Wings walk off winners
By: Mike Rose
ROCHESTER, N.Y.– Amidst roster turnover and a 12-game road trip the Rochester Red Wings stayed within striking distance of first place in the International League. On Tuesday night, they rallied from a 7-2 sixth-inning hole to defeat the current first-place team in the IL, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 8-7.
Rochester has watched as Jake Alu, Jeter Downs, Blake Rutherford and Joan Adon all earned the call to the big leagues, José Ureña was released and Derek Hill hit the injured list since the calendar turned to August. Despite all of this, Manager Matthew LeCroy has taken it in stride and juggled his rotation and lineups to keep the Red Wings in contention.
"That's Triple-A man. Ever since I've been here the last couple of years we've had a lot of roster movement and you have to learn how to make adjustments," LeCroy said.
With all of the movement, however, Tuesday night's hero was a familiar face. Long-time Red Wing Jake Noll delivered a pinch-hit, walk-off two-run single to seal the victory for Rochester.
"You don't have to get ready if you stay ready," Noll said.
Noll has always seemed ready in his time with Rochester, racking up 257 hits as a Red Wing, the most since they became a Nationals affiliate in 2021. Number 257 ended up being his first career walk-off as a pinch-hitter and capped off the comeback for the Red Wings.
"I get pumped when we win any game but when you're down they seem to be a bit more special, especially as behind as we were," LeCroy said. It should give us some confidence, these guys want to win. They want to prove to people that we have the people who can do it. They work hard every day and we can control it,"
Rochester struck first with a run in the second before things unraveled in the fourth. Tommy Romero walked a pair before giving way to Anthony Banda. Banda walked the bases loaded before forcing in a run with another walk. That brought Kody Clemens to the plate with the bases loaded and he blasted one into right for a grand slam and turned an early deficit into a 5-1 Lehigh Valley lead.
Rochester would get one back on an error in the fifth before Jim Haley made it a 7-2 lead for the IronPigs with a two-run blast in the sixth. The comeback would then begin in the seventh.
Jack Dunn worked a walk before scoring on a double from Erick Meija. A two-out triple from Darren Baker would cut the margin down to 7-4. Rochester would add another run in the eighth with a bases-loaded walk but despite having no outs they could not push across an additional run as Erick Meija bounced into a double play to end the threat.
In the ninth, Richie Martin led off with a base hit and brought Baker to the dish. He worked a 12-pitch at-bat that ended with a walk. The next two batters for Rochester were retired which brought Travis Blakenhorn to the plate as the winning run and the Red Wings down to their final out. He ripped an RBi single to cut the deficit to one. Drew Millas would work what would be the sixth Red Wing walk in the final three frames to load the bases up for the pinch hitter Noll.
"He flipped a slider first pitch and kind of flinched on it. Naturally, I was looking for it again and he threw the same pitch and I put a good swing on it," Noll said.
The victory was Rochester's seventh walk-off win of the season. The Red Wings felt as though a win like this one over first-place Lehigh Valley could potentially catapult them down the stretch.
"It's big. I feel like throughout the whole season we kind of fight to the last out no matter what and at least give us a chance to win. We've discussed who we had coming up on the schedule and where the standings were. We're all aware of how big of a stretch this is and we're ready to go," Baker said.
LeCroy echoed a similar sentiment.
"We just have to continue to battle with each other and be arm and arm and go out and do what we can do. I trust the guys on our team that we can do it," LeCroy said.
With the win Rochester (18-16, 52-55) moves within two and a half games of first-place Lehigh Valley (20-13, 56-50) and Worcester (20-13, 59-49) in the second-half standings. The Red Wings will look to carry the momentum over into game two of the series tomorrow. Alex Troop (0-0, 12.00) is slated to get the start for the Red Wings while Philadelphia Phillies no. 4 ranked prospect Griff McGary will make his Triple-A debut for the IronPigs. First pitch at Innovative Field Wednesday is scheduled for 6:45 p.m.