September 2015

Game Story: SAL Playoff Game 3 West Virginia at Hickory September 12

Game Story: West Virginia Power at Hickory Crawdads (Game 3, SAL Playoffs)

The Hickory Crawdads scored a run in the fourth and made it stand up among a strong pitching and defensive effort to claim a 1-0 win over the West Virginia Power in the decisive game of the South Atlantic League series.

The Crawdads will move onto a best-of-five SAL Championship Series against the Asheville Tourists starting Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. Hickory will host games one and two on Monday and Tuesday. After a day off, the series will shift to Asheville’s McCormick Park from games three through five starting Thursday.

What Happened?:

The lone run of the game came in the fourth inning when Dylan Moore led off with a double, moved to third on a Jose Trevino groundout and scored on Luke Tendler’s sacrifice fly.

The Crawdads used three pitchers to shut down the SAL’s top-hitting team on six hits and three walks. Collin Wiles pitched the first six innings. He issued all three walks and four of the six hits and struck out four. Luis Ortiz struck out four of the six batters he faced. Scott Williams struck out the first two hitters before Elvis Escobar and Connor Joe singled. The game ended when Taylor Gushue lined to Moore at second.

Defensive Brilliance:

With Wiles struggling early, the defense held the Power off the scoreboard. Kevin Newman led off the game with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Kevin Kramer then lined a single to right. Power manager Brian Esposito made an aggressive move to send Newman to the plate. Jairo Beras fielded the ball and fired a throw directly to catcher Jose Trevino, who slapped a quick tag onto Newman sliding into the plate.

In the second, Jerrick Suiter singled and also moved to second on another sac bunt. A grounder to short by Joe kept Suiter at second.  Shortstop Edwin Garcia’s diving stop robbed Gushue of a hit on a sharp grounder and ended the inning.

The next inning Newman again walked before Pablo Reyes sent a long fly ball to left center. Jose Cardona raced over from center and then made a running, lunging catch on the track, moving Newman, who was on the way to third at the time of the catch, back to first.

“I told the guys before the game, ‘if we pick it up and throw it like we need to, we have a chance to win the game,’ said Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale. “They went above and beyond and they made some unbelievable plays and that won us the ballgame.”

Wiles said the defensive plays were a reflection of what the team has done this season.

“The confidence coming into the game was high on our defense,” said Wiles. “You’ve seen it all year. Our defense has made spectacular plays all year. There was no let down. If anything, they took it to the next level and that’s a credit to them.”

The final defensive gem of the game came when Moore snared Gushue’s hard liner at second.

 

Wiles Pitches Around Trouble:

Wiles had problems finding a feel for his secondary pitches the first few innings. However, he had good fastball placement around the strike zone and kept the Power hitters from squaring them up.

Kramer’s single in the first appeared to be on a slider that caught a lot of the plate. Gushue’s hard grounder to Garcia was a high change. The worst pitch of the night was a hanging curve that turned into Reyes’ liner that was run down by Cardona.

“My style is to put the ball in play and let the defense work,” Wiles said. “I tested them quite a few times and they answered every single time. To bounce back down a game to winning like that throwing a shutout, a team shutout in the third, unbelievable, I couldn’t be prouder of my team right now.”

Wiles found the ability to use all his pitches in the fourth in his lone perfect inning of the night. A cut-fastball struck out Reyes to end a minor jam in the fifth and the final out of for Wiles was a strikeout of Escobar on a fastball.

Battling 0-2 counts the difference:

SAL pitcher of the year Yeudy Garcia was the equal of anyone on the mound Saturday as he struck out seven, walked one, and allowed four hits. The inability to finish off Moore and Tendler after getting ahead 0-2 was a difference in the game.

In his at bat, Moore laid off back-to-back sliders just off the outside corner, then got a belt-high, 95 mph pitched that he ripped to the wall. Likewise, Tendler laid off an 0-2 change, spoiled another before sending a third-straight change that was up out to deep left for the sac fly.

“We knew that we were going to have to fight and claw for everything we got,” said Ragsdale. “They battled their tails off. We didn’t get a ton of hits, but they were up their fighting. That kid’s the SAL pitcher of the year for a reason. I’m super proud of the way the guys game out and battled. You knew it was going to be tough to get anymore. We were going to get their best stuff just like they were going to get our best stuff. We were able to make it stick.”

Ortiz Unhittable:

West Virginia was out of sync the entire two innings that Luis Ortiz was on the mound and it started on the first pitch. Sitting on a first-pitch fastball, Joe swung badly at a slider that was off the plate away. Gushue flew out to right and then after swinging through a slider, the right-handed Tyler Filliben watched a 98 mph fastball catch the outside corner at the knees.

Ortiz went on to strike out the side in the eighth two swinging on sliders and the final one another called third strike on a fastball at the knees.

The two innings that Ortiz threw was arguably the most-dominant two innings of the season, including five missed bats on sliders in the two innings.

“Wiles set the tone right away,” Ortiz said.  Him getting deep into the game and messing with the hitters and having them on hold. He made it easier for me just to let it go and do what I have to do.

Williams Pitches Rare Back-to-Back Outing:

Scott Williams worked around two two-out hits and got a break on the liner hit to Moore for the final out of the game. He worked mostly off his 95-97 mph fastballs in getting two strikeouts in the inning.

Having pitched two innings in Friday night’s win, it was thought that he would not be available on back-to-back nights. However, the wheels were put in motion on Saturday and Williams was brought in to seal the series.

“Oscar and Rags told me that I might have a possibility of doing it,” said Williams. “So, we had to convince the pitching coordinator (Danny Clark) to let me do it. He gave me the heads up and I was pumped to get an opportunity to come back out.”

Kudos to Trevino:

Wiles was effusive in his praise of catcher Jose Trevino’s work in the series and felt he had as much to do with the shutout as anyone.

Wiles said, “The consensus between me, Ortiz and Williams is Jose Trevino behind the plate. He told me before the series that he’s got a plan, just stick with him. It worked in game one; we just didn’t get the win. You see a man battle his butt off the last two games and basically willing us to win, willing us to make the right pitch at the right time, all the credit goes to him.”

SAL Playoffs Game 3 Preview: West Virginia at Hickory

South Atlantic League Playoff Series

Game 3: West Virginia Power (87-52, 1-1 series lead) at Hickory Crawdads (81-57, 1-1)

Site/ Time: L.P. Frans Stadium, Hickory, N.C.

Game 2 Recap: The Crawdads finally took control of a see-saw affair in the middle innings and went on to even the series with a 6-3 home win at L.P. Frans. After an Edwin Garcia, RBI single put the Crawdads ahead in the first, the Power jumped back ahead 2-1 with a two-run blast in the second by Connor Joe. Hickory tied it in the third when Dylan Moore doubled and scored when Garcia picked up his second RBI of the game on a groundout. An unearned run put the Crawdads ahead in the fourth, but again the Power tied the game 3-3 when Pablo Reyes singled with two outs and later scored Kramer’s run-scoring single. The Crawdads inched ahead for good in the sixth when after Stephen Tarpley issued back-to-back walks, Jose Cardona lofted a soft liner to left that scored Juremi Profar. Luke Tendler provided the final margin by tripling in two more in the eight. Dillon Tate picked up the win in relief with Scott Williams throwing two scoreless innings and striking out three for the save.

