BUIES CREEK, NC — A dominant performance from Steven Bruce on the mound propelled the Wood Ducks (8-11, 43-46) to a 6-3 victory over the Astros (13-6, 50-38) on Monday night. The right-hander tossed his second consecutive quality start and struck out six batters in the win.
Home runs from Alex Kowalczyk and Ricky Valencia certainly helped the cause as both dingers accounted for five of the six runs scored by the DEWDs. However the first run of the game was created with speed by Eric Jenkins.
The left fielder reached on an infield single to lead off the third inning. He stole second during Josh Altmann’s at-bat and quickly took third when Chuckie Robinson’s throw went into center field. Leody Taveras would hit a ground ball toward the hole on the right side and Jenkins broke for home and scored uncontested.
Bruce retired each of the first 11 batters he faced in the game until Osvaldo Duarte came to the plated. He turned on an 0-1 offer over the wall in left for a solo homer - his fourth homer in his last 11 games.
Undeterred, Bruce forged on. Eight of his twelve in-play outs were ground ball outs as he continued to work en route to his third win of the season.
The Woodies gave the starter some run support in the sixth on Kowalczyk’s opposite field three-run blast. His eighth homer of the year also marked his fifth away from home - the only Wood Duck with the majority of his homers on the road.
Bruce returned for the bottom of the seventh and ran into trouble with runners on second and third and two outs. The manager Spike Owen emerged for a mound visit, but did not pull Bruce from the game. Two pitches later, Bruce rewarded his skipper for keeping him in by inducing an inning-ending ground out.
By night’s end, the Astros went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left seven runners on base. In the eighth, the Woodies got another pinch of insurance from Valencia’s two-run homer to center. It was his first homer of the season and put the game out of reach before the 6-3 final score.
Down East looks ahead to game two of the series as lefty Yohander Mendez gets the start for the fourth time with the Wood Ducks. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. from Jim Perry Stadium.