Rojas walk-off hit lifts Curve
Mel Rojas Jr. got the hero treatment Wednesday, complete with a shaving cream pie to the face, after he delivered a walk-off hit for the Curve in the bottom of the ninth.
“We needed this win to see if we can use this as momentum,” Rojas said after his single scored Andy Vasquez from second for a 6-5 victory over Bowie before 4,018 fans on schools kids’ day at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
The guy who delivers a walk-off hit usually gets mauled by his teammates on the field. A humorous scene played out with Rojas, who saw his teammates running toward him at second base, so he started jogging into right field as they chased him for congratulations.
The celebration, therefore, actually took place in right field.
“I tried to make it fun, run out to the outfield to make them chase me,” Rojas said.
As he finished that sentence, one of his teammates got him back. Infielder Gift Ngoepe snuck up behind Rojas with a shaving cream pie to the face as other players cheered in the background.
Rojas not only won Wednesday’s game, he’s been the Curve’s best all-around player over the first month. He went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer to raise his average to .310, plus he leads the club in RBIs (23) and at-bats (113) while playing a solid center field and appearing in every game.
“He’s a fighter, man, and he gives you everything he’s got every time he goes up there,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said.
Rojas had a chance to win the game thanks to a bit of a lucky roll earlier in the ninth inning. Vasquez led off with a swinging bunt roller to third base, and as the ball slowly rolled off the grass onto the dirt, it appeared it would barely go foul.
The ball stopped, however, and stayed fair by a couple of inches to put the go-ahead run on base. Vasquez then stole second and scored on Rojas’ bouncing one-out single just to the right of first baseman Christian Walker.
There’s a story behind how Vasquez’s ball stayed fair. Last year, Garcia said he had a meeting with head groundskeeper Ben Young about how there was a slight slope on the third base dirt that would cause slow rollers to go foul.
“That ball last year was a foul ball,” Garcia said of Vasquez’s hit.
Young addressed the issue, this year the area is more level, so slow rollers like the one Vasquez hit have a better chance of staying fair.
The game produced an even more quirky play in the fourth inning when Keon Broxton scored all the way from second base on a fly ball that was caught in deep left-center.
Left fielder Ronald Bermudez and center fielder Dariel Alvarez collided, with Alvarez making the catch. Broxton tagged up from second and kept chugging around third to score easily on a most unusual sacrifice fly that tied the game 1-1.
“I just took off thinking maybe I could have a chance, but I wasn’t really for sure, so I was going hard either way,” Broxton said. “I saw [third base coach Miles Durham] waving me around, I was like, all right, man, let’s do it.”
Rojas’ two-run homer in the fifth gave the Curve a 3-1 lead, and Broxton and Jarek Cunningham each tripled in the sixth to help stretch it to 5-2 lead. Bowie rallied and tied it on Bermudez’s solo homer in the eighth to set up Rojas’ game-winning hit in the ninth.
Quinton Miller (1-0) won in relief for the Curve, while Fabio Castillo (0-1) took the loss.
Key player: Curve CF Mel Rojas Jr. went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs.
Key play: Rojas won it with a walk-off single in the ninth.
Key stat: Rojas leads the team with 23 RBIs.
How they scored
Bottom 4th: Broxton singled, scored from second on Cunningham sacrifice fly (1-0).
Top 5th: Kang singled, scored on Walker single (1-1).
Bottom 5th: Maggi walked, scored on Rojas Jr. two-run homer (3-1).
Top 6th: Rosa singled, scored on Rojas error (3-2).
Bottom 6th: Broxton tripled, scored on Cunningham triple (4-2); Henriquez fielder’s choice scored Cunningham (5-2).
Top 7th: Romero singled, scored on Montero wild pitch (5-3); Alvarez reached on fielder’s choice, scored on Montero wild pitch (5-4).
Top 8th: Bermudez solo homer (5-5).
Bottom 9th: Vasquez singled, scored on Rojas single (6-5).