Shorebirds finish 2016 season with winning record

In a season that Shorebirds fans won’t soon forget, Delmarva went into the off-season on the highest of notes with a 4-3 walk-off win over Kannapolis last week in extra innings at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

Delmarva (73-66, 31-39) finished the season with 15 wins in its last at bat and six walk-off wins, but few were as thrilling as Alex Murphy’s winner on Monday.

Ironically, most of the game was dominated by good pitching. Neither team scored a run in the first seven innings and each team only managed three hits through that point in the game. But the contest was far from over.

In the top of the eighth, Danny Mendick gave the Intimidators the lead with a 2-out, RBI double to left field. Jake Bray allowed the first run of the contest and the Shorebirds trailed 1-0 going to the bottom half of the frame.

But in the bottom of the inning, the Shorebirds came alive. Ronarsy Ledesma opened the inning with a walk and he went to second base on an errant pickoff throw. Then Jake Ring collected his first hit with the Shorebirds this season as he doubled home Ledesma to tie the game at 1-1. Ring went to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Guillermo Salas for the first out of the inning. Drew Turbin stepped to the plate for the Shorebirds in a critical spot and came through with an RBI single to left, giving the Shorebirds the 2-1 lead.

Kannapolis ( 58-82, 34-36) refused to quit though. The Intimidators tied the game in the top of the ninth on Antonio Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly to center field. Delmarva couldn’t get anything across in the bottom of the ninth and the game went to extra innings.

In the top of the tenth, Kannapolis scored a run on a 1-out walk, single, double-steal and RBI single from Seby Zavala. Christian Turnipseed (3-4) buckled down to get the final two outs of the inning as he struck out both Cody Daily and Bradley Strong. That kept the Shorebirds within striking distance to open the bottom of the 10th in a 3-2 game.

Gerrion Grim opened the inning with a double to the right field corner off of Jack Charleston (2-7) and immediately the tying run reached base. Ronarsy Ledesma bounced out to the pitcher for the first out and intensified the drama. Jake Ring found himself in need of another clutch hit, and he delivered for the second consecutive at bat with a single to left-center field. That put runners on the corners with one out and the ‘Birds still down 3-2. Guillermo Salas hit a hard ground ball to the right side that was just beyond Strong’s reach at second base and it went into right field for a game-tying hit.

At that point, Kannapolis manager Cole Armstrong went to his bullpen and brought on lefty Johnathan Frebis. Frebis got Turbin to ground out for the second out, but both runners moved up a base. Then Frebis walked Stuart Levy to load the bases for Alex Murphy. A long-time fan favorite on the Eastern Shore, Murphy’s final swing of the season in a Shorebirds’ uniform dropped a ball into right field beyond Micker Adolfo’s reach for a game-winning RBI single.

The win concluded one of the most fun seasons in recent memory in Delmarva. Despite missing the playoffs, the Shorebirds finished the first half of the season with a 42-27 record and went 12-3 over their last 15 games. Delmarva battled through a tough August, but finished the season by winning 10 of their final 12 games. The Shorebirds overall record of 73-66 was sixth best in the league and fourth best in the Northern Division. However, Delmarva only finished 1.0 games behind Lakewood, who won the second half division title and went 74-65 on the year. Hickory, the reigning league champs, finished 2016 with a 74-66 mark.

The 2017 season opens on Thursday, April 6, in Greenville, S.C., against the Greenville Drive. Greenville is the Class A Affiliates of the Boston Red Sox. Delmarva opens the home portion of the 2016 schedule with Hagerstown on Thursday, April 13.

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