Wood Ducks sweep doubleheader from Blue Rocks
KINSTON, Lenoir County —
The Down East Wood Ducks may have peaked too late to win the Carolina League Southern Division's first-half title. But at least the team is still in the thick of the chase.
The Wood Ducks swept Wilmington in two seven-inning games on Tuesday, winning 6-5 and 8-5. The wins give Down East three straight after struggles on the road put the team in jeopardy of being eliminated from winning the first-half title. The Wood Ducks did gain a half game in the chase for first with the two wins and is now 3.5 games out of first with six games left in the first half of the season.
The Wood Ducks (34-30) used a combined total of 21 hits in the doubleheader to earn a sweep over the Blue Rocks (28-37) on Tuesday night. Leody Taveras led the way going 5-for-8 on the night with three extra-base hits and three runs scored.
Despite the Blue Rocks scoring first, the Wood Ducks wasted no time in tying the game in the bottom of the second on Melvin Novoa’s fourth homer of the season. The solo blast came on the second pitch of his at-bat to knot the score at one.
The bats arrived in a two-out rally in the fourth inning. A walk to Chuck Leblanc put him aboard with Josh Altmann (who doubled). Taveras lined a single to bring home Altmann and give the Woodies the lead. Then on the next pitch, Anderson Tejeda blasted his team-leading 10th homer of the season for a three-run shot to right. It was also his first off of a left-handed pitcher this season.
The 5-1 lead would not last, as starter Edgar Arredondo ran into trouble in the fifth. Each of the first three batters reached on an infield single, a single through a hole, and a walk. Then with a 1-2 count on Gabriel Cancel, the second baseman connected on a grand slam to tie the game.
Locke St. John entered and struck out four of the next five batters he faced in his two scoreless frames of work. He earned his second win with the DEWDs for his efforts.
In the sixth, the Woodies used small ball to push across the go-ahead run. Leblanc led off with an infield single and advanced to second on the throwing error by Cancel. Taveras dropped a sacrifice bunt, then Tejeda hit a pop-up down the left field line.
Wilmington has the most outfield assists in the league, but that didn’t stop Leblanc. He tagged and scored on a headfirst dive for home, just under the tag to give the Woodies a 6-5 lead.
C.D. Pelham entered for the ninth and finished the game with a strikeout for his 11th save of the season - a mark that leads the league.
The Woodies got off to a hot start behind Sal Mendez’s first appearance with Down East. The Woodies scored in each of the first two innings en route to scoring in four of the six innings of offense.
Five different hitters had multi-hit nights as Taveras led the way with three - only a homer shy of the cycle. Another big fourth inning pushed the Wood Ducks ahead by bringing ten batters to the plate.
Matt Whatley started the rally beating out an infield single to spark five straight hits to open the inning. Leblanc dropped an RBI single to right field before Taveras’ triple to right-center. Later in the frame, Davis and Altmann added their own run-scoring single to push the Woodies ahead 6-1.
Mendez departed after four innings with only three bloop singles and two strikeouts. Michael Matuella earned his first win as a reliever with two innings and only allowing one earned run.
Down East added two more runs in the sixth inning thanks to a pair of Wilmington errors. The Woodies had a baserunner in every inning of offense in the doubleheader.
Despite the sweep, the Woodies only gained a half game on first place with six games to go. They remain three and a half games back before they close the series with the Blue Rocks on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Right-hander Kaleb Fontenot will make his first start for the Woodies this season.