Game 1 Recap: The Power struck for three runs in the fifth inning and went on the capture a 4-2 home win. After Crawdads pitcher Yohander Mendez allowed two baserunners over 4.1 innings, a double by Chase Simpson and Taylor Gushue tied the game at 2. West Virginia added an unearned run in the inning, which scored on a wild pitch by Joe Filomeno on a dropped third-strike after fanning Michael Suchy with two outs. The Power tacked on the fourth run in the seventh on an error by 1B Carlos Arroyo. The Crawdads put seven baserunners on over the first five innings, but managed only a solo homer by Jairo Beras and an RBI groundout by Arroyo. The trio of Austin Coley Sam Street and Nick Neumann retied the final 13 Crawdads of the game.

Probables: WV: Yeudy Garcia (RH, 12-5, 2.10) vs. HKY: Collin Wiles (RH, 11-3, 2.96)

Lineup: WV: Kevin Newman-6, Pablo Reyes-4, Kevin Kramer-D, Michael Suchy-9, Jerrick Suiter-7, Elvis Escobar-8, Connor Joe-3, Taylor Gushue-2, Tyler Filliben-5.

HKY: Eric Jenkins-7, Dylan Moore-4, Jose Trevino-2, Luke Tendler-D, Edwin Garcia-6, Jairo Beras-9, Juremi Profar-5, Carlos Arroyo-3, Jose Cardona-8.

Garcia vs. Hickory: The righthander from Sabana Yegua, D.R. was named the SAL pitcher of the year after leading the league in ERA, was second in OBA (.204) and third in WHIP (1.07). He went 1-1 against Hickory, though he did not allow an earned run. In the loss on May 19 at L.P. Frans, the Crawdads scored two unearned runs in the first and made them stand up for a 3-1 win. Garcia allowed three hits and two walks with four strikeouts over 4.2 innings. Chase Simpson’s error at first was key in the opening inning with Josh Morgan scoring on the play with outs before Luke Tendler followed on Travis Demeritte’s single.

In the August 16 contest, only Eduard Pinto’s walk in the third and Luke Tendler’s single in the fifth smudged Garcia’s outing over five innings in a 2-1 win. Garcia struck out three in the contest, but needed 68 pitches (40 strikes) to complete the five innings.

Wildness has been a problem for Garcia coming down the stretch as he walked five over five innings in a start at Lexington and then two over four innings at Kannapolis. Garcia has gone past five innings just twice this season.

Wiles vs. West Virginia: The right-hander Overland Park, Kansas has not faced the Power this season. He was second in the SAL in WHIP (1.05), fifth in OBA (.239 and fifth in ERA. He has thrown at least six innings in 13 of 22 starts this season going into the eighth twice.

In the final outing of the season, Wiles took a no-decision after allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits over 7.1 innings. He did allow a season high of five earned runs in the previous start on August 27 against Charleston. Wiles has walked more than one batter just five times this season.

Control is the key for his success. He offers a high-80s, low-90s fastball that he will cut on occasion. Wiles also throws a mid-80s slider, a change and a curve that he generally brings out the second time through the order.

Power hitters vs. Hickory: Kevin Kramer is 4-for-7 in the two games so far with Pablo Reyes cranking out three hits. Taylor Gushue and Connor Joe each have homered and have two RBI each. Kramer has the other RBI for the Power. West Virginia has struck out 20 times in 65 at bats.

Among active players, Elvis Escobar has the highest batting avg. vs. Hickory during the regular season at .355 (11-for-31). Jerrick Suiter went 6-for-18 (.333) and Kevin Newman went .286 (4-for-14).  Connor Joe hit only .200, but picked up eight walks in six games. All-star OF Michael Suchy had a team-high five RBI on four extra-base hits.

Crawdads hitters vs. West Virginia: In the two games of the series, Jose Trevino have four hits to lead the Crawdads attack. Six other players have two hits. Edwin Garcia and Luke Tendler have two RBI each. Newcomers Eric Jenkins and Dylan Moore have had trouble with contact as Jenkins has struck out four times and Moore has three.

Among active players during the regular season, Carlos Arroyo is the lone player hitting above .250 against West Virginia. Arroyo is 6-for-15 (.400) with a triple, a homer and two RBI. Beras and Garcia are at the .250 mark with Beras cranking a pair of homers to go with the one in game one. He leads the team with five RBI and Jose Trevino has four.

What to watch for: How deep the two starts can go and how well the bullpens bridge the gap to their closers will be a key. Wiles has shown the ability to minimize damage in early innings, then get into a groove over several innings. The goal for Garcia is to get through five innings and let the pen take over… After pitching two innings on Friday, Crawdads closer Scott Williams is likely not available. Look for Luis Ortiz to get an inning or two if the game is close or the Crawdads have the lead late with Adam Dian pitching the ninth… The Crawdads should see Sam Street at some point in the middle innings with Nick Neumann available for the ninth.

Filling the Gap: An Interview with Dylan Moore

The Hickory Crawdads took a major hit on the infield when SS Michael De Leon strained a quad muscle for the third time this season during a game at Delmarva. On top of the injury earlier in the month to 3B Josh Morgan, the Crawdads were suddenly look for quick answers on the infield with the playoffs just a week away.

Onto the scene came 23-year-old Dylan Moore, the Texas Rangers seventh-round selection this past June out of the University of Central Florida.

Moore, a native of Yorba Linda, Calif. put up .254/.364/.454 slash with 27 extra-base hits in 65 games at short-season Spokane, which earned him a Northwest League all-star game selection.

A four-game audition with the Crawdads during the final weekend of the season went nearly flawlessly as he went 7-for-12 with two doubles and two RBI. He was moved up to the number two slot in the batting order for the final two games, and along with Eric Jenkins the two have given the lineup a spark.

On Friday night, his leadoff double in the third – one that developed the first few steps out of the box and ended when he kicked the ball out of the glove of the second baseman Pablo Reyes – provided a jolt with the team 2-1 after a controversial second inning. Moore went on to score the tying run and the Crawdads never trailed again.

Moore’s 2015 season has been a long one, which started when the then senior began workouts the second season in January en route to an All-The American Conference selection.

I spoke with Moore during the final weekend of the season and here is that interview.

Dylan Moore went 7-for-12 in the final regular-season  series. So far, he has two hits in two playoff games. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt).

Dylan Moore went 7-for-12 in the final regular-season series. So far, he has two hits in two playoff games. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt).

You started the season at UCF in January, then to Spokane and now here you are in Hickory in September. What kind of whirlwind has this been for you?

Moore: It’s been crazy, going from my last season at UCF, and then getting drafted and flying out to Spokane, and then being here. It’s been a crazy ride, but one I’ve enjoyed every step of the way.

Did you expect to get here at this point?

Moore: I never really thought about it. Obviously, you want to get up as far as you can, as quick as you can. I was set in Spokane later in the season and some guys are moving around. I was surprised to hear that I was moving up to fill a spot, but I’m proud that I am here.

You got an all-star selection. How wild was that for you?

Moore: That was crazy and it was hosted by Spokane, so it was nice to hear my name and have everyone know who it was. Being that is was my first year in the league and to get nominated for that was a real honor.

I hear things about Spokane, but what was it like to play there? I understand that it’s more like a AAA atmosphere.

Moore: It was awesome. It’s a great fan base. Everyone comes out for the games, whether it’d be a weekend day or a weeknight game. Everyone there’s cheering for you and they know everything about you. All the kids asking for autographs. They really pull for you and it makes for a great atmosphere to play baseball.

What are some of the adjustments you’ve had to make going from college to the pros?

