In one of the weirder games of the season, the Hickory Crawdads rallied twice late to steal a 4-3 win over the Greenville (SC) Drive at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Stymied in the first seven innings, the Crawdads scored single runs in the eighth and ninth to tie it. After falling behind again in the tenth, Greenville contributed to its own demise in the game with a “non-error” botched double play and a passed ball that factored into the outcome. Rock Shoulders force play tied it in the ninth and his blooper scored the tying and winning runs in the tenth.
The game had two pitchers pinch-running and a third in the on-deck circle during the final two innings.
It looked like a ho-hum night for the Crawdads offense as Drive starter Reed Reilley (seventh round, 2014 out of Cal-Poly San Louis Obispo) shut down the offense. He allowed four hits and walked one over 6.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the Drive scored twice in the fourth on back-to-back RBI doubles by Javier Guerra and Joseph Monge against starter Nick Gardewine.
The Crawdads got a run back in the eighth when Josh Morgan singled in Jose Cardona.
In the ninth, Luke Tendler tripled to start the inning. After Jonathan Meyer was hit by a pitch – and pinch-ran for by Chris Dula – Rock Shoulders hit a grounder deep into the hole a second for a force play that allowed Tendler to score. Juremi Profar’s single put runners on the corners, but Kuehl McEachern got Jose Cardona to fly out.
Rafael Devers put the Drive ahead in the tenth with a solo homer to right off Scott Williams.
Then, things got strange in the bottom of the inning. Josh Morgan greeted reliever Ryan Harris with an opposite field single to right. Jairo Beras struck out and Jose Trevino hit into what should have been a game-ending double play. However, shortstop Javier Guerra botched the grounder and had to settle for a lone out at first. A passed ball by David Sopilka put Morgan at third. With pitcher Scott Williams on deck (the DH was killed when Meyer left the game and Trevino was inserted behind the plate), Greenville chose to walk Tendler intentionally to get to Williams.
However, Michael De Leon – who did not start because of a sore quad – pinch-hit and took a four-pitch walk. Shoulders then worked an 0-2 even before hitting a blooper into shallow left. A trio of Drive players chased it down before Devers got to the ball for what looked like a game-ending, over-the-shoulder catch. However, the ball hit off of Devers glove for a single that scored two runs to give Hickory the win.
Rock Shoulders: Both the game-tying and game-winning at-bats came out of 0-2 counts. In the ninth, he caught enough of an 0-2 fastball to steer it well to the left of second baseman Yoan Moncada, who fielded cleanly and threw to second for an out. In the tenth, he ignored a fastball and a change just off the outside corner and then looped a fastball opposite field to left.
Kelvin Vasquez: Threw his second-straight solid outing of the homestand Wednesday. Needed only 45 pitches to complete 3.2 solid innings (2 hits, 1 BB, 4 K). Fastball ran 96-98, but it was the ability to throw offspeed pitches for strikes that set him apart for the second straight outing. Entered the game in the fifth with the bases loaded and one out. Stuck out Mike Meyers on a 96 heater up, then got Nick Longhi to pop up a curveball. He came back in the sixth and got back-to-back Ks on sliders. Missed four bats (by my count) on either curves or sliders, six on fastballs.
Scott Williams: Homer aside in the tenth (on a slider), he’s pitching with more confidence in attacking the strike zone. He is able to throw the slider for called strikes, or just off the plate enough to get hitters to chase. His fastball is ranging 94-96 with good movement.
Josh Morgan: Appeared to make a mid-game adjustment that paid off in the later innings. In the first, he pulled an outside fastball for a 6-3 grounder. In the third, he missed a fastball away for a strikeout and in the sixth it was a breaking ball away that did him in. But in the eighth, he slapped a McEachern fastball away into right for an RBI single. In the 10th, another fastball away that was taken up the middle to start the final rally.
Corey Ragsdale: While low-A games are seemingly devoid of strategy much of the time, he took a chance get the winning run across in the ninth. With his only two bench players (Michael De Leon and Eduard Pinto) nursing leg injuries, Ragsdale sent in pitcher Chris Dula (who was a batting champion in college) to pinch-run for the slow-footed Jonathan Meyer at first. This happened despite the fact that the other catcher, Jose Trevino, was the DH. Hickory tied the game in the ninth, but stranded the go-ahead runner at third. When Tendler came up in the tenth with two outs and a runner on third, Ragsdale sent Williams – the pitcher – to the on-deck circle. Greenville called the bluff and intentionally walked Tendler. De Leon came in to hit and never saw a strike in loading the bases with a walk. Accentuating that perhaps De Leon could not run well, Ragsdale sent in Joe Filomeno to pinch-run for De Leon. Shoulders followed with the single.
Jairo Beras: A tough night at the plate after sitting out a game for not running out a fly ball in Monday’s game. Sliders away were the culprit for his three strikeouts. However, on the two comebackers he hit, Beras noticeably busted tail down the line and made both plays close.
Two-strike counts: The inability for both sides to close out hitters was costly. McEachern allowed Shoulders to get enough on an 0-2 fastball to pull it deep in the hole at second and allow the run to score. Shoulders also battled out of an 0-2 hole to get the game-winning bloop hit.
Crawdads starter Nick Gardewine had an especially hard time closing out hitters. Guerra saw ten pitches after starting 1-2 on his AB in the second. On a six-pitch AB in the fourth Guerra finally got a fastball he could handle and sent it into the RCF gap for an RBI double to score Meyers, who had started the inning with a single on an 0-2 fastball. Devers chased Gardewine with a sharp single on a 1-2 change. Gardewine had a 93-95 fastball much of the night that was mixed in with sliders and changes. But many of the pitches were on the outside corner to RH hitters, who eventually were able sit on the pitches and hit them opposite field. All four hits by RH hitters were liners to RCF or RF. Gardewine needed 85 pitches (65 strikes) to get 11 outs.
Devers homer against Williams was on a 1-2 slider that caught a lot of the plate.
Reed Reilly: Not a high-velocity pitcher (sat 89 much of the night) but located the fastball around the plate and mixed in his breaking balls well enough to throw off the Crawdads timing. Mainly stayed away from hitters, but threw enough inside to keep them honest. Only Profar and Meyer really squared anything solid against him.
Javier Guerra: Had a good night at the plate with the long ABs against Gardewine. Drilled a first-pitch 98 mph heater from Vasquez for a single in the eighth and another sharp grounder to first in the 10th. However, a botched double play in the tenth kept the inning alive.