Opportunity missed: Wings drop series to lowly Louisville

Wings starter Kohl Stewart hurled four shutout innings . (Photo: BARE ANTOLOS/Rochester Red Wings)

By PAUL GOTHAM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Celebrating Hockey Day at the ballpark on Sunday, plans were made to mark the occurrence of any Red Wing home run by using the familiar horn heard at Blue Cross Arena during the winter months.

With the Wings breaking the franchise record for round trippers earlier in the homestand, it seemed likely to hear the blast of the Rochester Amerks early and often.

Instead the 7,879 on hand had to wait until the seventh inning, and it wasn’t enough.

“All the runs were kinda scored like goals,” Wings manager Joel Skinner quipped after the Wings dropped a 5-2 decision to the Louisville Bats.

Brian Gionta (left) was the headliner on the inaugural Hockey Day, when the annual Walk of Fame induction ceremony provided a perfect accompaniment. Rochester Institute of Technology men’s coach Wayne Wilson and the 2012 NCAA Division III national championship team were among the inductees. (Photo: BARE ANTOLOS/Rochester Red Wings)

There were no bases-clearing hits. No three-run home runs. One run at a time, such was the way all weekend against one of the International League’s worst teams. Rochester, which had averaged better than six runs per game in their previous nine leading up to the series opener on Friday, managed to cross home just nine times in three games against the Bats.

On Friday morning, the Wings PR department tweeted a photo of the IL North standings with the words “Waking up in a playoff race.” Those standings haven’t changed. The home nine and Buffalo still sit five games back of division-leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

But what an opportunity missed.

While Scranton dropped two of three to the IL’s best team, Gwinnett (69-49), the Bisons fell twice to IL West-leading Columbus (67-51).

Rochester, on the other hand, suffered two defeats… at home… to Louisville (50-69).

Rochester is still five games out of first. Louisville is a combination of five losses and wins by opponents away from being eliminated from the postseason. Only Norfolk (48-70) has a worse record.

Ramon Flores managed a two-out single in the first. Nothing came of it. The Wings wasted a second inning leadoff single from Alejandro De Aza and an Ian Miller one-out double in the third. They didn’t get another hit until the seventh inning.

Kohl Stewart, starting in place of Sean Poppen, was one of the few bright spots on the day. The right-hander struck out four over four scoreless innings.

Wayne Wilson, who recently wrapped up his 20th season behind the bench at RIT in 2018-19, has an overall record of 366-254-67. He has led the Tigers to three Atlantic Hockey Championships and three NCAA Division I Tournament appearances, including an appearance in the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four. (Photo: RILEY JOSLIN/RIT Athletic Communications)

“He only had three days’ rest,” Skinner said referring to Stewart’s appearance with Minnesota on Wednesday. “With tomorrow being an off day, we were able to piece it together. We wanted to keep him below 60 pitches.”

Iván DeJesús brought in Mike Miller with a two-out single in the seventh. Rochester trailed 3-1. Flores doubled and scored on a De Aza base hit in the eighth.

Flores finished 2-for-3 on the day with a walk. De Aza went 2-for-4.

Sam Clay took the loss giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk over an inning and two-thirds worth of relief work.

Alternative jerseys

The Wings donned the red, white and blue of their neighbors, the Amerks.

“We had to tuck ‘em in,” Skinner remarked with a smile. “They were too long to wear out like sweaters.”

(Photo: BARE ANTOLOS/Rochester Red Wings)

The Wings skipper played bantam and midget hockey during his junior high years while living in San Diego.

Revolving door

Ian Miller led off on Sunday. Acquired from Seattle a day earlier, the centerfielder marked the 68th different player to appear in the Wings lineup this year – a franchise record. The Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle) hold the minor league high-water mark with 86 different players appearing in their current lineup.

Next up

Rochester heads to Indianapolis for a three-game set and then three more at Louisville before returning home for a four-game series with Buffalo. The Wings play the Bisons eight times in their 21 remaining games.

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