Wednesday was Education Day at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. That meant the stands were filled with young kids from schools all across the state.
On the field another youthful explosion was taking place. The Bulls, who had just played a game less than 24 hours earlier, were back on the field Wednesday morning, and showed no effects, defeating Syracuse 5-2.
According to Durham manager Jared Sandberg, a young team shouldn’t have any problems bouncing back so quickly. Father time, as it goes, is on their side.
“We’ve got a young team, so it shouldn’t matter,” Sandberg said with a laugh.
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Ryan Yarbrough, 25, got his first win of the season, striking out eight batters over 6.1 innings of work. Even with his left arm heavily wrapped after the game, the young pitcher says he felt good, finding his groove early, striking out the first two batters he faced.
“Feels good to get that first one out the way,” Yarbrough said. “The last couple of starts I’ve been pounding the strike zone, trying to be aggressive and it’s been paying off, attacking like that.”
The Bulls (13-6) were also aggressive on offense.
After falling behind 1-0 after an RBI from Rafael Bautista in the third, Durham strung together four runs over three innings to take control of the game. They scored two in the fourth when Casey Gillaspie and Mike Marjama drove in consecutive runs. The Bulls got one in the fifth thanks to a wild pitch, and an RBI from Goetzman in the sixth to go up 4-2. Yarbrough did give up a solo home run to Matt Skole in the top of the sixth, but Durham countered with a solo shot from Dayron Varona for the final run of the game.
Both Goetzman and Varona scored runs with two outs on the board, something Sandberg has seen a lot of from his young team recently.
“We’ve been hitting well with two outs,” Sandberg said. “For us to continue to score runs like that, that’s huge. We just kept attacking and the offense kept getting guys on base.”
Six batters got at least one hit for Durham, led by Goetzman (2-4, RBI) and Pat Leonard (2-3). Leonard, one of the few returning faces from a year ago, now has a league-leading 26 hits this season. Without his trademark beard on Wednesday, Leonard looked younger than his 24 years. As he surveyed the locker room, his look represents the team: young and improving.
“We don’t have a lot of veteran guys,” Leonard said. “We’re kind of taking that and running with it, that we’re all fresh and get to go out there and play everyday. We’re having fun, too. We have to play, so we go out there and make the most of it.”
Syracuse (8-9) starter Austin Voth (1-2) took the loss, surrendering five hits and three runs in 4.2 innings. The Durham bullpen continues to shine, not giving up any hits or runs once Yarbrough was done for the day and Neil Wagner and Ryne Stanek, who earned the save, took over. Wagner struck out three, while Stanek fanned one.
“The bullpen has been fantastic over the last eight or nine games,” Sandberg said. “They did a nice job today. Wagner ran into a little bit of trouble early on, but he was able to corral it and get out of the inning and went out there with an explosive fastball and some good stuff the next inning.”
In the last six games, the bullpen has only allowed one run and Durham is 5-1 over that stretch.
Yarbrough also gave credit to the defense behind him.
“A lot of great plays in the outfield and infield,” Yarbrough said. “The way I work I rely on the defense like that. When they come up like that it’s big.”
Even with so much youth in the locker room, even Yarbrough is impressed with the moxy of this group.
“It’s kind of incredible that we’re keeping this pace going,” Yarbrough said. “It’s just about staying positive and going at it everyday.”