After a six-game stretch in which they scored eight total runs, the Hickory Crawdads equaled that in the first five innings Saturday en route to a 10-5 win over the Kannapolis Intimidators at CMC Northeast Stadium.
In pounding out 14 hits, the Crawdads (28-14) snapped a season high, four-game losing streak and maintained a four-game lead over second place West Virginia.
Hickory put the first four runners of the game on base, scoring three of them. Luke Tender singled in Jose Cardona for the first run, followed by a wild pitch – the first of six by Intimidators starter Yelmison Perralta – that put runners and second and third. Jose Trevino (2-for-5) reached on a double error by 3B Ryan Leonards with Michael De Leon scoring on the play. Eduard Pinto (2-for-5) – in his first at bat since returning from the disabled list earlier in the day – brought in Tendler with a grounder to short.
Kannapolis (19-23) answered with two of its own in the bottom of the first against Collin Wiles. Eddy Alvarez and Christian Slater opened with sharp singles, and then worked a double steal. One out later, Leonards reached on an infield single to De Leon at short. Alvarez scored on the play with Slater following him to the plate after De Leon’s throw to first skipped away. Hickory caught a break as the rebound from De Leon’s throw went to Rock Shoulders at first, who then picked off Leonards when he tried to advance to second.
The Crawdads returned serve in the second when Jose Cardona singled in Marcus Greene and Josh Morgan scored on a wild pitch.
From there, Collin Wiles (5-1) held the opposing lineup in check through his six innings of work, as he retired 16 of the final 18 hitters he faced and struck out six.
Hickory blew open the game with four in the fifth. Pinto tripled in two and then scored on a wild pitch from Peralta. Rock Shoulders’ snapped an 0-for-28 slump since he joined the Crawdads a week ago with a sharp single to center that chased Peralta (1-4). Reliever David Trexler walked the bases loaded before issuing his own wild pitch to score Shoulders.
Kannapolis took advantage of a combined five walks by Scott Williams and Kelvin Vasquez to score three in the eighth before Vasquez stuck out Michael Danner to end the threat.
Travis Demeritte’s RBI single in the ninth provided the final margin before Vasquez struck out the side to end the game.
**The Crawdads lineup went back to what they were good at during the first month of the season—taking advantage of mistakes and taking extra bases when the opportunity presented itself. Cardona hit an 0-2 change (I think it was a change, speed gun function was not reliable) for a single to start the first, then took third on De Leon’s bouncer through the right side to set up Tendler’s RBI hit. Morgan’s first-to-third on Cardona’s single in the second set up his run on a Peralta wild pitch.
***Peralta threw six wild pitches, with Hickory runners taking off on several pitches that never left the home-plate circle. One such play involved Pinto in the fifth. When Peralta’s pitch stayed just behind catcher Zach Fish’s feet, Pinto was off from third on the dirt ball and slid in just under Fish’s tag.
** Of the starts I’ve seen Wiles make, this one may be my favorite. It was a night where Wiles did not have his best location early, but he figured out what he did have and worked with it. Wiles had problems keeping his fastball down in the first and the Intimidators made him pay with sharp singles. My memory of the 2014 Wiles is that he would try to bullrush people with heat looking for strikeouts. The 2015 Wiles has ditched the macho and is looking to make pitches. On the final out of the first, he got Mason Robbins to swing through a change, then came back with a fastball to get Robbins to loft a lazy fly to left.
He parlayed that success into the second when Wiles pitched more off his change. He got Danner to swing through one for the first out. After getting Fish to whiff on a change for strike one, Wiles dialed up a 93 heater for the second K of the inning. A fastball up was punished for a double, but then Wiles worked a through an 8-pitch at bat with Eddy Alvarez before his first curveball of the night was taken for strike three.
From there, Wiles mixed all three pitches and had the Intimidators off balance much of the remainder of the night.
As I’ve stated in my blog introduction, I am not the most knowledgeable baseball person in the room. So, with that knowledge, I will say this. I can’t imagine Wiles is with Hickory much past the June all-star break. For now, he has figured out what he needs to do when he doesn’t have his best stuff. He’s become a pitcher that has embraced adjustments from pitch to pitch.
**Good to see the dugout with some animation. It was especially prevalent on plays in which extra bases were taken. There was a funny moment when the dugout asked for the ball after Shoulders’ single in the fifth.
** Some guys get it. It was fun to watch Jose Trevino interact with a couple of pre-teens sitting near the on-deck circle. By the ninth inning, several kids were looking for fist bumps prior to Trevino’s lead off appearance. He did them all, then stepped to the plate and smacked a double to left-center.
**Four walks by Scott Williams in 1.2 innings. He got bailed out by a horrific base-running blunder in the seventh that turned into a double play on a fly to right and got then a more conventional 6-4-3 DP in the eighth to keep the fledgling rally from getting out of hand. Williams now has six walks and only two Ks in 5.1 innings. With an overload of arms at Hickory and in Arizona awaiting a place to pitch, Williams will need to find the K-zone soon.
** The ups-and-downs of Vasquez. He gave up a walk and a hit batter following Williams into the game, followed by a two-run single. In the ninth, he dialed up several 97-98 mph pitches to fan the side.
**Cardona got caught rounding first too wide on his RBI single and got thrown out trying to scramble back. However, that was part of the aggressive theme by base runners all night, so it’s hard to fault him on the play.
**De Leon’s error was a rarity in which he tried to make a play that wasn’t there. His throw to first to catch a runner that would likely have reached safely allowed Singleton to score.