AUGUSTA, NJ – Francisco Rodriguez dominated on the mound in his first start with the Sussex County Miners. The left-hander fired six shutout, one-hit innings, and struck out seven men, as he lead the Miners (29-41) to a 5-0 victory over the Quebec Capitales at Skylands Stadium.
Hours after signing his contract with the Miners, Rodriguez (1-0) took the ball against one of the top offenses in the Can-Am League and was nearly unhittable from the outset. Rodriguez worked one time through the Capitales’ (42-30) order before he finally surrendered a hit.
Yuniesky Gurriel doubled with two outs in the third inning to break up the no-hitter and Jonathan Malo nearly knocked him in. Malo hit a sharp line drive to right-center, but Miners centerfielder Jamal Austin made a diving catch to end the inning and keep the game scoreless.
After Austin’s web gem, Rodriguez was lights-out. He struck out a pair of Quebec hitters in a one-two-three fourth inning and worked around a walk to pitch another scoreless inning in the fifth. Rodriguez finally capped his night by setting Quebec down in order in the sixth with a pair of strikeouts and a pop out.
While Rodriguez was sharp for the Miners, lefty Mark Hardy was also dominant on the hill for Quebec. Hardy (6-4) did not allow a hit until Sergio Miranda singled in the fourth and the Capitales’ starter had a two-hit shutout with six strikeouts after five innings. The Miners, however, finally figured Hardy out in the sixth.
Austin started the rally for Sussex County, as the speedster worked a walk with one out. Hardy threw a wild pitch that moved Austin to second base and then the lefty balked to move Austin to third. The Capitales pulled the infield in to try to cut off the run, but Miranda roped a single to right field and Austin crossed the plate with the first run of the game.
The Miners held a 1-0 lead, thanks to Miranda, but they were not finished. Rey Otero pinch-hit for Kenny Bryant and hit a sharp grounder that went through the legs of first baseman Tim Smith and down the right field line. Miranda moved up to third on the play. Ryan Mathews came up next and ripped a double to left that scored Miranda to put the Miners further ahead, 2-0.
Sussex County added two more runs against Hardy in the sixth inning. Jon Talley hit a fly ball to left field, in foul territory, and Otero tagged up from third and scored. The next batter, Jayson Hernandez, hit a chopper over Hardy’s head and legged out an infield single that allowed Mathews to score and gave the Miners a 4-0 lead.
Brady Wilson added the final tally for the Miners with a bang in the seventh. Wilson led off the seventh against reliever Shaun Ellis and drilled a line drive that cleared the left field wall. The drive was Wilson’s first career home run and extended the Miners’ lead to 5-0.
The Miners’ bullpen held onto the lead and kept the Capitales’ offense off the board the rest of the way. Tony Amezcua pitched 1.2 scoreless innings before he was struck in the leg by a line drive and came out of the ballgame. John Lujan finished off the eighth and Julio Rodriguez made his Miners’ debut in the ninth.
Rodriguez gave up a double to Kalian Sams and the runner made it to third on a wild pitch, but the reliever settled in. He struck out Josue Peley and got Tim Smith to fly out to left to end the game and secure the Miners’ fourth shutout win of the season.
Hardy suffered the loss for Quebec. The lefty pitched six innings and gave up four runs (two earned) on five hits. He struck out seven and walked three.
The Miners won the first game of their series with Quebec. Sussex County has now taken four of its last five games to move within 3.5 games of the Ottawa Champions for the last playoff spot in the Can-Am League.
Sussex County and Quebec square off again on Wednesday night at Skylands Stadium in the second game of a three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
For more information on the Sussex County Miners, call (973) 383-7644 or go online to SussexCountyMiners.com.