For the third straight game, the Hickory Crawdads put up a double-digit hit total and used shoddy Delmarva (Md.) defense to pound the Shorebirds 10-3 in the opener of a three-game series.
After scoring eight total runs in a six-game stretch last week, the Crawdads (30-14) now have 28 runs on 40 hits during the current three-game win streak. Hickory remains four games up on second place West Virginia in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. Delmarva (22-22), which was a game back of Hickory on May 4, has lost 13 of its last 20.
Hickory pounded out 16 hits and got the help of three crucial errors on potential double play balls to outpace the Shorebirds.
Jose Cardona (4-for-5) led off the scoring with his fifth homer of the season in the third. One out later, Luke Tendler walked and Jose Trevino singled. It appeared the inning would end when Eduard Pinto slapped a ground ball to second. The Shorebirds recorded the second out, but Trevino’s hard slide into second altered the relay of shortstop Guillermo Salas to first and allowed Tendler to score on the error.
The Crawdads added three unearned in the fifth against Matthew Grimes (3-2). After Tendler singled, Trevino pulled a curveball to third for what should’ve been a double play. But the throw from 3B Jomar Reyes was dropped by 2B Romansy Ledesma and allowed Tendler to move to third. One out later, Demeritte (3-for-5) smacked a grounder to short, but again Ledesma dropped the throw with Tendler scoring. Rock Shoulders’ sac fly brought in Trevino and Marcus Greene’s double scored Demeritte.
That was more than enough for Ariel Jurado (7-0). After working out of trouble in the third and fourth innings, the 19-year-old finished with six shutout innings on two hits. He walked one, struck out six and recorded nine groundball outs.
Hickory added four more in the seventh on a three-run blast by Demeritte (5) and a solo shot by Greene (4) made it 9-0.
After Conor Bierfeldt spoiled the shutout with a three-run homer (7) in the eighth against Joe Filomeno, the Crawdads pieced together two hits, a walk, and a fielder’s choice for the final run on the eighth.
David Perez worked around a two-out double in the ninth to close out the game.
The Good: (NOTE: I left my notes at the ballpark, so I’m going off memory…a 52-year-old memory bank.)
**Ariel Jurado was brilliant. Working off a 93-94 mph sinker, Jurado ofter worked in a change, an occasional slider and a tight curve, with which he got two called-third strikes. He destroyed Logan Uxa’s bat with a heavy sinker that he sent back to Jurado to end the third. He ended his night in the sixth with a 94 mph outside corner swinging strike to Ledesma, a curveball swinging strike to Bierfeldt, and a 93 mph inside corner swinging strike to Reyes. Jurado threw any pitch he wanted, whenever he wanted. Finished with 71 pitches – 53 strikes – and started 16 of 22 hitters with first-pitch strikes.
**Nine two-strike hits by the offense! Six of those came after starting 0-2 or 1-2. Both the double and homer by Greene came on 0-2 pitches. Cardona’s homer in the third and a double in the seventh came after falling behind 1-2.
**Travis Demeritte put up a solid overall game. He crushed a hanging curve from Mike Burke in the seventh. In the field, he made a strong jump-throw from behind the bag for an out and ranged deep to his right to corral another grounder. Demeritte makes the routine plays with an occasional plus play with a strong arm.
**Josh Morgan and Jose Trevino teamed up on a key play in the fourth. Up 2-0 with Reyes at third and one out, the Crawdads played the infield back to concede a run. Elier Leyva smacked a sharp grounder to Morgan past the bag at third. Morgan scooped the grounder, then fired a bullet to Trevino at home. Trevino made the catch in front of the plate before slapping a tag on the cleat of Reyes trying to slide to the back tip of the plate.
**Maybe it’s me, but for the first time since Michael De Leon came to Hickory a year ago, he looked tired. A nonchalant throw in the third kept the inning alive and turned a six-pitch inning into a 16-pitch inning for Jurado. At the plate, he went 0-for-5 with two called-third strikeouts and just didn’t have the usual spring-in-the-step at the plate. Again, maybe it’s just me.
**Jurado walked 20 percent of his season total of walks in this game. He now has five for the season. (Yeah, he’s been pretty good.)
**Joe Filemeno had iffy fastball (92-94) command and it cost him on Bierfeldt’s HR in the eighth. He showed a decent slider in the seventh. One backdoor-variety in the inning had LH hitter Riley Palmer flinching.
**With 16 hits, it’s hard to pick at the lineup too much, but situational hitting is still a work in progress. The Crawdads went 0-for-6 RISP in the first two innings and finished 3-for-17 for the game.
**Eduard Pinto got caught trying to score from second on a fielder’s choice grounder. Palmer made the throw from first to Salas at short. While the throw was low, Salas made the catch and then had an easy out with the throw home to get Pinto.
** The “O!” chant from the Orioles fans (rooting for Delmarva) in the stands is quaint during the National Anthem. It was annoying Monday night given that it was Memorial Day. Sometimes, it’s not about you.