Fayetteville Squanders Late Lead as Wilmington Evens Championship Series
The Fayetteville Woodpeckers could not stave off the Wilmington Blue Rocks' rally bid as the home squad tied the best of five championship series at one apiece. Fayetteville took an early lead thanks to a solo shot from Scott Manea combined with two extra base hits from Chandler Taylor. With Fayetteville up 4-2 the Blue Rocks launched a comeback in bottom of the seventh, tacking on three runs to swipe the lead from the Woodpeckers. The Wilmington pitching staff shutout Fayetteville for the final two frames to take 5-4 game two victory in the Blue Rocks last contest at Frawley Stadium.
The Woodpeckers jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first against Wilmington starter Jonathan Bowlan. With one gone, Cal Stevenson smacked a single to left field and then came home when Chandler Taylor ripped a double to left that made it 1-0 Fayetteville. Wilmington did not waste much time tying the game up against Woodpeckers hurler Austin Hansen. The righty retired the first two batters he faced but then gave up a solo shot that Tyler Hill smoked to the Wilmington bullpen, tying the game at one apiece after the first frame.
The back and forth game continued in the top of the second when Fayetteville notched another run. Bowlan forced Ruben Castro to groundout and fanned Michael Papierski, but Scott Manea stepped up to the plate and with one swing gave the Woodpeckers a lead once again. The solo shot to left center was Manea's 13th homer of the season and put Fayetteville up 2-1 heading into the bottom of the second. Hansen would back up the Fayetteville offense by tossing his best inning on the mound in the second, striking out all three batters he faced. With the Woodpeckers still up just one, the bottom of the third got a little bumpier for Hansen. Cristian Perez started the frame by lacing a single to right, followed by a Kyle Isbel walk. Hansen fanned Brewer Hicklen for out number one, but then loaded the bases on another free pass to Tyler Hill. With three on Kyle Kasser knocked a ball up the first base side that David Hensley charged in on and successfully zipped home to Scott Manea to beat out Perez and stop the tying Wilmington run from scoring. Hansen fanned Dennicher Carrasco to end the inning and leave the frame unscathed.
The Woodpeckers offense added some insurance in the top of the fourth, with Bowlan still on the mound. Chandler Taylor reached safely for the second time on the day, drawing a base on balls to lead off the inning. David Hensley moved the runner to third by roping a single to left, with Taylor scoring on a fielder's choice off the bat of Castro. Bowlan struck out Michael Papierski and then hit Scott Manea with a pitch so was lifted for Josh Dye who fanned Miguelangel Sierra to end the inning with Fayetteville now ahead 3-1.
The bottom of the fourth saw another close call for the Woodpeckers, as Austin Hansen walked back-to-back batters forcing Fayetteville to make a pitching change. Leovanny Rodriguez came in with two on and nobody out, now Sebastian Rivero at the plate. The Blue Rocks' catcher attempted a bunt that just barely popped up in front of the plate. Scott Manea hurled his body to make the out then from the ground tossed the ball to Jeremy Pena who was covering second for a 2-6 double play that eliminated the Wilmington runner in scoring position. Rodriguez ended the inning on the next batter, as Fayetteville once again did not allow Wilmington's tying run to tally.
Fayetteville did finally give up another run to the Blue Rocks in the bottom of the fifth, when for the third straight inning the leadoff Blue Rocks runner reached. Kyle Isbel earned a free pass to start, moving to second on an error committed by Miguelangel Sierra who was trying for a fielder's choice. Isbel scored when Tyler Hill laced another hit, notching his second RBI of the game to cut the Fayetteville lead to just one. A fly out and bizarre 6-4-3-6 double play ended the frame to keep the Woodpeckers on top 3-2 after five.
Chandler Taylor once again stretched the Fayetteville lead to two, crushing a leadoff triple off the wall to start the sixth. Taylor scored when Papierski chopped a ball to shortstop that Cristian Perez misfired towards home, allowing for Taylor to slide in safely and make it 4-2. That score would stay the same until the bottom of the seventh when Wilmington completed a rally against new Woodpeckers hurler Riley Cabral. Kyle Isbel reached to start the inning when Ruben Castro bobbled a grounder at second; then Brewer Hicklen took first when he was clipped with a pitch. The Fayetteville reliever quickly fanned two straight to hold the runners in place, but Dennicher Carrasco knocked a soft fly ball that dropped in right field and allowed Isbel and Hicklen to race home. The two RBI base hit tied the game at four apiece, as Cabral was quickly lifted following a walk given up to Nick Pratto. Jacob Billingsly came in, inheriting a pair of runners with two away. MJ Melendez swiftly brought the go ahead run home when he smacked a single to right that tallied Carrasco and put the Blue Rocks ahead for the first time since the first inning.
Through the next two innings the Woodpeckers offense would muster up just one more baserunner, going down in order in the top of the ninth against Wilmington closer Tad Ratliff. The 5-4 Wilmington victory at Frawley Stadium tied the series at one game apiece as the final games will be in Fayetteville. Game three of a best of five is set for 7:00pm Thursday night from Segra Stadium.
The Fayetteville Woodpeckers are the Advanced Single-A affiliate of the 2017 World Champion Houston Astros and play in their Inaugural Season at beautiful Segra Stadium in downtown Fayetteville. Segra Stadium, a $40 million state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue, features space for over 5,200 fans, natural grass, a 25x70 LED video scoreboard, six luxury suites, four field boxes, the premium AEVEX Veterans Club level, Healy's Bar and outdoor party deck, a kid's zone, and more. With a rich history of baseball in the city of Fayetteville and Cumberland County, the Woodpeckers are thrilled to write a new chapter with their inaugural campaign on Hay Street. Fans are encouraged to visit FayettevilleWoodpeckers.com to purchase tickets, learn more about the team, and find out about upcoming events and promotions at the ballpark. Fans may also reach the Woodpeckers by visiting the BB&T Box Office in front of Segra Stadium, calling (910) 339-1989, or emailing woodpeckers@Astros.com.
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