more about Johnson HERE .
The thing that disappoints me is that they have dropped the ball over the years with honoring the Negro Leagues in Wilmington (just like they have in Kansas City). Back in the day, both teams used to wear Negro League uniforms (I am a sucker for old school uniforms). Then their game worn hats would be auctioned off to support the Negro Leagues. They do have auctions going on throughout the concourse of autographed memorabilia tonight (which are drawing some crowds).
This year is no different. It is also Star Wars Night, with Star Wars characters set to be in attendance. It seems as if the promotional team is more interested in pushing that than the history of the Negro Leagues and Judy Johnson.
Anyway, to the game (and enough of my rambling).
First half Northern Division champion Lynchburg (the High-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves) is in town and the Hillcats are 2.5 games back of the Blue Rocks in the second half standings. The Blue Rocks have taken the first two games of the four-game series, as the pitchers have allowed just two runs to the Hillcats. In Game 1, the Blue Rocks won 2-1 and walked off on a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th inning. In Game 2, the Blue Rocks scored ten runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning and rode the arm of Matt Ridings to another victory.
Taking the mound for the Blue Rocks tonight is Brooks Pounders, who the Royals acquired this past offseason from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite the fact that Pounders has been with Wilmington since June, this will be the first time I will be seeing him pitch. With the Blue Rocks, he is 5-4 with a 4.83 ERA in 13 games (12 starts). He has allowed more hits (74) than innings pitched (63.1). His last start at Potomac was a great one: 7IP, 4H, 1R, 0ER, 0BB, 5K.
The Hillcats will be sending Dimasther Delgado to the mound. Overall he is 6-6 with a 4.35 ERA in 20 starts. He, like Pounders, allows more hits than innings pitched (125 hits in 107.2 innings). Delgado faced the Blue Rocks in back-to-back-starts (June 29 and July 5) and allowed three runs in each game.
The crowd’s looking a little small tonight, but it is a beautiful night for baseball (the crowd got bigger once the game started) . I’ll be out and about during the first few innings taking photos and some video, but I will keep you updated as soon as I get back in the pressbox.
Currently, some of the Negro League players are being announced on the field. Game time is in about twenty minutes.
Both pitchers look good. Pounders allowed a hit to Ahmed in the first inning and proceeded to pick him off first base. He has a nice pickoff move to both first and second base. Brewer then walked. Heading into the 5th inning, he has yet to allow another base runner. Delgado allowed single hits in the 2nd and 3rd innings. In the 4th inning, he walked Fields (who picked up the Blue Rocks first hit) with one out. Fields stole second base and moved to third base on a wild pitch with two outs, but Van Stratten grounded out to end the inning.
Delgado is regularly throwing in the mid to upper 90s and is getting a lot of dinky fly outs.
Pounders retired 13 in a row before Landoni led off the 6th inning with a single. He was sacrificed to second base, but tried to move to third base on Jones’ fly out to CF. That gave Eibner a chance to show off his arm. The throw beat him by about a foot and Pounders escaped with another quick inning (eight pitches, seven strikes).
Eibner followed that great throw by picking up a single with one out in the bottom of the inning. Adams followed with a single and the Blue Rocks were suddenly in business (first time they two runners on base in the same inning). However Delgado struck out Fields and got Cuthbert to pop up in foul territory on one pitch to end the threat.
Pounders was at 83 pitches heading into the 7th inning (by my count) and the Blue Rocks had bullpen action. He allowed a leadoff single to Ahmed and Pounders’ errant pickoff throw allowed him to hustle all the way to third base (it was his third throw over). Pounders rebounded to strike out Brewer on three pitches. Eibner saved Pounders yet again. Garcia flied out to CF and Eibner’s throw home nailed Ahmed to end the inning. It was a perfect throw, in plenty of time. Pounders threw just nine pitches in the 7th inning, seven for strikes.
Juan Jamie entered in relief for the Hillcats to start the 7th inning. He worked around a one out walk (and a stolen base) to send the game into the 8th inning.
Pounders was done after seven innings (two straight starts of seven innings). He allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out seven. Next up for the Blue Rocks was Chase Boruff.
Boruff needed just ten pitches to set down the Hillcats in order on three straight fly outs. Still scoreless.
Just one inning of relief tonight for Boruff, as Robinson Yambati entered. He came in and walked the first batter he faced on five pitches. Comer followed by striking out, as he failed to get the bunt down. Then on a hit-and-run, Jones flailed at the pitch, missed it, and the base runner was hung out to dry. Two outs. Jones then struck out and Yambati escaped the mess.
Scoreless to the bottom of the 9th inning: Cuthbert, Van Stratten, and Beltre are the first three hitters. Cuthbert led off with a single on a 3-2 pitch. He moved to second base on a wild pitch. Bunt still on? Manager Vance Wilson and Van Stratten are discussing that as there is also a coaching visit at the mound. He squared to bunt, but slapped it up the middle. Ahmed fielded it and threw him out at first base (a close play). Cuthbert moved to third base.
Lynchburg chose to intentionally walk Beltre and Wilson then chose to pinch-hit Angel Franco for Graterol (faster runner). Infield in for Lynchburg and they elect to intentionally walk Franco to load the bases. A wasted pinch-hitter. That brings up Piterson with the bases loaded, one out, in a scoreless game.
Everybody in for the Hillcats. He hit a ground ball to second with the throwing coming home. Two outs. Calixte coming to the plate with the bases still loaded, but with two outs. The crowd is kind of silent.
Calixte took a VERY close pitch on 2-2. The entire infield for the Hillcats started coming off the field. The catcher didn’t know what to do. 3-2. Two outs. Bases loaded. Scoreless game.
Foul ball after foul ball led to the crowd getting louder (finally). Calixte singled to LF, just out of the reach of Brewer and the Blue Rocks went NUTS. They are out behind third base pounding on Calixte.
Blue Rocks win 1-0 and take a 3.5 game lead over the Hillcats in the second half.
Topics: AL Central, Baseball, Brett Eibner, Brooks Pounders, Carolina League, Chase Boruff, Dimasther Delgado, Kansas City Royals, KC, KC Royals, Lynchburg Hillcats, MiLB, MLB, Orlando Calixte, Robinson Yambati, Royals, Wilmington Blue Rocks