Moore: Probably just playing every day. You only play four or five games a week during college ball. I think playing every day and keeping my body in shape was the biggest adjustment. Everyone’s good.  Everyone’s a high-level athlete and a high-level performer. To make myself that was challenge, but I like challenges; that’s what makes you who you are. That’s what builds your character. I’m trying to take that in stride and really, really go for it.

What have you been able to do adjustment wise that maybe you weren’t able to do yet at Central Florida?

Moore: Mostly mental adjustments. I’ve been doing a lot of hard work; I’m a big worker. Most of my coaches have told me to use my eyes more and use my mental capacities more so you don’t get so tired out. You can take as many swings as you want, but if you don’t see the ball then you’re not going to be able to hit it. So mentally, there’s a lot a things these guys have taught me at Spokane and here, because they’ve had so much experience, it’s crazy. I’m just trying to pick up on all of that.

Who have you made a connection with so far here at Hickory? You come into the clubhouse and the guys have been together for so long already.

Moore: I knew (Jeffrey) Springs and (Dillon) Tate from Spokane. Actually Austin Pettibone is from Yorba Linda, so me and him got along right away. The infielders, Arroyo and Eddie (Edwin Garcia) and all of them have taken me in and it’s been good so far. Hopefully, we’ll make a run here in the playoffs and have some more fun.

How was it to come here and know that you are going to be in the playoffs?

Moore: It’s great. This is what I hoped for. I’d hoped to make the playoffs in Spokane, but obviously that didn’t happen. When I heard they needed a guy for the playoffs, it was great. I love playing in competitive baseball. My first professional and having my first professional playoff experience, it’s going to be a wild ride.

What’s the next step in your development?

Moore: I think being able to play in a full season. I think I want to play consistently over a long period of time. I want to be able to steal more bags. Physically, I want to be able to hit for more power and get on base more.

What do you hope for next year, to come back here or go to High Desert?

Moore: Wherever they need me. I want to be a contributor at the highest level as I can. I want to play as long as I can until they tell me I can’t play anymore. Wherever they put me, I’ll be happy with. I’m just going to work as hard as I can in the offseason to come back bigger, stronger, better and play at the highest level.

What was the first moment that you realized that pro baseball was different?

Moore: Probably the first road trip: a seven-hour ride after a game, getting there at six in the morning, being really tired, waking up and then going to sleep for a little bit, then getting up and having to play a game that night. That whole day was an experience for me. Just being able to play under those circumstances and stuff like that. I knew this was going to be the ride and this is what I’m going to have to endure and really grasp and take a hold of and take it in stride.

Game Story Game 2 SAL Playoffs: West Virginia at Hickory September 11

The Hickory Crawdads forced a decisive game three in the Northern Division playoffs of the South Atlantic League by taking a 6-3 win over the West Virginia Power Friday night at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory.

The Crawdads and Power return to Frans Saturday night at 7 p.m. to decide the series with the winner to play the winner of the Southern Division series between Asheville and Savannah, also to be decided on Sunday.

The win was the first playoff win since 2010 and the first home playoff win since the team captured the SAL title in 2004.

What Happened:

An intense game throughout saw the Crawdads take a 1-0 lead in the first on Edwin Garcia’s single to right after two outs.

West Virginia bounced back quickly by hitting its second homer of the series when Connor Joe took Ariel Jurado deep after a walk to Taylor Gushue.

The Crawdads evened the score in the third against Stephen Tarpley when Dylan Moore doubled and later scored on Edwin Garcia’s grounder to second.

The Power again got even in the fifth as Pablo Reyes singled with two outs, stole second and scored on Kevin Kramer’s single to chase Jurado.

After stranding eight over the first five innings, the Crawdads finally took the lead for good in the sixth. Tarpley walked Juremi Profar and Carlos Arroyo back-to-back before Jose Cardona lofted a soft liner into left to score Profar.

Hickory stranded two more in the sixth and the bases loaded in the seventh before finally getting a big hit in the eighth to pad the lead. Cardona and Jose Trevino sandwiched walks around two straight outs before Luke Tendler tripled in both.

Dillon Tate threw two scoreless innings to get the win in relief. Scott Williams pitched two scoreless innings to earn the save.

All-Star Matchup Anything But:

West Virginia’s Stephen Tarpley and Hickory’s Ariel Jurado was named to Baseball America’s Low-A All-Star Team earlier in the day, but neither pitcher was sharp on Friday.

Tarpley looked early as if he would be the same dominant pitcher he was when he three-hit the Crawdads back in August. Left-handed hitter Eric Jenkins waved past a biting slider to start the first and Dylan Moore was jammed on a 5-3 grounder. But then Jose Trevino got enough on a fastball in to reach on a short pop-up that landed between the mound and third. Tarpley shattered Luke Tendler’s bat with a change, but the ball cleared the infield for a hit. Edwin Garcia lined a fastball over the plate for a solid single. From that point, Tarpley seemed to lose control of the fastball and the slider never really had the same bite as it did early. The change he showed in his previous start didn’t have the same effect, which left his fastball for the picking. Of the nine hits Hickory had against Tarpley, eight came on fastballs.

Jurado missed with the slider earlier, getting away with a hanger on a fly out by Kevin Newman to open the game and a single from Kevin Kramer in the third. He brought out the curve in the second and that seemed to be his best secondary pitch of the night. However, when he was unable to throw his slider or change consistently for strikes, the Power hitters were able to ignore or spoil the curve and sit on the fastball. Connor Joe tagged one for the homer in the second. Michael Suchy fought out of an 0-2 count in the third before winning a nine-pitch battle on a change that stayed up. The same scenario played out in the fifth when Kramer battled for eight pitches until he ripped a fastball for an RBI single to chase Jurado. The inability to find a put-away pitch cut his outing to 4.2 innings with Jurado throwing 86 pitches (59 strikes). Six of the seven batters to reach against Jurado did so after two outs.

 

Umpires with a Tough Night: Home plate umpire Ben Sonntag caught the ire of both sides with what seemed to be inconsistent strike-zone corner to his left. The most egregious was a 3-2 curveball by Jurado in the second that Sonntag appeared to give up on early. The entire Crawdads defense had begun the trot to the dugout – Jose Trevino getting past the home-plate circle – before being called back as Tyler Gushue was awarded the walk. Connor Joe hit the next pitch, a flat fastball, over the fence to left.

Tarpley appeared to balk with runners on the corners in the third. Both Chad Comer at first and Corey Ragsdale at third gave the base umpires an earful.

To their credit,  ejections likely would have occured were the game a regular season contest. However, the umpires held their collective thumbs and probably let both sides have a longer leash.

Jurado Settles Down: With Jurado visibly upset after Joe’s homer, the catcher Trevino and the entire infield converged on the mound to console Jurado.

“I just had to talk to him,” said Trevino. “He’s a young kid. He’s got to learn how to hold his emotions in. All season he’s done a good job of doing that. I guess that happening. You saw it in his eyes, he was like, ‘Dang it, that could’ve been a strikeout… it happens.”

Crawdads Show Emotion: After the Power scored three in the fifth to take the lead in game one Wednesday, Hickory went into a funk and saw the final 13 hitters be retired. When the Crawdads lost the lead in the second on a two-run homer under dubious circumstances, the team found some fire.

They rebounded to tie the game in the third, a rally which started when Dylan Moore legged out a double with the slide kicking the ball away from 2B Pablo Reyes. From then on, the Crawdads were the aggressors in the game and never trailed again. The normally stoic Dillon Tate slapped his glove and sprinted to the dugout after Carlos Arroyo picked a sharp grounder to first to strand a runner at third in the sixth.

