Blake Perkins (#2) mobbed at home plate after launching game-winning, three-run homer in the opening game of Sunday’s doubleheader with Delmarva. (Photo courtesy: Patrick Cavey)
The Hagerstown Suns were the venue for walk-off city on Sunday! Blake Perkins had the walk-off hits in both games of the doubleheader, and Perkins had never had a pro walk-off before! In the first game of the doubleheader, Perkins crushed a 3-run HR for the walk-off, and in the second game hit the walk-off single. Perkins is a natural right-handed batter, and when Mike Rizzo drafted Perkins in the 2nd round with Andrew Stevenson in 2015, they kept the young Perkins back in Florida to work on becoming a switch-hitter. Perkins had hits from both sides of the plate on Sunday going 4-8, and the home run was hit left-handed.
The Low-A Washington Nationals affiliate had a scheduled doubleheader set after rain postponed Saturday’s game, and the Suns opponent this past weekend was the Orioles Low-A affiliate Delmarva Shorebirds.
The Suns’ line-up card read like a listing of Top 20 prospects led by RF Juan Soto, SS Carter Kieboom, 3B Sheldon Neuse, CF Blake Perkins, LF Nick Banks, 1B Anderson Franco, LHP Tyler Watson, and then there are the players trying to get top prospect status like Daniel Johnson, Jake Noll and Tres Barrera.
During the pre-game, I spent time with Milwaukee Brewers scout Jeff Bianchi, and he covers central Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia teams. He has a lengthy travel schedule set ahead of him. He told me he was impressed by this Hagerstown team and in particular Juan Soto.
The Suns (12-6) trailed 1-0 before Perkins led off the sixth inning with a double batting right-handed and later scored the tying-run on a Juan Soto single. Perkins came back to the plate with two runners aboard and one out in the last inning and crushed his first home run of the season while batting lefty to set off the walk-off celebration.
“Yes, that was my first walk-off,” Blake Perkins told us after the first game. “The [walk-off] felt good… (laughing) I got tired of playing extra innings.”
In the nightcap, Perkins reached base in each of his first two at-bats, scoring both times on Juan Soto RBIs. The Suns trailed 3-2 entering the seventh but Aldrem Corredor tied it up with one swing of the bat and forced extra innings with a lead-off, solo homer.
Preston Palmeiro, son of former Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, put the Shorebirds ahead with a solo home run of his own against Suns reliever Kyle Simonds in the top of the 8th but Carter Kieboom tied up the game with a towering shot over the left field wall.
With another walk-off opportunity, the Suns wasted no time as Daniel Johnson and Jorge Tillero got aboard with singles before Angelo LaBruna executed a fake bunt, swinging from one knee for a looping single into left. That set the table again for Perkins, who fired a sharp single up the middle for his second game-winning hit in less than three hours.
Carter Kieboom showed us why he is a top prospect. Like Soto, he has that confidence in the box and can work the count. Kieboom had multiple hits including another home run in the game that measured 417 feet.
The Suns own the best record in the South-Atlantic League, and Municipal Stadium was really looking good. This historic venue had a great crowd on Sunday. The field was well-manicured and the infield dirt was groomed nicely. For Nationals fans, you should get up there for a chance to see these Nationals future prospects. This is the best crop of Nats prospects since 2011 when Bryce Harper was a Hagerstown Sun rightfielder.
If you spend the day in Hagerstown, there is plenty to do in the area with historic sites, a large outlet mall, the incredible Beaver Creek Antique center which has a Bryce Harper shrine in their lobby, and if you venture 30 minutes north to Caretti’s Pizzeria, the TV is always on the Nats games at Caretti’s in Chambersburg, PA.
For the young children in attendance, they scored autographs from all the players. The players were very interactive with the fans and that was the case with Carter Kieboom who took time from eating his Cap’n Crunch cereal to sign autographs and pose for pictures and the same for Juan Soto who signed on his way to the dugout.
To purchase your Suns tickets, call (301) 791-6266 or visit www.hagerstownsuns.com.