Savannah at Hickory May 12

The Hickory Crawdads rallied with five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat the Savannah Sand Gnats 9-5 in front of 4,023 fans on an “Education Day” at L.P. Frans Stadium.

With the win, Hickory (22-9) closed out a 3-1 series win over the Sand Gnats (12-19) and completed a 6-1 home stand. The Crawdads lead West Virginia by four games in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division and is now six up on third place Delmarva (Md.).  Now 12-4 at L.P. Frans this season, the Crawdads avoided losing back-to-back games at home for the first time this season.

The Crawdads entered the bottom of the eighth trailing 5-4. Luke Tendler walked to open the inning before the Sand Gnats brought in right-hander Jimmy Duff to face Jose Trevino, who legged out a double to medium left-center. Duff enticed Tripp Martin to hit a comebacker for the first out and then intentionally walked Kevin Torres to load the bases for Jairo Beras.

The strategy was foiled when Beras split the gap for a two-run double. Josh Morgan followed with a sharp liner just inside the bag at third for a two-run single. Isiah Kiner-Falefa doubled, but Morgan was thrown out at home for the second out. Cardona closed out the scoring with an RBI single.

Savannah dented the scoreboard first in the second when it put the first five runners on base against starter Ariel Jurado. Patrick Biondi ripped a two-run single before the Sand Gnats added the third run on a double-play ball.

Facing Sand Gnats starter Corey Oswalt, Kevin Torres lined a homer (2) to right to make it 3-1 and Travis Demeritte added a two-run shot (4) to tie the game in the third.

The Sand Gnats quickly re-took the lead in the fourth on Luis Guillorme’s sacrifice fly that scored Thomas Nido.

Hickory tied the game at 4-all in the fifth when Jose Cardona scored after Travis Demeritte broke up a potential inning-ending double play.

Savannah again pushed ahead with a run in the sixth as Crawdads reliever Kelvin Vasquez gave up a single and back-to-back walks to load the bases. However, Vasquez induced Biondi to hit into a double play, which scored a run, but stifled further damage.

John Fasola worked around a single in the ninth to close out the game. Vasquez got the win (2-1), while Duff was tagged with the loss (0-1).

The Good:

*After struggling with their timing initially, the Crawdads hitters adjusted to the off-speed offerings by Sand Gnats starter Oswalt and took advantage of a flat, mostly sub-90s fastball.

*After tweeting this:

Travis Demeritte hit the next pitch – a flat 88 mph offering from Oswalt – well over the fence left.

*Jose Trevino continues to benefit from a day off on Sunday. He doubled in the fifth – only to see a runner cut down at home – and had a key double to spur the decisive rally in the eighth. Trevino also lined hard to right in the second.

*With a single in the third, Like Tendler has a seven-game hit streak. Josh Morgan went 8-for-17 and five RBI in the series with Savannah. Jose Cardona had 6 hits in the four-game series with two homers, two walks and four runs.

*Ariel Jurado didn’t have his best stuff, but did enough to get through five innings. Twelve of his 15 outs came via a groundball or a strikeout.

*Kelvin Vasquez struggled with control early, but with the bases loaded in the sixth, and a 3-0 count to Biondi, Vasquez battled to get the count full before inducing a double-play ball to held the Sand Gants to one run.

The Not-So-Good

*Jurado’s poor location early was a sign of things to come. He missed badly with a 0-2 fastball in the first that John Mora slapped into center. Jurado then struggled with his secondaries in the second before getting a feel for his curveball and a slider in the third. It was only the third time this season that a Crawdads starting pitcher allowed more than three runs in a start.

*Kelvin Vasquez had a live 94-96 fastball at the start of the sixth, but little control. The Biondi double play gave him new life and he retired the final seven Sand Gnats. Vasquez has 12 walks in 20.2 innings.

*Tripp Martin had a tough afternoon at the plate, especially against Oswalt, who tossed mostly changeups and sliders to Martin. He finished 0-for-4 with only one ground ball getting past the mound. Martin is 4-for-37 in his last nine games.

* Cardona was caught napping on a play in the bottom of the eighth. With Morgan at first, Kiner-Falefa ripped a double into the left-field corner and manager Corey Ragsdale waived Morgan all the way home. Cardona, as the on-deck hitter, was expected to get near home to tell the incoming runner whether or not to slide. Instead, Cardona stayed near the circle and left Morgan out to dry. Unable to see the throw coming from behind him Morgan came into home standing and was tagged out.

Upcoming:

The Crawdads have Wednesday off before going to Augusta (Ga.) to take GreenJackets for four games.  Augusta will be only the second plus-.500 team that Hickory has faced this season.

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