“I think the first game we saw a little bit of, ‘oh, here we go.’ I think today, we talked a little bit about it before the game. No matter what happens, continue to play. I think you saw that tonight. The guys stayed up. They didn’t get their heads down and they continued to battle and they answered a couple of times.”

Arroyo’s defense: Arroyo played his fourth pro game at first base – all in the past four games – but he made several defensive plays that proved to be crucial. In the second, Arroyo picked a short-hop on a sharp grounder by Chase Simpson to start a 3-6-1 double play. After Arroyo made the play behind the bag in the sixth to save a run, Kevin Newman lofted a soft liner down the first-base foul line in the seventh. Arroyo beat right fielder Jairo Beras to the ball, then turned and fired a strike to second with shortstop Edwin Garcia applying the tag.

 

Tate dominates: After serving up a single on a first-pitch, 98-mph fastball to Jerrick Suiter in the sixth, Tate settled down to get out of inning. In the seventh, he sat down both Joe and Reyes as 97-98 mph fastballs caught the outside corner at the knees for called third strikes. Joe’s K was set up by sliders at the corner.

“We knew going in that Tate had two innings that we could go to to get him into that position and perform. The first kid jumped on a fastball and (Tate) settled down and got out of it. He had some electric stuff that he was throwing up there.”

The Crawdads Open the Door:  After putting up single runs through the first game and seven innings, Luke Tendler’s two-run triple finally gave the Crawdads their first multi-run frame of the series. “We’ve had a ton of games where we just couldn’t get that big hit,” said Ragsdale. “There in the bottom of the eighth, Luke got a big hit for us and drove in two runs and kind of gave us a little breathing room and get the ballgame taken care of.”

Williams Shuts the Door:  Scott Williams continued a strong second-half with three strikeouts over the final two innings. Like Tate, he kept a 95-97 mph low and away to righties with an occasional slider mixed in.

SAL Playoffs Game 2 Preview: West Virginia at Hickory

South Atlantic League Playoff Series

Game 2: West Virginia Power (87-52, 1-0 series lead) at Hickory Crawdads (81-57, 0-1)

Site/ Time: L.P. Frans Stadium, Hickory, N.C.

Game 1 Recap: The Power struck for three runs in the fifth inning and went on the capture a 4-2 home win. After Crawdads pitcher Yohander Mendez allowed two baserunners over 4.1 innings, a double by Chase Simpson and Taylor Gushue tied the game at 2. West Virginia added an unearned run in the inning, which scored on a wild pitch by Joe Filomeno on a dropped third-strike after fanning Michael Suchy with two outs. The Power tacked on the fourth run in the seventh on an error by 1B Carlos Arroyo. The Crawdads put seven baserunners on over the first five innings, but managed only a solo homer by Jairo Beras and an RBI groundout by Arroyo. The trio of Austin Coley Sam Street and Nick Neumann retied the final 13 Crawdads of the game.

Probables: WV: Stephen Tarpley (LH, 11-4, 2.48) vs. HKY: Ariel Jurado (RH, 12-1 2.48)

Lineup: WV: Kevin Newman-6, Pablo Reyes-4, Kevin Kramer-D, Michael Suchy-9, Jerrick Suiter-7, Elvis Escobar-8, Chase Simpson-5, Taylor Gushue-2, Connor Joe-3.

HKY: Eric Jenkins-7, Dylan Moore-4, Jose Trevino-2, Luke Tendler-D, Edwin Garcia-6, Jairo Beras-6, Juremi Profar-5, Carlos Arroyo-3, Jose Cardona-8.

Tarpley vs. Hickory: The lefty from Los Angeles made two starts against Hickory this season with mixed results. Back on June 21 in West Virginia, Tarpley allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Jose Trevino singled in a run in the first, a run that was unearned due to a passed ball. The Power took a 4-1 lead in that game before the Crawdads picked up a run in the fourth on Jose Cardona’s single. Tripp Martin’s double chased him in the sixth and the Crawdads eventually rallied later in the game for a 10-5 win.

Tarpley dominated the Crawdads in a start at L.P. Frans on August 15 when he shut down the Crawdads on three hits over eight shutout innings. The Crawdads lineup had difficulty solving a three-pitch mix as Tarpley recorded 16 groundball outs and threw 93 pitches (63 strikes).

In his last start at Kannapolis, Tarpley allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits and struck out three. He was named to Baseball America’s Low-A All-Star Team.

He features a low-90s fastball with some run into right-handed hitters. He can keep hitters off-stride with a slider and change.

 

Jurado vs. West Virginia: The right-hander from Aguadulce, Panama outdueled SAL pitcher of the year Yeudys Garcia in a 3-1 win back on May 19. In that start, Jurado allowed one unearned run on four hits and struck out three. The Power stranded runners in scoring position both in the first and second before tallying their only run of the game when Tyler Filliben singled and went to third on a throwing error. He scored on a sacrifice fly.

Jurado is coming off his worst performance of the season after giving up five runs (two unearned) on seven hits over three innings for his only loss of the season. Like Tarpley, he was named to Baseball America’s Low-A All-Star Team.

He features a hard sinker at 94 that runs to the back foot of right-handed hitters and also changes speeds well. Jurado can run a slider glove side and has had some success with a developing curveball.

Power hitters vs. Hickory: In game one, Pablo Reyes and Kevin Kramer (one walk) each doubled and were the lone Power hitters with two hits as the Crawdads held them to only six hits. Chase Simpson and Tyler Gushue homered.

Among active players, Elvis Escobar has the highest batting avg. vs. Hickory during the regular season at .355 (11-for-31). Jerrick Suiter went 6-for-18 (.333) and Kevin Newman went .286 (4-for-14).  Connor Joe hit only .200, but picked up eight walks in six games. All-star OF Michael Suchy had a team-high five RBI on four extra-base hits.

Crawdads hitters vs. West Virginia: In game one, Hickory piled up seven hits with Jairo Beras getting two. Eric Jenkins and Jose Trevino both doubled with Dylan Moore, Edwin Garcia and Juremi Profar singling.

Among active players during the regular season, Carlos Arroyo is the lone player hitting above .250 against West Virginia. Arroyo is 6-for-15 (.400) with a triple, a homer and two RBI. Beras and Garcia are at the .250 mark with Beras cranking a pair of homers to go with the one in game one. He leads the team with five RBI and Jose Trevino has four.

What to watch for: The Crawdads will have to figure out a way to solve Tarpley’s ability to change speeds and make him get pitches up… On the mound, if Jurado can put up his usual five innings-plus the Crawdads will have Tate and Ortiz available to bridge the gap to close Scott Williams (10 saves)… The Power like to play small ball (90 sac bunts) which could put pressure on an infield that has not played much together. 1B Carlos Arroyo had never played first as a pro until last weekend – a three-game career at the position – and Dylan Moore has six games with Hickory at second… Eric Jenkins at the top of the order and Jose Cardona at the bottom could give the Crawdads the chance to put some speed to use. Hickory was next to last in steals this season (Cardona had 30 of the 95), so the new toy of Jenkins speed could be a wrinkle that the Power has to contend with. As Hickory searches for offense against Tarpley, Jenkins ability to bunt to get on base – and get to second – could be key. Power catcher Tyler Gushue is next to last in the SAL in caught stealing (26.6%). Gushue led the SAL with 24 passed balls.

The Lefty in the Clubhouse: An interview with Joe Filomeno

When you visit the Hickory Crawdads’ clubhouse in 2015, you will likely run into left-handed reliever Joe Filomeno. And if he sees you, your presence does not go unnoticed. Usually it’s a hello, but occasionally a good-natured barb is tossed your way.

