Vespi Dazzles in Opener; 'Birds Split K-Town
KANNAPOLIS, NC - The Delmarva Shorebirds split their third doubleheader of the season against the Kannapolis Intimidators on Saturday night at Intimidators Stadium. Just like in their first two, the Shorebirds (31-9) won the opener 3-1, while the Intimidators (19-22) got their revenge in the nightcap 8-4.
Nick Vespi (2-2) turned in the best start of his career, finishing one out shy of a complete game and shutout. The lefty allowed one run on seven hits over a career-long 6.2 innings, walking none and striking out a career-high 11.
Kade McClure (1-2) went the distance in a losing effort, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in the full seven innings. Tim Naughton locked down his eighth save by getting the final out of the seventh.
Delmarva hustled their way to a pair of runs in the third. Seamus Curran led off with a single, and two batters later Robbie Thorburn ripped a sharp single into right. Curran motored all the way to third, and Thorburn took second on the throw to try and get Curran. With the infield in, Cadyn Grenier bounced a grounder off the mound and into center, scoring both Curran and Thorburn to put the Shorebirds up 2-0.
Delmarva added one more with some help in the sixth. Doran Turchin pounded a dying quail into no-man's land in right that bounced out of a sprinting Alex Destino's glove, becoming a two-out triple. Nick Horvath then chopped one to third base that Luis Curbelo bobbled, allowing Horvath to reach first safely and scoring Turchin to make it 3-0.
With solid heat and a devastating hook, Vespi was lights-out for the first six innings, eclipsing his old strikeout high of eight with a punchout to end the sixth. In the seventh, Curbelo beat out an infield single with one out. After a strikeout, Michael Hickman singled, and Johan Cruz laced one through the left side for another base knock to score Curbelo. Vespi was lifted for Naughton, who gave up a single to Ian Dawkins to load the bases. Naughton kept cool, though, and got Lenyn Sosa to ground into a force at third to end the game.
Grenier finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs to lead the Shorebirds, while Turchin's triple was his third of the season.
Curbelo finished 3-for-3 with the only run for Kannapolis, who broke up a 24.2-inning scorless streak for Shorebirds pitching and avoided a second consecutive shutout.
Jason Bilous (2-1) won it in relief for the Intimidators, tossing 2.2 hitless innings with one walk and two strikeouts. In a spot start, Ryan Wilson (0-1) absorbed the most damage for the Shorebirds, giving up seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits in 3.2 innings, walking one and fanning seven.
In a game that at times seemed to get away from both sets of players, the bottom of the first inning set the tone. Dawkins and Sosa led off with back-to-back singles to put men on first and second. After a strikeout, Destino was at the plate when Wilson threw to second on a pickoff move. The ball bounced in the dirt, and Wilson tossed it into the third base dugout, intending to continue his work with a fresh one. The umpire had never called time from the pickoff, though, and the ball was live as Wilson threw it out of play, resulting in a two-base error that allowed Dawkins to score from second and Sosa to advance to third.
Destino soon after belted an RBI double to the right field wall, putting the Intimidators up 2-0. Johan Cruz added on with a solo home run in the second to make it 3-0.
Delmarva answered in a big way in the top of the third. Andrew Fregia led off with a double, and Thorburn brought him around with an RBI single. Turchin and Adam Hall followed with base hits to load the bases, and Nick Horvath worked out a bases-loaded walk to force in another and make it 3-2 Kannapolis.
Starter Wilber Perez came out at that point in favor of Bilous. Jean Carlos Encarnacion greeted him with a weak groundout to second that brought home Turchin to tie the game. After a walk to Alexis Torres, Ryne Ogren chopped one to short that Sosa misplayed, allowing Hall to score and put the Shorebirds up 4-3. Bilous got Fregia to ground out to third for the final out and Delmarva left the bases loaded.
The lead was short lived, though, as the Intimidators seized control back in the bottom of the third. Romy Gonzalez led off with a walk, and Destino tripled him home to tie it at 4-4. Three batters later, Cruz notched an RBI single to put Kannapois ahead for good, 5-4.
The Intimidators tacked on two more in the fourth on RBIs by Dawkins and Gonzalez, and Curbelo drove in one more in the fifth to give the game its final margin.
Dawkins, the second-leading hitter in the SAL, finished 3-for-4 with a double, RBI, and two runs scored to pace the Intimidators. Destino went 2-for-3 with a double, triple, run, and two RBIs, while Cruz added a solo home run and an RBI single.
Hall finished 2-for-4 with a run scored for his Shorebirds-best 15th multi-hit game.
Perez lasted 2.1 innings in his no-decision for Kannapolis, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits.
The win in Game 1 was Delmarva's fifth of the nine-game road trip, assuring a winning trip. Wins by Hickory and Greensboro saw the Shorebirds' lead over them in the Northern Division shrink to 4.5 games and 5.0 games, respectively.
The Shorebirds go for the early series win over the Intimidators on Sunday afternoon. Ofelky Peralta (2-0, 1.52) toes the rubber for Delmarva against Kannapolis' Jonathan Stiever (3-2, 3.48). First pitch is set for 3:00 p.m., and pregame coverage on Fox Sports 960 AM and the MiLB First Pitch App begins at 2:45 with Will DeBoer on the call.
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