SAL Championship Game 1 Story: Asheville at Hickory
Game Story: Asheville Tourists at Hickory Crawdads (Game 1, SAL Championship)
The Hickory Crawdads never trailed in taking the first game of the best-of-five series by a score of 7-2 over the visiting Asheville Tourists Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. Game two of the SAL Championship will take place at Frans with the first pitch at 7 p.m. After a day of Wednesday, the series picks back up Thursday at McCormick Field in Asheville.
The Crawdads are two wins away for their third SAL title in club history, the first since 2004.
The Crawdads took the lead in the second inning against Helmis Rodriguez when Edwin Garcia and Jairo Beras led off the inning with back-to-back doubles to the left field corner.
Luke Tendler made it 2-0 when he cranked his first homer of the playoffs, a towering shot to right over the billboards.
That was more than enough for Crawdads starter Pedro Payano, who threw a six-hitter over six innings and struck out eight. The right-hander struck out six straight at one point.
Hickory added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth with the key play coming on a defensive miscue. With one out and runners on first and second, Jairo Beras lifted a fly ball to Wes Rogers in deep center. As Tendler tagged and moved to third, the throw to the infield from Rogers was a high-arching throw. Seeing the throw, manager Corey Ragsdale coaching at third waved Tendler around and he scored without a throw home. Eduard Pinto then ripped a double to center to score Edwin Garcia from first and put the Crawdads up 4-0.
In the eighth, Dylan Moore reached on a three-base error when Max White dropped a routine fly ball in left. Jose Trevino singled up the middle through the drawn-in infield to score Moore and then scored on Tendler’s double to center. After Garcia struck out, Jairo Beras drove a triple to center to bring in Tendler for the final run.
Asheville broke through in the ninth when Shane Hoelscher homered to left-center against Dillon Tate. The homer broke a 21-inning shutout streak by Crawdads pitching.
Payano, the 20-year-old from San Francisco de Macoris, D.R., continued a strong end-of-the season run for the Crawdads and is making a bid for a top-30 prospect spot. Along with catcher Trevino’s pitch selection, the two did a masterful job of mixing speeds and keeping the Tourists hitters off stride much of the night. Payano offered a fastball sitting 91-93 mph to go with a change, his most effective secondary pitch. He also threw a 12-to-6 curve and an occasional slider.
Payano needed 79 pitches to get through six innings, tossing 55 strikes. Of the 55 strikes, 17 missed bats on four different pitches, 15 of those on secondaries (8 CHs, 4 curves, 3 sliders). Both looking Ks came in the second with fastballs on the corner.
“He’s been a special kid ever since he got here,” said Ragsdale. “To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about him when he got here. He’s exceeded my expectations and has been a real pickup. He’s fit right in with the rest of the starters that have been really good helped us out. He was very good tonight.”
Hustling Pays off:
I’m sure the players hear the same manager-speak about busting tail and I’m sure it gets old as routine play after routine play is made. On Monday, it paid off twice and was and the two plays were the turning points of the game.
On Jairo Beras’ fly ball in the sixth, Tendler sprinted from second to third in such a manner that when Ragsdale from the third-base coaches’ box saw Rogers make the lollipop throw back to the infield, he decided to take a chance to send Tendler.
“Very surprised, it kind of shocked me a little bit,” said Tendler when asked of his reaction at the time. “That was a big run to give us a three-run lead. It was game-changer for us.”
Ragsdale said that with two outs, it was worth taking a shot to get a third run against Helmis Rodriguez and give an additional cushion to the pen. It also seemed to increase the momentum for his team.
“It seemed maybe they got down a little bit and it seemed to pick our spirits up a little bit,” Ragsdale said. “We were able to go on from there and put another good inning together.”
In the eighth, Moore sprinted from the start as his fly ball sailed into medium left field. When White dropped the ball, Moore was already well past second base and easily slid into third. Trevino then worked a 3-1 count before bouncing a Jerad McCrummen fastball into center.
Heart of the Order at the Heart of Success:
The number 3-6 hitters reached base eight times with six hits – five for extra bases – with five runs scored and six RBI.
Trevino’s leadoff walk started the sixth inning rally and he singled and scored in the eighth.
Tendler homered in the fourth, walked and scored in the sixth, doubled and scored in the eighth.
Garcia doubled and scored in the second, reached on a fielder’s choice and scored in the sixth.
Beras put up an RBI double to left in the second, an RBI triple to center in the eighth and had the key sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Filomeno Performs Well:
Joe Filomeno’s fastball-slider mix overpowered the Tourists during his two innings. He struck out two in the seventh, missing bats for strike three on a slider and a fastball. The lone hit was a leadoff single in the eighth, a grounder up the middle by Josh Fuentes. A double play followed by Yonathan Daza to end the threat.
Tate mixed reviews:
It was a little surprising to see Dillon Tate pitch with a seven-run lead in the ninth. However, because he had warmed up in the eighth, rather than wasting him on Monday – and likely not have him available for Tuesday – the decision was made to use him.
Forrest Wall started the minor rally for the Tourists in the ninth with a broken bat, bloop single to shallow center. From there, Tate seemed to struggle with fastball command. Hoelscher blasted 96 mph middle and slightly up for a homer just to the left of straight-away center.
An error by Juremi Profar at third extended the inning. After striking out Roberto Ramos, LH hitter Max White turned on a fastball in for a single to right.
Tate’s slider ended the night when Josh Fuentes flied out to center.
Defense Saves Tourists Early:
While their defense would let them down late, the Tourists kept the Crawdads at bay early with a couple of nice plays in the field.
With a runner at second with two outs in the first, Tendler smoked a sharp grounder up the middle. SS Luis Jean, playing near the bag to hold the runner Dylan Moore, made a quick pick of a short-hop at the cut of the outfield grass before a strong throw to first completed the out.
In the second with runners at the corner and one out, Ramos handled a one-hopper on the grass from Carlos Arroyo to start a 3-6-3 double play and save a run.
Base running Blunders Costly:
Rogers broke up Payano’s strikeout streak with two outs in the third when he fisted a changeup into shallow left for a hit. He then tried to stretch the play into a double, but was out easily as Eduard Pinto threw a bullet to Moore at second for the tag.
One inning later, Wall and Hoelscher each singled to start the fourth inning. With cleanup hitter Dom Nunez at the plate, Wall took off for third and was cut down easily on Trevino’s throw. The bigger blunder happened when Hoelscher stayed at first on the play. After Nunez struck out, the mistake was magnified when Ramos steered a slow bouncing single through the hole at second – a hit that with two outs would’ve likely scored Hoelscher.