Recently, a soccer ball was kicked towards me and the eyeglasses in my hand were landed on the floor. Soon, he was rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter at what had happened. (He blamed Collin Wiles.) When I asked for the interview, he wondered if he could interview me. I politely declined, but after the interview that you’ll read below, I wondered if I missed an opportunity. What you quickly figure out with Filomeno is that everyone is a friend, and a teammate, no matter how quickly they are in-and-out of Hickory, is a brother.

The left-hander out of Chicago was the 15th-round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2014 out of the University of Louisville. He had a 10-game stint in the Arizona Summer League last year and joined the Crawdads this season after starting the year at extended spring training.

With a fastball-slider-splitter mix, Filomeno has been a steady performer out of the pen over the final two-thirds of the season. In 30 appearances, he posted a 2.72 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 14 walks over 56.1 innings.

As good as his performance has been on the field, Filomeno has been a clubhouse staple as well. With a small army of players rotating in and out of Hickory this season, Filomeno has been at the forefront of keep the clubhouse loose as the team meandered through the second half after clinching a spot in mid-June.

There is a lot of “left-handedness” in Filomeno as his near-collar bone length beard would attest to (Sadly, he trimmed it for the playoffs). He admits to not being quite grown up. Yet, but as you talk with him, you find out there’s a deep thinker in the conversation.

Joe Filomeno (center) and Collin Wiles (right) take part on a ZOOperstars dance-off routine (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Joe Filomeno (center) and Collin Wiles (right) take part on a ZOOperstars dance-off routine (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Below is my interview with Joe Filomeno.

First, I want to ask your feedback on how you think your season has progressed?

Filomeno: At the beginning of the season, I was at extended spring training. I had to get more comfortable with my arm slot. They changed my arm slot from more over the top to a lower three-quarters, where I am at now. It was fine in extended but I couldn’t find a feel for my breaking ball. Then I talked to some of the coaches there at extended and they helped me out with a breaking ball.

I got called up here on May 10th and I’ve had nothing but the time of my life since then. Oscar’s great. All the guys are great and I love playing for Ragsdale. He’s a great guy.

I love Hickory. I never thought I’d like a small town like Hickory because I’m from Chicago. I love it here and I’ve had the time of my life here.

What’s been the best part of Hickory?

Filomeno: I think it’s being from Chicago where everything is a fast pace. You can’t go through a toll booth in Chicago without getting yelled at by someone behind you because you’re going too slow. It’s fun to get away from that and slow down and enjoy life, let alone playing baseball the game of baseball every day.

It’s fun to see the people out here and all the little kids because I remember when I was their age. I didn’t have a minor league team by my house, but I went to a lot of independent ball games. That was a lot of fun going to them and seeing those guys. I just want to give back to the kids that are there watching us play. I just think it’s awesome for them. I like Hickory because it’s such a tighter knit community with the Crawdads and you’ve got the college here and everything. Overall, I like the slower pace of life because you get to enjoy things more.

Do you ever think about moving to a smaller community?

Filomeno: I don’t know about too far. There are smaller suburbs in Chicago which I would probably like when I grow up – because I like to say that I’m a little kid playing baseball. I think I would stay in Chicago because that’s where my family is, with the exception of my sister, who is in Indianapolis. My family is really close and I think I would stay in Chicago or around that area.

You talk the guys, every time I go into the clubhouse, you or (Jose) Trevino or somebody has some sort of party going on. Talk to me about the clubhouse. You guys are together for so long. What do you guys do to keep that situation light?

Filomeno: You know, if you talk to Jose, he’ll tell you that the game of baseball has made him a little crazy mentally. It’s funny that he says that because you come to the field every day at the same time; it’s very monotonous. You’ve got so many guys with totally different personalities and it just funny how you play the game of baseball and all different types of personalities mesh and they’re just a great team.

Yeah, I think I’m usually noticed when I’m in that clubhouse the most because I’m usually the loudest. (Thanks mom and dad for that.) I think it’s just that everyone in there is just friends. We’d do anything for each other and we all have different personalities, but at the same time our personalities are so similar. We pick each other up and make each other smile and laugh and be one big happy family.

You’ve had two new guys come in this week and you’ve had so many guys come through. How have you guys worked through bringing in new guys and making them feel a part of the team?

Filomeno: You play the game of baseball for so long and when you’re younger you usually play with the same teams your whole life with the same group of guys. Then when you go to college, every year the team is different. You still have the same core group of guys, but every team is different; they’ve got new guys coming in.

I feel like this is kind of like a college atmosphere, where you’ve got guys leaving and coming, but it’s on a more rapid basis. Whereas, we had guys like Johnny Fasola, Adam Parks and David Perez, and they get called up and they’re gone. So we get three new guys. So then, we’re all here for the same purpose and that is to win ballgames and have fun doing it.

With (Eric) Jenkins and Dylan (Moore), they fit in fine with us because we’re such an open group and we’re very comfortable with each other. I played against Dylan in college (Filomeno pitched for Louisville; Moore for Central Florida) and I know he’s a good player and I’ve talked to him before. I was the first to go up to him and say, “Hi, how the hell are you? How’ve you been? How was Spokane?” I feel like when you play the game of baseball for so long and you see so many different faces, bringing another face in is just like the back your hand. It’s like, “All right, he’s part of our team now. He’s one of our brothers.”

How have you guys gone about the last month where you knew in mid-June that you were going to make the playoffs? There’s July and the monotony of the season and so on. Did you guys get bored toward the end of the season?

Filomeno: I’d say the only thing we’ve been bored with is the seven-hour bus trips. Other than that, the buses are fun. You can tell in the clubhouse that we’re all a bunch of kids playing around and it’s a fun time. The last month we’re been scuffling; you can’t lie.

The thing Ragsdale will tell us is to grind it out. “It’s the last month, so grind it out and play good baseball. Give it everything you’ve got. If you’ve got 80 percent, give us 80 percent. If you’ve got 75, give us 75.” It’s just a part of the season where it’s tough for everybody. Everyone’s hurt and everyone’s sore. Once you’re out on the field, everyone laughs it up. We’ve got a game to play and even if we don’t win, we’re locked in for those nine, ten, 18 innings, or however many we have to play.

What’s the next step for your development?

Filomeno: The next step for my development is consistency out of the bullpen. I’ve been pretty consistent throughout the year, but at the same time I feel that I can be a lot more consistent. When I come into the game, I should lock it up and I should not let any runs score, especially if I come in with inherited runners; I should not let those guys score. That’s simply just because the guys that came in before me pitched their butt off the whole game. I shouldn’t cash in their runs because I’m not a hundred percent locked in. I think that’s the biggest part of my development right now is just being consistent every day locked in.

Where you a reliever in college?

Filomeno: I was a reliever my first two years and then my junior year I started games. Then they put me back in the bullpen because I struggled.

You seem to have more of that reliever mentality. Do you see that long term for you?

Filomeno: I think so, yeah. I’ve had people tell me that if I can get lefthanders out I can play the game for a very long time. If I can get lefties out – I want to get righties out, too – wherever they put me in the game, I’ll do my very best to get people out.

What’s a major league call-up look like for you?

Filomeno: I have no idea. This early in my career – this is my first full-season – if I get called up in the next five years, I’ll be happy. If I get called up in the next ten years, I don’t care. I want to play the game as long as I can. I’ll play the game until 30 teams tell me I’m not good enough or my arm falls off.

You get a call, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

Filomeno: I just call my dad and my mom and tell them I did it.

