FLORENCE, S.C. – The line score says Florence fell to Macon 5-2 on Wednesday.
A closer look also shows Bacon slugger M.J. Rookard, the leading hitter in the Coastal Plain League, outscored the RedWolves 3-2 by himself.
The Macon outfielder went 4 for 5 with a solo homer and a pair of RBI singles – the last of which came in the top of the ninth inning that plated the go-ahead run.
The Bacon added two more to improve to 11-6 on the season while the RedWolves fell to 6-10. The two teams will play again tonight in Georgia.
“He’s been solid since he got to Macon,” Florence coach Ryan Vruggink said of Rookard, who is batting over .400. “We made two mistakes to him – both on 0-2 pitches, which is hard to swallow, but he’s a good player and he made us pay for them.
“But we’ll see him again tonight and we have to do better.”
The game also resulted in the first career ejection for Vruggink. Following Rookard’s single in the ninth, Cole Blatchford was awarded first after being hit by a 2-2 pitch. An upset Lex Tuten, who was catching, was held back by Vruggink who was tossed on his way back to the dugout after a discussion with the home plate umpire.
“(The umpire) said he had (the pitch) hitting (Blatchford’s) jersey,” Vruggink said. “He called it a ball originally which is why I asked him. I asked him if would go for help and he said no, it was right in front of him and he knew he got it right.
“…I thought I kept my temper pretty well, and I don’t think I deserve that ejection, but it is what it is.”
The fateful ninth negated another strong outing by a Florence starting pitcher, this time in the form of Brenden Kennedy. The 6-foot-3 right-hander gave the RedWolves six solid frames – allowing just one run on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
He faced just two over the minimum through the first three innings and worked around bases-loaded jams in both the fourth and sixth innings.
His only blemish came in the fifth when Rookard homered on a two-out, 0-2 pitch to give the Bacon a 1-0 lead at the time.
“He’s a true three-pitch guy,” Vruggink said of Kennedy. “He works in and out and he’s had success in this league – his first start against Macon was very good as well.”
Macon starter Chance Harris matched zeroes with Kennedy through the first four innings. He worked out of trouble in the fourth when the RedWolves put runners on the corners with no outs, but could not push through a run.
His defense let him down in the fifth, however. A pair of throwing errors by Macon shortstop Cory Bivins allowed the RedWolves a couple of extra chances and they took full advantage. Joe Weisenseel scored on one error and Kenny Piper’s RBI double plated the second unearned run of the inning following the second error moments later.
Rookard, the leading hitter in the Coastal Plain League, came through with another big hit for Macon in the seventh. His RBI single off Florence reliever Sam Ewald drove in Ben McConnell to knot the game at 2-2.
Nathan Bock (0-3) wound up taking the loss for Florence. He allowed three runs on three hits in an inning of relief with two strikeouts.
Weisenseel led the RedWolves at the plate with two hits.