KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Despite scoring six runs in the first two innings, the Down East Wood Ducks needed a run in the top of the ninth to sneak away with the 8-7 win against the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers Wednesday night. The Wood Ducks improve to 2-0 on the season and sit atop the Low-A East Central Division.
For the second night in a row, the offense got started early and dealt some serious damage against Kannapolis starter Jared Kelley. Kelley couldn’t make it out of the first inning and threw 35 pitches. Evan Carter led off with a single, stole second, and third and Luisangel Acuña reached first on a wild pitch strikeout. With Dustin Harris at the plate, Carter scored on a balk for the first run of the game and Acuña advanced to second. After Harris lined out, Acuña scored on a Marcus Smith triple (1) to put the Wood Ducks up 2-0. After issuing a walk to Xavier Valentin to put runners at the corners, Keyber Rodriguez also walked but a passed ball allowed Smith to score from third and a throwing error on Kannapolis catcher Daniel Millwee allowed Valentin to score from second to put Down East up 4-0.
The onslaught continued in the second inning. Jayce Easley and Carter started with back-to-back singles. With runners at the corners, Acuña reached on a throwing error that allowed both Easley and Carter to score to increase the Wood Ducks lead to 6-0.
The third and fourth innings were disastrous for the Wood Ducks as Kannapolis pushed six runs across in the third and then took the lead in the fourth adding one for the 7-6 lead.
Down East managed to tie the game in the fifth inning. With one out, Harris and Smith knocked back-to-back singles. With runners at the corners, Cristian Inoa singled home Harris to tie the game at seven.
The game entered a deadlock until the top of the ninth. With two outs Valentin singled and advanced to second. Rodriguez reached first on a throwing error, which allowed Valentin to score to break the tie 8-7.
Wyatt Sparks took the no-decision, allowed six runs, on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Josh Smith pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Abdiel Mendoza was the third pitcher used by Down East. He pitched three innings, allowing only two hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Nick Starr (1-0) earned the win out of the bullpen. He worked one shutout inning, allowing only one walk, and striking out three. Spencer Mraz closed out the final frame with three strikeouts en route to his and the Wood Ducks’ first save of the season.
The Wood Ducks opening series continues tomorrow with Kannapolis with first pitch set for 7:00 p.m. ET. Down East RH Dane Acker will matchup against Cannon Ballers RH Chase Solesky both pitchers will be making their full season debuts.