And they’re going to be in the stands?

Filomeno: Oh yeah, they wouldn’t miss it.

When you get on the mound, what’s the first thing you do?

Filomeno: The first thing I do when I get to the mound is I usually have to take my bracelet off because the umpires usually yell at me. I’d take two big breaths. I lock in on the leftfield foul pole; that’s my thing. I take a breath, make a little sign of the cross and tell God to protect me and watch over me.

Who’s the first major league batter you hope to face?

Filomeno: I would say probably Jason Heyward. I like his swing. I think he’s a really hard out and I think that would be a perfect introduction to the big leagues facing a hitter like Jason Heyward.

If you get to the major leagues, what the thing you think you will look back on and say, “That was worth it”?

Filomeno: All the fun. Playing the game at 22-years old. I could be sitting behind a desk. I could be doing anything else but playing a game for a living. It’s all worth it. You look back at it and say, “All that crap we went through, all the long days, it doesn’t matter.” Baseball is what got me through life and I’m going to stick to it as long as I can

Joe Filomeno posted a 2.72 ERA and struck out 62 inn 56.1 innings this season. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Joe Filomeno posted a 2.72 ERA and struck out 62 inn 56.1 innings this season. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Arms Development: An Interview with SAL Coach of the Year Oscar Marin

It has been well-documented that the Texas Rangers organization seeks talent from anywhere at any level. Over the past several years, the Hickory Crawdads have benefitted from that philosophy.

Rangers pitcher Nick Martinez came to the Crawdads in 2012 after throwing only 26 innings in college. Former manager Bill Richardson – who led the team to two playoff spots – was a high school coach at the time the Rangers hired him.

On this year’s squad, the Crawdads have several individuals that are further examples of finding individuals in one field to do a specific job in another. Catcher Jose Trevino was a shortstop his final season at Oral Roberts. Pitcher Scott Williams was a junior college catcher that threw ten innings in 2014. He had ten saves in the second half of this season.

But arguably the biggest impact such a person has made for this year’s team has been pitching coach Oscar Marin, who was just named the South Atlantic League’s (SAL) coach of the year.

A native of Southern California, Marin, 32, played college ball at L.A. Valley College (LAVS) before moving up to Arkansas-Little Rock. After his playing days ended, he stayed on as an assistant for a year in 2005 before returning to LAVC as its pitching coach for two seasons. Marin then was the pitching coach in 2008-2009 for Harvard-Westlake High in North Hollywood.

The Rangers hired Marin in 2010 and he worked his way up to low-A Hickory for the first of two seasons starting in 2014.

Marin has put in tremendous work this season and the results showed. The Crawdads had six pitchers – four starters – selected for the mid-season SAL all-star game, with Marin himself picked as the pitching coach. The staff finished the season with club records in ERA (3.19) and WHIP (1.21), and were just two homers shy of setting a club mark in that category.

In the interview below, Marin talked about the work his pitchers did this season, and he spoke of the process of becoming a pro coach without pro-playing experience.

Oscar Marin and six of his pitchers were named to the SAL team in June (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Oscar Marin and six of his pitchers were named to the SAL team in June (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

You got chosen as the South Atlantic League coach of the year. Where you surprised?

Marin: Yeah, I was surprised. It’s something you don’t expect. But, it’s a great honor to know that your peers think that much of you. A lot of it’s due to the pitching staff that we’ve had that has given me the opportunity to do the things that we did this year. I’m just really excited about it and really happy about the award. I’m just thanking some of the people like our coordinator Danny Clark, Mark Connor that’s been with us, and Jeff Andrews have really kind of helped me throughout my career along the way here with the Rangers. A lot of credit goes to them too, but I’m really happy about it and blessed that I was able to get an award like that.

Your guys have set the club ERA mark and the club WHIP mark. That’s probably a testament to your work and some of the coordinators that you’ve mentioned. What have you been able to instill in these guys this year as a total staff?

Marin: I think as a team staff – and one of the things that we keep reminding these guys of – is how aggressive we started in the season after the first week. After the first week, we didn’t do so well. It took us until a series in Asheville to really get going. From that series in Asheville, we really started pitching off our fastball, attacking off our fastball and demanding that inner part of the plate. I think that was a big testament to what these guys did throughout the year and are still trying to do.

That’s one of the things we engrained in these guys and part of the things that we have in the Texas Rangers organization is attacking the zone, winning your 1-1 counts, throwing your first-pitch strikes. Those little philosophies might seem simple, but if these guys can execute those things they’ll probably be on the winning end of games.

What’s been the biggest surprise for you this year, even for somebody that maybe even started slow and has really come on that jumps out for you?

Marin: Ariel Jurado. You bring him in from the AZL the year before, you don’t really have expectations of what you might get. For him to suffer his first loss not too long ago, to be 12-1 and have the composure that he did on the mound and to be able to have the feel that he does, it’s a big surprise. Like I said, you don’t what’s going to happen, but when a guy like that comes in the first year and does something like that, it has to surprise you. How could it not? After watching a while and having for a certain amount of time, you get to see why he’s doing the things that he’s doing.

The whole staff in general: how they’ve stayed together as a unit and they’ve backed each other up. That was huge. You don’t have many staffs that do that kind of stuff, but when they do they’re special. I think this is a special group. That’s why these guys did a good job of keeping together and holding each other accountable the whole year.

You have so many guys that have come in and out this year, whether it’s promotions or injuries, or whatever. What has helped you to be able to individualize lessons and development for Jurado and Williams and Wiles and so on?

Marin: I think it’s more of an environment that you put out there around these guys. I know that every guy is different. We don’t cookie-cut anybody for what they do. We work with what that have. In general, what we teach these guys, while these guys are together, is basically in the same idea. We put things in terms of the same idea with everybody and creating that dynamic about, this is what we do, this is what we’re all about. So whether you leave or whether you come in, that dynamic stays the same, even with the guys that are leftover.

We lost several guys, especially from the bullpen. From those guys that are left, there’s a little of the philosophy behind, and these guys have taken it over and are teaching the guys coming in. I think that’s the biggest difference as to why we’ve been able to do the things we’ve done this year. You come in or you leave, everybody’s getting, “this is what we do here.” I think that’s the biggest thing that’s helped.

What were the adjustments, or maybe the biggest adjustments you had to make going to the pro level as opposed to the amateur level?

Marin: I think the biggest adjustment for me was, at the high school level or at the junior college level, you get who you get. You’re kind of stuck trying to recruit in high school and guys get into the school or they don’t. They show up and there’s a tryout and that’s what you get.

Here, the amount of talent that we get brought in, it was a lot easier to teach guys that might have more of that ability and not really have to go around and do different things to try and teach somebody. The learning curve is a lot easier. I think that was one of the biggest adjustments.

The other thing was you have that first rounder, second rounder and different type guys. You’re used to teaching; this is how we do it- this one way. Because of the people I’ve been around and the guys that I’ve already mentioned – like coordinator Danny Clark – you learn different ways on how to teach different guys. Not everybody’s going to be the same. I think that was the biggest adjustment coming into pro ball. Everybody has their own personalities and you find the best way to try to teach those personalities.

Did you have to earn respect coming into the pro game? Did you have to learn a certain level of being listened to?

Marin: I think everybody tries to earn that respect. The best thing about this organization is you earn that respect by working hard and making sure you’re doing the things to get guys better. That’s how you earn their respect.

There wasn’t really too much of that, “this guy didn’t play professional baseball.” I never saw that. I think that’s one of the best things that our organization does. There’s not bad talk about, “this guy never played.” Everybody just came together. If you’re here to get somebody better, that’s what they care about and that’s why I love this organization.

