From staff reports
The Lynchburg Hillcats had a chance to walk off in the bottom of the ninth but left two runners stranded.
Steven Kwan, however, made up for the missed opportunity an inning later, giving Lynchburg a 4-3 victory over visiting Wilmington at City Stadium and powering the Hillcats to their second walkoff win of the season.
After striking out by swinging at three straight pitches with two outs in the ninth, Luke Wakamatsu started the 10th at second base thanks to Minor League Baseball’s extra-innings tiebreaker rules, then moved to third on a wild pitch from Josh Dye.
Leadoff batter Kwan then sent the second pitch he saw to right field for an RBI single that scored Wakamatsu to help the ‘Cats (32-32) secure their third straight victory over Wilmington (41-25). The win marked the first extra-innings triumph for the Hillcats, who entered the day 0 for 4 in contests that have gone longer than nine innings.
Lynchburg reliever Riley Echols retired all three batters on nine pitches in the top of the 10th to set up Kwan’s heroics.
Echols (2-0) earned the win thanks to his bounce-back performance in the game’s final inning, after he gave up a two-out RBI double to Brewer Hicklen in the ninth that put the Blue Rocks ahead briefly at 3-2.
The teams went back and forth in the game’s final innings, which featured three ties.
Neither team scored before the sixth thanks to the work of starters Jackson Kowar and Justin Garza.
Kowar went seven innings and allowed one run (earned) on three hits, walked two and fanned six in seven innings for the Blue Rocks. Garza lasted six innings and scattered eight hits, walked two and struck out four.
Wilmington struck first in the sixth on Sebastian Rivero’s single to take a 1-0 lead, but Lynchburg answered in the seventh by scoring on a wild pitch from Kowar.
The Blue Rocks took the lead twice more, at 2-1 and later at 3-2, but the Hillcats had the answer every time.
Jose Vicente (1 for 1) provided the day’s second-biggest hit in the ninth, forcing extras with an RBI single with two outs. The Hillcats took their only lead of the day on Kwan’s game-winner off Dye (2-1) who took the loss after allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, walking one and striking out one in one inning of relief.
Wilmington outhit Lynchburg 11-7. Four Blue Rocks players had two hits each.
Oscar Gonzalez and Gavin Collins each went 2 for 4 for the Hillcats.
The ‘Cats and Blue Rocks continue their four-game series with Game 2 at 6:30 p.m. today at City Stadium.