Breazeale Propels 'Birds in Tenth
SALISBURY, MD - Ben Breazeale laced a walkoff single in the bottom of the 10th, propelling the Delmarva Shorebirds to a 3-2 win over the Hagerstown Suns on Thursday night at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
With free runner Nick Horvath starting the inning on second base, Breazeale chipped an 0-1 pitch into shallow right that landed just to the left of the chalk line, setting off a wild celebration as the Shorebirds (45-14) inched ever closer to a postseason berth. Delmarva's Magic Number to clinch the first half Northern Division title is now down to five; second-place Greensboro squeaked by against Lakewood, 3-2.
Tim Naughton (3-2) earned the win in relief with two scoreless innings. He stranded the free Suns (26-34) runner at in the top of the 10th and struck out two. Jackson Stoeckinger (1-2) took the loss for the Suns after allowing Breazeale's game-winning single.
Justin Connell walked to begin the game for Hagerstown and motored to third on Cody Wilson's double down the right field line. After a strikeout, Gilbert Lara grounded to short, scoring Connell and giving the Suns a 1-0 lead. Shorebirds starter Nick Vespi stranded Wilson at third to end the inning after striking out Israel Pineda looking.
The Shorebirds answered in the second. Robbie Thorburn tripled with one away, and Seamus Curran capitalized by dropping a single to right, tying the game at 1-1.
The game stayed tied until the bottom of the fifth when Will Robertson demolished a pitch 422 feet over the left center wall for a solo homer. Robertson's third blast of the year pushed the Shorebirds ahead 2-1.
In the seventh, Nic Perkins doubled with one out to put the tying run in scoring position for the Suns. Vespi buckled down and punched out Tyler Cropley, and Tyler Joyner came on to strike out Cole Daily to retire the side.
Hagerstown finally got back into it in the eighth. Jose Sanchez led off by shooting a ball to right field for a base hit. After advancing to second base on a sacrifice bunt, Sanchez scampered to third on a Wilson single. Jacob Rhinesmith then tied the game at 2-2 as he looped one just past Adam Hall at shortstop, also pushing Wilson to third. With runners now at the corners and one away, Joyner struck out back-to-back hitters to strand them there and end the frame still tied.
Connell began the 10th as the free runner at second for Hagerstown and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. Naughton wriggled out of the jam, though, striking Rhinesmith out and forcing Lara to groundout, setting up Breazeale's heroics in the home 10th.
Thorburn paced the Delmarva offense, collecting his 14th multi-hit game of the season by going 3-for-4 with a double, triple, and run. Robertson finished 1-for-2 with a solo homer, while Curran went 1-for-4 with an RBI.
Jose Sanchez went 2-for-4 with a run out of the ninth spot in the order for the Suns. Nic Perkins and Cody Wilson each went 2-for-4 with a double.
Vespi did not factor into the decision for the Shorebirds despite throwing career high-tying 6.2 innings of one-run ball, allowing four hits, two walks, and striking out five for his second Quality Start of the season. Over his past 24.1 innings, the southpaw has allowed just five earned runs (1.85 ERA) while walking just eight and striking out 29.
Hagerstown start Joan Adon was a non-factor as well, despite a Quality Start of his own, going six innings and allowing two runs on six hits with one walk and eight strikeouts.
The win is the Shorebirds' 35th of the season three runs or fewer; Delmarva is now 16-4 in one-run games. It is also the team's 11th win in their last at-bat and their fifth walkoff.
Win No. 45 assures the Shorebirds of their best-ever half-season in 23 years as a Baltimore Orioles affiliate. The 2002 Shorebirds went 44-26 in the second half, winning the Northern Division. Only the inaugural 1996 Delmarva club, then a Montreal Expos farm team, had a better run, going 47-23 in the first half.
The Shorebirds go for an encore against the Suns Friday night. Freshly-minted SAL All-Star Ofelky Peralta (4-0, 1.99) toes the rubber for Delmarva against Jake Irvin (3-3, 5.13) for Hagerstown. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. with gates opening at 6:00. Friday night at Perdue Stadium is Perdue Farmers Appreciation Night, featuring a postgame Q105 Fireworks show presented by Perdue Foods. It's also Froggy 99.9 Big Beer Friday presented by First Class HVAC and Orange Friday. Pregame coverage on Fox Sports 960 AM and the MiLB First Pitch App begins at 6:50 with Will DeBoer and Sam Jellinek on the call.
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