You’ve been here two years now. What do you know now in September of your second year that you maybe didn’t know in April of 2014?

Marin: I think the biggest thing is – going from short-season ball, where I was at before, whether it was the AZL or at Spokane – limiting what these guys do. Throughout the year, you might start of doing certain things, working heavier with guys on certain things, whether it’s mechanics or a certain pitch and stuff like that and you keep doing it throughout the year. But over time, if they keeping doing those, those guys are going to wear down. Over time, just training responsibly and having those guys keep doing the things that they need to do to get better. Instead of overworking, just more quality work than anything else.

Looking ahead, what do you see yourself doing in three to five years? Do you look to keep moving up, or do you have a niche here?

Marin: This is a great place and I love coaching here. This isn’t a bad place to coach, whatsoever. But like anybody else, just like the players do, you have those thoughts of moving up. You have those thoughts of eventually, just like everybody else, having an idea of coaching in the big leagues and getting to the big leagues in whatever capacity it is.

That’s what I want to be. I want to keep growing as a person. I want to keep growing as a pitching coach and try to move up as much as much I can and try to succeed at some of the things you wanted. One of the other things is eventually – I guess you can call it a five-year plan –be a pitching coordinator. I want to keep growing and I want to keep growing in whatever capacity that’s gets me moving up to the next level.

Oscar Marin was named the 2015 SAL coach of the year. (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Oscar Marin was named the 2015 SAL coach of the year. (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Game Story: Hickory at West Virginia Game 1 SAL Playoffs

The West Virginia Power rallied with three runs in the fifth inning and went on to a 4-2 win over the Hickory Crawdads Wednesday night at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W. Va. With the win, the Power took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three South Atlantic League series.

The series shifts to Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium with the Crawdads needing to win game two on Friday night to force game three on Saturday.

What Happened?:

Hickory took a two-run lead after four innings. Jairo Beras slapped an opposite field homer in the second and Carlos Arroyo’s RBI grounder doubled the lead.

However, after Yohander Mendez dominated the Power the first four innings, a sloppy fifth inning was the turning point of the game. With one out, Chase Simpson doubled to left and Taylor Gushue powered a two-run homer to left. The inning continued when Tyler Filliben reached on a throwing error by shortstop Edwin Garcia. Mendez induced Kevin Newman to bounce into a comebacker. But, the potential, inning-ending double play fell apart the Mendez was slow to the bag at second and the Crawdads recorded only one out. Pablo Reyes singled to chase Mendez before reliever Joe Filomeno walked Kevin Kramer to load the bases. Filomeno struck out Michael Suchy, but the third-strike slider bounced away and allowed Suchy to reach and Newman to score the go-ahead run.

After posting seven hits over the first five innings, the Crawdads went into a funk at the plate following the Power’s rally. Three West Virginia pitchers retired the final 13 batters of the game.

The Power added an unearned in the seventh for the final tally of the game.

The Good:

Yohander Mendez plowed through the first four innings with only one hit allowed and struck out five.

Joe Filomeno struck out five over 2 1/3 innings and allowed just the one unearned run in the seventh.

Jeffrey Springs pitched a perfect eighth inning with one strikeout.

Jairo Beras was the lone Crawdads hitter with two hits and doubled in the fourth.

The Not-so-Good:

Missed Opportunities at the plate: The Crawdads put seven runners on over the first five innings and managed just a solo homer and an Arroyo’s RBI groundout after loading the bases with one out. Eric Jenkins doubled with one out in the third, but did not advance further. Jose Trevino doubled with two outs in the fifth and was stranded as Luke Tendler’s drive fell at the warning track.

Missed opportunities in the field: A short-hopped throw to first by Garcia opened the door to the go-ahead run in the fifth. Yet, it was Mendez’s hesitation on a throw to second on what was described on radio as a routine double play ball that proved to be the key. In the seventh, 1B Carlos Arroyo’s throw went behind Filomeno covering first and allowed Pablo Reyes to score from second with two outs.

The Opponents:

Tyler Gushue hit his sixth homer overall this season. Two of those have come against Hickory.

Pablo Reyes and Kevin Kramer each had two hits with a double each. Reyes doubled and scored an insurance run in the seventh. Kramer’s walk in the fifth loaded the bases for Suchy.

Austin Coley walked the tightrope during much of his six innings, but the right hander, who won 16 games during the regular season, minimized the damage during the crucial fourth inning.

Sam Street and Nick Neumann combined for three perfect innings with three strikeouts.

Hickory / West Virginia SAL Playoff & Game 1 Preview

South Atlantic League Playoff Series

Game 1: Hickory Crawdads (81-57) at West Virginia Power (87-52)

Site/ Time: Appalachian Power Park, Charleston, West Virginia

Crawdads Playoff History:  The Crawdads will make their tenth playoff appearance in 23 seasons since joining the South Atlantic League in 1993. It is the first appearance since 2011. This will be the third trip to the playoffs during the seven seasons the Crawdads have been affiliated with the Texas Rangers.

Hickory has won two SAL championships, both coming during the affiliation of the club with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002 and 2004.  The Crawdads have not won a series since claiming the title in 2004, nor have they won a playoff home game since the clincher of that series.

Power Playoff History: West Virginia has made seven playoffs appearances since staring South Atlantic League play in 1987. The lone SAL title came in 1990 as the Charleston Wheelers – a Reds affiliate – swept the Savannah Cardinals in three straight. This is the fourth playoff appearance under the name of the West Virginia Power (beginning in 2005), the second as a Pirates affiliate (2013), which began in 2009.

Hickory/ West Virginia Playoff History: The Crawdads defeated the Charleston Alley Cats (Blue Jays) in two straight in the first round of the 2004 playoffs. The clincher of the 2004 sweep was the final game played at Watt Powell Park in Charleston.  West Virginia (Brewers) took a 2-1 first-round series win in 2007.

How Hickory Got Here: The Crawdads led the first-half Northern Division chase wire-to-wire, eventually finishing with a 44-24 mark, 7 ½ games ahead of second-place West Virginia.

How West Virginia Got Here: The Power bullied the SAL in the second half and finished 50-20. It was the first time a SAL club had 50 half-season wins since Augusta turned the trick in 2007. West Virginia finished ten games ahead of second-place Delmarva in the second half and 13 games ahead of fourth-place Hickory.

Game 1 Pitching matchup: Hickory-Yohander Mendez (LH, 3-3, 2.44) vs. West Virginia- Austin Coley (RH, 16-6, 3.66)

Hickory Pitching:

Mendez: After pitching in a piggyback arrangement with Ariel Jurado much of the season, Mendez split off on his own late in the season. After allowing more than two runs just once in his first 19 outings, the lefty gave up four in five innings to Greensboro on August 23 and five to Delmarva in 3.1 innings on September 1 to close out the regular season. He gave up one homer in each of those outings, the only long balls he allowed this season. Mendez finished the season with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. SAL hitters batted .230 against Mendez in 2015. His struck out 74 and walked 15 in 66.1 innings. Against West Virginia in 2015, Mendez allowed one unearned run on three hits, two walks and struck out seven in eight innings (two appearances, one start).

