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Hoover sharp, but Myrtle Beach Pelicans dealt first loss

Eventually, all the come-from-behind magic had to elude the Pelicans.

It happened Sunday.

After three such wins in the first three games of the season, Myrtle Beach couldn't pull off its late-inning heroics in the series finale against Wilmington. The Pelicans squandered an impressive return to the team for starting pitcher J.J. Hoover and could never overcome continued production from the Blue Rocks before falling 8-3 in their first loss of the season.

"We got down too much there in the ninth," Myrtle Beach manager Rocket Wheeler said. "It's hard to come back five runs in the ninth. I'm not saying it can't be done. ... This team has shown some character, and that's what you want to see from them."

The day also included plenty of what Wheeler and Co. wanted to see from Hoover. The last time he took the mound for the Pelicans - April 17 last year at Potomac - it was an experience to forget.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder started his lone game for the Pelicans that night only to get rocked for three hits and three runs while walking five batters in just three innings. Sunday, though, Hoover proved that amnesia is a necessary component of moving up the charts of professional baseball.

"For me, it was because that just wasn't me - walking five guys and everything," Hoover said of his 2009 start for Myrtle Beach. "That's just not my game plan. ... I'm pretty excited about [the return]. It's another rung on the ladder I want to climb."

Hoover threw four strong innings against Wilmington, scattering three hits and no runs to go with three strikeouts and a walk. He also split three Blue Rocks bats with his fastball and curve.

The effort of the right-hander had something to do with confidence. After that dismal spot start last year, Hoover was moved back down to Low-A Rome. Once there, he thrived for most of the season and finished 2009 with a 148-25 strikeout-walk ratio while holding his ERA to a respectable 3.35.

So when he returned to Myrtle Beach for this season, he expected a bit more success.

He found it, but the Pelicans' highlights aside from Hoover were few and far between in the series finale.

Myrtle Beach right fielder Adam Milligan's no-out RBI single in the fourth brought Amadeo Zazueta around from second for the first score of the game. It gave Wheeler all the excuse he needed to keep Hoover's first start of the season an abbreviated one.

But Wilmington went ahead 2-1 in the fifth on a pair of RBI hits. Zazueta drove in a run with a bases-loaded bunt single in the bottom half of the inning to tie it.

The scoring was minimal from there, as the only other Pelican run came on an infield single from Gerry Rodriguez in the eighth inning.

Wilmington then iced the game with a four-run ninth.

Despite the loss, Wheeler was happy with the overall result. All but one of his relievers made at least two appearances, and his position players got plenty of swings at the plate in the first four games of the season.

"Everybody's got to get their feet wet," Wheeler said. "And that's what this series was all about."

WILMINGTON (DEL.)

MYRTLE BEACH

Ab

r

h

Bi

ab

r

h

bi

Norris cf

5

1

1

0

Campusano 2b

3

1

2

0

Ortiz rf

4

1

2

1

Zazueta ss

3

1

2

1

Gordon dh

2

1

0

0

Milligan rf

4

0

1

1

Hosmer 1b

4

1

2

1

Rodriguez lf

4

0

1

1

Romak lf

4

1

2

2

Avila 1b

4

0

1

0

Taylor 3b

4

2

2

0

Sucre dh

4

0

0

0

Perez c

5

0

2

2

Kennelly c

3

1

0

0

Garcia 2b

5

0

2

2

Gress 3b

4

0

1

0

Rivera ss

5

1

1

0

Santamaria cf

3

0

0

0

Totals

38

8

14

8

Totals

32

3

8

3

Wilmington

000

020

114

--

8

Myrtle Beach

000

110

010

--

3

E-- Taylor (1); Zazueta (1). LOB--Blue Rocks 11, Myrtle Beach 5. DP-Blue Rocks 2. 2B--Ortiz 2 (2); Perez (1); Garcia (1); Zazueta (1); Campusano (1), CS--Garcia (1); Campusano (1). S-Norris; Ortiz.

Wilmington

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Caldera

4 2/3

4

2

2

1

3

Hodgson W, 1-0

3 1/3

4

1

1

1

2

Bowden

1

0

0

0

0

1

Myrtle Beach

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Hoover

4

3

0

0

1

3

Paulino

2

4

2

2

1

0

Francis L, 0-1

2

4

2

2

1

0

Castro

1/3

2

4

4

2

0

Pruneda

2/3

1

0

0

0

2

WP -Caldera. IBB-Gordon (by Francis). HBP-Zazueta (by Caldera); Gordon (by Hoover). Umpires-Home, Chris Graham, 1B: Doug Vines. T--2:52. A--3,237.

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