Series Preview: Rome at Hickory

The Hickory Crawdads continue a week-long stand Thursday through Sunday against the Rome (Ga.) Braves at L.P. Frans Stadium

Probables: (Note, Rome has not released its probables at the time of this writing)

Thursday: Chad Sobotka (RH, 1-2, 4,73) and Brett Martin (LH, 3-1, 2.50); Friday: Caleb Beech (RH, 4-2, 2.06) and Collin Wiles (RH, 5-1, 1.37); Saturday: Max Povse (RH, 2-1, 2,43) and Nick Gardewine (RH, 3-3, 3.06); Sunday: Alec Grosser (RH, 3-2, 4.63) and Ariel Juado (RH, 7-0, 2.60).

Entering the series:

Hickory (32-14) finished off a three-game sweep of Delmarva (Md.) with a 4-2 win Wednesday afternoon… The Crawdads have won five straight and now have a five-game lead over the West Virginia Power in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division…The bats have joined the hot pitching during the winning streak, as the Crawdads have put up 41 runs on 60 hits during that stretch…. On the mound, the Crawdads continue to dominate opposing lineups. The starters have a 2.39 ERA for the season to go with a 1.12 WHIP. Hickory’s team ERA of 2.72 is well ahead of the Power’s 3.10 posting, and they have surrendered the fewest hits in the Sally League… Also, the team WHIP of 1.18 is a tick (1.17) behind West Virginia and the Crawdads are second in strikeouts… The starting pitchers have not allowed a homer in 16 games, spanning 83.1 innings (since May 11).

Like Hickory, the Rome Braves (22-24) are in the midst of a five-game winning streak, which includes a three-game sweep at Charleston, S.C. The Braves are in fourth place in the Southern Division and trail Greenville (S.C.) by five games…Like the Crawdads, Rome burst out of a recent offensive funk (nine runs in six games) with 29 runs on 47 hits over the last five games…As a group, the Braves are patient at the plate and have the ability to wait for their pitch. Rome leads the SAL in walks, lead the league in OBP, and have the third fewest strikeouts. However, the power is nearly non-existent. The Braves have just ten homers this season, are last in doubles, and next to last in slugging (.336)…On the mound, the pitchers have allowed just ten earned runs in five games with 18 walks allowed and 51 strikeouts…Rome trails only Hickory in hits allowed, but has hit the most batters and given up the second most walks.

Players to watch – Rome:

SS Ozhaino Albies: No. 4 Braves prospect (mlb.com) and No. 96 overall. The 18-year-old native of Curacao is the third-youngest player currently in the SAL (one week older than Hickory’s Michael De Leon). He is at .288/ .353/ .359 as the R-Braves’ leadoff hitter with 19 steals. Albies has a hit in seven of his last eight games. In the field, he leads the SAL in games played at short (42), assists and double plays.

RF Braxton Davidson: No. 7 Braves prospect was the first-round draft pick out of Asheville TC Roberson last June. Entering the series with a slash of .246/ .393/ .370, he leads the Braves with four homers and has shown a patient approach at times (33 BBs/ 49 Ks in 173 PAs). Was drafted as a first baseman, but moved to right field to make use of a strong arm.

3B Jordan Edgerton: Played at South Point High in nearby Gaston County, he leads the team with 31 RBI and is second in hits (50) behind Albies (53). Edgerton is the SAL leader in putouts and assists at third. He played his college ball at UNC Pembroke.

C Tanner Murphy: No. 27 Braves prospect was the fourth-round selection by the Braves out of Maiden (MO) High in Poplar Bluff. Has struggled with the bat this season (.153/ .280/ .189), but enters the series with a mini-hitting streak of three games. Has thrown out 22 of 69 (31.9%) of runners attempting to steal.

SP Alex Grosser: No 13 prospect, selected in the 11th round in 2013 out of TC Williams High in Alexandria, VA. Has shown control issues with 25 Ks/ 25 BBs in 44.2 innings, but keeps the ball on the ground (2.13 GO/AO in his career). Has surrendered one pro homer in 137.2 innings.

SP Chad Sobotka: No. 27 prospect, taken in the 33rd round in 2014 out of USC-Upstate. Expected to make only his fifth start this season. Suffered a stress fracture in his back in his junior season in college.

SP Max Provse: Braves third round pick in 2014 out of UNC Greensboro, pitched at Green Hope High in Cary, NC. The 6-8 hurler has a 2.43 ERA and 28 Ks in 29.2 innings.

Players to watch – Hickory:

SP Ariel Jurado: Winners of seven out of eight starts, the sinkerballer has walked only five (40 Ks) in 44 innings. The 19-year-old threw two-hit ball over five innings his last time out against Delmarva. His 0.92 WHIP is the second lowest in the SAL, as is his BB-per-9 inning ratio (1.00).

SP Collin Wiles: He continues to mix speeds to the frustration of SAL hitters, which have batted .219 against him this season. Wiles struck out a season high six during a six-inning start his last time out at Kannapolis. He is third in the SAL in ERA (1.37) and eighth (1.02) in WHIP.

RP John Fasola:  Has become the closest thing to a closer that Hickory’s had in a while. He leads the league with ten saves and has not allowed a run since giving up one at Greensboro on April 29 (9 games, 10.1 innings). Overal,l Fasola has 24 Ks and given up just three walks in 16 innings.

3B Josh Morgan: Continues to mash in May (.318/ .383/ .412). Enters the series with hits in ten of his last 11 games (15-for-39). Other than a double-error on a play at Kannapolis on May 17, Morgan has been errorless in the field in May.

CF Jose Cardona: Went 6-for-10 in the two games he played against Delmarva in the previous series.

2B Travis Demeritte: Has reached base 10 of the last 21 trips to the plate. Curiously, has crushed RH pitching (.302/ .377/ .509) this season with four of his five HRs against them. Facing southpaws, Demeritte is .108/ .292/ .216.

C Jose Trevino: Is 7-for-19 in his last four games to show signs of coming out of his month-long slump. Has not homered since April 26 (24 games), after hitting six in a 12-game stretch.

LF Eduard Pinto: Has two three-hit games since returning from a short DL stint on May 23 (7-for-23 overall).

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