Blue Rocks hang on to first place

WOODBRIDGE — On a typically humid summer day, Wilmington pitcher Wes Wilkerson looked terribly out of place. The 25-year old righthander wore a dark blue, long-sleeve T-shirt under his regular uniform.

That ‘s apparel for the beginnings and ends of the season, not during a July furnace of a day.

The un-usual outfit, however, had little bearing on Wilkerson ‘s effectiveness or his strength, as he combined with two other pitchers in the Blue Rocks ‘ 1-0 win over the Potomac Cannons on Monday night.

“I ‘ve always been doing that. Your arms get sweated bad,” said Wilkerson of his long-sleeve shirt. “After tonight, my whole uniform was soaked, and it ‘s even worse for your pitching hand. It ‘s already hot, so it ‘s not like it ‘s going to make me 10 degrees hotter.”

Wilkerson pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up only one hit. He never threw more than 15 pitches an inning, and got out of the second with just four pitches. Of the 21 batters he faced the minimum through seven — he started 16 with a first-pitch strike. Of his 68 pitches, 45 went for strikes.

The low pitch count can be indicative of a pitcher ‘s dominance or an offense ‘s lack of patience. From Cannons manager Joe Cunningham ‘s point of view, the latter was the case on Monday.

“We didn ‘t have a lot of patience. Except for a few guys who worked the count full, that ‘s it,” Cunningham explained. “You ‘ve got to make the guy work a bit. But give him credit, he threw strikes all night.”

Blue Rocks manager Jeff Garber said he lifted Wilkerson after the sixth for precautionary reasons.

“It was just the heat,” Garber said. “He ‘s had a sore shoulder his last few starts.”

In Wilkerson ‘s last four starts, he ‘s posted a 2-1 record the lone loss coming to Potomac. His best outing of the season prior to Monday was on June 14 against Winston-Salem, when he earned a win by allowing one hit in six and a third innings.

Julio Guerrero and Mike Natale secured Wilkerson ‘s sixth win of the season.

Wilmington got its run in the first off of an initially shaky Julio Villalon. Villalon, signed from Duluth-Superior of the independent Northern League, surrendered two hits to the first two batters he saw. He recovered a bit, striking out the next two, but the Rocks ‘ Tony Americh singled up the middle to score leadoff hitter David DeJesus.

Villalon struggled a bit into the second as well, allowing three baserunners. But one was picked off at first by Villalon, and the other two were stranded when Norris Hopper flew out to center field.

After that, Villalon settled down, allowing just two hits over the next five innings before turning the game over to Anthony Rawson.

“He pitched a hell of a game. He deserved to win, but it didn ‘t happen,” Cunningham said of Villalon. “[In the first inning] he gave up two base hits, then he strikes out two guys, and the next hits a blooper. He wasn ‘t nervous. He showed poise and composure, and pitched with no fear. I like that. He showed me a lot.”

The loss knocks down the Cannons (18-17 second half) in the Carolina League Northern Division standings. Heading into Monday ‘s game, Potomac was just one game behind leaders Wilmington (21-16) and Lynchburg, who traveled to Winston-Salem on Monday night.

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