Game Story: Lakewood at Hickory June 26

Lakewood at Hickory June 26

The Lakewood BlueClaws took advantage of poor control by Hickory Crawdads starter Cody Buckel to build an early lead and take a 6-3 win Friday night.

The win by the Blue Claws (34-36 overall, 1-1 second half) evened the five-game series at a game apiece. Hickory (45-25, 1-1) snapped a mini two-game win streak.

The teams will resume the series Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. at L.P. Frans Stadium.

What happened?:

After the Crawdads dodged a bullet in the first, Lakewood put up a run in the second. Cord Sandberg (3-for-4) singled to right and moved to second on an error by Jairo Beras. A wild pitch by Buckel placed Sandberg at third and he scored when Kyle Martin collected his first pro hit, a double to right.

The decisive point of the game came in the third. With one out, Buckel hit Scott Kingery with a pitch and then walked Herlis Rodriguez. After Damek Tomscha was drilled by a pitch, Sandberg lined a first-pitch changeup over the fence in right for a grand slam to make it 5-0.

The Crawdads got a run back in the bottom of the third. Ricardo Valencia walked to start the inning. The next batter Jose Cardona hit into a potential 5-4-3 double, but the throw from Derek Campbell at third sailed into right field and put Valencia at third. Michael De Leon’s sacrifice fly scored Valencia to make it 5-1.

Save for the unearned run in the third, starter Ranfi Casimiro (3-5) held the Crawdads in check until the fifth. He walked Cardona and served up a single to De Leon. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. One out later, Beras steered a seeing-eye single into center to make it 5-3.

However, that turned out to be final threat by the Crawdads offense in the game. Scott Harris pitched two perfect innings before turning the game over to all-star closer Alexis Rivero. Eduard Pinto was the only Crawdad to reach over the final four innings, as he doubled to start the ninth. He eventually reached third, but was stranded as Rivero struck out Jonathan Meyer to end the game.

Lakewood’s final run came when Gustavo Martinez scored on a passed ball in the ninth.

The Good:

The Defense – Michael De Leon: With a runner at third and one out in the second, the Crawdads brought the infield in. Campbell hit a popup about 25 feet past the cut of the grass. De Leon raced back into the outfield and avoided the on-charging Beras from right to catch the football-like post pattern.

The Defense – Jose Cardona: In the sixth made a long run before making an over-the -shoulder catch on the track in straight-away centerfield. Also tracked down a liner in the RCF gap in the seventh.

The Defense – Luke Tendler: Kept the BlueClaws off the board in the first with a strong, on-the-money throw to Valencia at home to cut down Drew Stankiewicz on a sac fly attempt by Tomascha.

Kelvin Vasquez: Other than an E-5 that allowed Martinez to reach in the fourth, Vasquez held court on the mound. Needed only 11 pitches to complete the final two innings of his 4.1 inning tenure (43 pitches, 30 strikes). Had a little extra giddy-up on the fastball (95-98) than he’d shown in the recent past. Fanned his only two hitters of the night on back-to-back at bats in the fifth. Struck out Tomascha, who whiffed through a 97 mph heater, then got Sandberg to waive at a slider.

Jairo Beras: Swung through five breaking balls by Casimiro, but laid off an 0-2 slider in the fifth before getting enough on a changeup to get it through the infield for a two-run single.

Josh Morgan: Had the only two-hit game for Hickory, both coming on fastballs by Casimiro.

The Not-So-Good:

Cody Buckel: Color me concerned. Friday’s outing was painful to watch, as I know how much Buckel has put into getting back to the type of pitcher he was in 2011-2012. There was no fastball command. Of the 41 fastballs (out of 68 total pitches- 27 strikes) he threw (by my count), only16 went for strikes. Six of those were put into play, 3 went for hits, two of those doubles. Usually able to rely on his curveball to get strikes, the smattering of those Buckel threw stayed well up and to the catcher’s glove side. The only missed bats I had were from sliders, which did have some bite. But with the fastball control what it was, there was not much sense chasing.

Field staff: With Buckel struggling from the beginning, it seemed that a mound visit would’ve been in order, if for no other reason than to give Buckel a chance to collect himself. Valencia made a few visits, but nothing from the bench. With pitching coach Oscar Marin away for his mid-season sabbatical, his fill-in finally trotted to the mound with the bases loaded in the third. On the next pitch – a flat change – Sandberg took Buckel deep for the decisive slam. Through all this, no one was warming until after the slam. Two batters later, and after his third HBP of the inning, Vasquez was brought in. Buckel threw 31 pitches to get two outs and surrender four runs on five base runners.

Ninth-inning defense: The BlueClaws insurance run in the ninth was a matter of “non-error” misplays. Herlis Rodriguez reached on a bunt when pitcher Shane McCain was slow to cover first. McCain later picked off Rodriguez, but first baseman Rock Shoulders’ throw to second went wide of the bag allowing Rodriguez to steal the bag. Jonathan Meyer’s passed ball (in fairness, he was pressed into service after Valencia’s injury) brought in Rodriguez.

The umpires: I’m not usually one to rag on the boys in blue. They are developing and learning just as the players are. Working as a two-man crew brings difficult challenges in making calls, such as making a call at first on the check swing by a left-handed hitter. A horrible call on a checked swing cost Tendler a strikeout in the sixth and the remainder of the game on the subsequent ejection. Perhaps placing the base umpire in the middle of the infield for left-handed hitters will allow them to make better calls.

The Opposition:

RP Scott Harris: Though the command of it was spotty, he threw a good, hard sinker to record three ground ball outs and K’d Tendler with one in the sixth. Left a trail of tears as three of the six hitters he faced broke their bats.

LF Cole Sandberg: Feasted on a couple of fastballs for hits, but picked off a get-me-over changeup for a homer after the Crawdads bench paid a mound visit in the third.

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