Relievers: Scott Williams likely will get the first look for a save situation. The right-hander picked up ten saves in the second half and built a 40-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31.1 innings in the second half. In three outings vs. the Power in 2015, Williams allowed one run – a homer to Michael Suchy on June 19, on three hits and struck out two over four innings… Joe Filomeno gave up two runs to the Power late in a game on August 16… Shane McCain was roughed up in an outing vs. West Virginia on August 15 (2.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K…Having not pitched since September 2, it would not be unusual to see 2015 first-rounder Dillon Tate get an inning in the middle of the game.  Manager Corey Ragsdale indicated that Tate and Luis Ortiz would be available for action in the series… Adam Dian (5 saves) threw an inning on Monday’s win. He has pitched out of the pen on one day’s rest just once.

West Virginia pitching:

Coley: The 23-year-old right-hander made all 27 starts this season and seemed to finish strong as he allowed one earned run in each of his last four starts (26 innings). Coley has showed good command with 111 Ks to just 25 walks in 147.2 innings. A fly ball pitcher, – He holds a 0.88 GO/AO ratio – Coley is susceptible to the long ball, having allowed a SAL-high 18 this season. The Crawdads touched him up for three in a loss back on August 14. Hickory has had perhaps the best luck against the 16-game winner tagging him for 20 hits over 11 innings in two starts. Among Crawdads hitters, Carlos Arroyo is 4-for-6 this season with a homer and Luke Tendler has doubled and homered in four plate appearances. Jairo Beras went 2-for-2 with a double.

Relievers: Nick Neumann is the Power close with 17 saves in 19 chances. He threw two perfect innings against Hickory this season, both coming in the first half… Other key relievers will likely include Sam Street, Jared Lakind and Julio Vivas. Of the trio, only Lakind (1 IP) has faced Hickory this year.

Hickory lineup:

Late season injuries to Josh Morgan and Michael De Leon put the Crawdads into a mix-and-match mode on the infield. Catcher Jose Trevino and third baseman Juremi Profar are the two likely certainties around the diamond. Ragsdale indicated that Edwin Garcia will likely play short and newcomer Dylan Moore will place second. Carlos Arroyo, who played second most of the season, was stationed at first the final two games of the season and handled the position without a problem. With his output against Coley (4-for-6) this season, and his success against the Power this season Arroyo may get the first look with Chuck Moorman and Jonathan Meyer available off the bench. Arroyo is the lone active Crawdads player to hit over .300 (6-for-15) against the Power in 2015.

In the outfield, the arrival of 2015 second-round Eric Jenkins gives Ragsdale a different wrinkle in the lineup with his speed. He went 7-for-18 during his five-game audition last week and he may well have earned some at bats in the series. The likely lineup will be Luke Tendler in left, Jose Cardona in center and Jairo Beras in right. Tendler ended his season fourth in the SAL in RBI and total bases. Beras had a pair of homers and five RBI during a mid-June series in Charleston. However, he went 0-for-7 against the Power in August. Eduard Pinto may get a look at first on in the DH slot.

Power lineup:

The Power had only 18 position players on their roster this season with eight players taking the field for 99 or more games (Hickory has three in the expected lineup, though Pinto has 98 games). The team finished the season at the top of the SAL with a .269 batting average and a .347 on-base percentage. It’s a team that will play classic National League small-ball (90 sacrifices) to scratch out runs for what has been a shutdown pitching staff. They are very patient at the plate. West Virginia leads the SAL in walks and has the second fewest strikeouts this season.

Behind the plate will likely be Taylor Gushue with Connor Joe – the Pirates No. 29 prospect (mlb.com) at first. Pablo Reyes and 2015 first-round pick Kevin Newman will play second and short respectively. Rounding out the infield at third will likely be Tyler Filliben, who has filled in for the injured Jordan Luplow.

A talented group is stationed in the outfield with SAL all-star Michael Suchy starting in right. Suchy, the fifth-round pick of the Pirates in 2014, finished the season second in the SAL in runs scored and in RBI.

A combination of Tito Polo, Elvis Escobar and Jerrick Suiter split up left and center, with Suiter getting many of the DH starts.  Suiter and Esocbar finished fifth and eighth in the SAL in batting avg. with Escobar third in hits.

Against the Crawdads, Escobar hit .355 (11-for-31) to lead the team among active players. The injured Luplow had two of the five homers struck against Hickory and he is tied with Suchy with five RBI.

Other things to know: This is likely to be a pitching-and-defense series. Hickory and West Virginia finished tied with the fewest errors committed in the SAL and went 1-2 in WHIP. The Crawdads finished second in ERA (3.19) with the Power fourth at 3.38…  Defending bunts had been a downfall for the Crawdads prior to their injuries and against a team that likes small ball, the revamped defensive alignment – especially with the likelihood of inexperience at first – could be a point worth watching… Both teams expect to win when they score first. The Crawdads went 54-14 when scoring first – tops in the SAL – and West Virginia was 59-16, which was second… Hickory has held up well under pressure as it was 71-4 when leading or tied after seven innings. In one-run games, the Crawdads are 27-16 with the Power at 19-22.

Ragsdale Looks Ahead to Playoff Series

The Hickory Crawdads open their tenth playoff run in 23 seasons as they start a three-game series with the West Virginia Power. Game one is at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, WV with games two and three coming to L.P. Frans Stadium Friday and, if necessary, Saturday.

I took a moment to talk with Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale about the series, as well as how the team ended the regular season heading into the playoffs.

You guys have been waiting for the playoffs since June and here we are finally. First, let me ask how did the guys adjust to the second half when they knew they were going to be in the playoffs? There wasn’t really anything to play for, although they’re playing for development purposes.

Ragsdale: I think they’ve done good. Yes, coming out of the break and had won the first half, it’s tough when the team goes and they decided at some point we’re going to win this thing and they win it. They completed their mission right there. It took a few days to kind of get back in line and refocus.

They know now that there’s still work to do. There’s a job to do and I’ve got to get better for myself and continue to get better as a player. So it took a few days, but they’ve done very well. Obviously, we haven’t won as many ballgames this half as we did the first half, but overall they competed well and the efforts been there. Honestly, I’ve got no complaints.

Obviously the big story of the year has been pitching, pitching, pitching. I’m guessing that looking ahead to West Virginia, that will be the make or break for y’all.

Ragsdale: We’ve been very fortunate, yes. Our starters, our pitching has been very good all year. The first half of the year we were so good, primarily because of pitching and defense and timely hitting and things like that. But there’s no doubt that pitching and defense carried us. Going into the playoffs, we like our chances. We’re running out three guys that have had very good years. Whatever happens is going to happen, but we’ve got as good a shot as anybody.

This first round we’re running Yohander (Mendez), (Ariel) Jurado and (Collin) Wiles out there 1-2-3. We like our chances.

When y’all get here on Saturday, you’re going to win this because____?

Ragsdale: In any playoff situation pitching and defense is always number one. We’re running three guys out there that we have a lot of confidence in and we’ve also got to play defense behind them. If we do that and take care of things that we need to, we’ve got a pretty good shot.

You played West Virginia a couple of weeks ago after not seeing them since the first half, what did they bring that maybe has concerns for you?

Ragsdale: I know we’re going to see (Yeudy) Garcia and (Stephen) Tarpley one-two. Obviously they’re two of the better pitchers in the league. So they’ve got some good arms going out as well. They probably do a little bit of the same stuff we do. Their pitching has probably carried them a little bit. I think they’ve swung it a little bit lately.

When we played them the last time, we definitely weren’t playing our best. But, that’s no excuse. We’re definitely going to have to be on our A game. They’re playing very well. They’re steamrolling everybody they’ve played. We’re definitely going to have to come out and play our best games and play a good series to win. But, I think we’ll be alright. It’ll be a fun series.

In the first half you had a pretty set group of guys but in the second half for various reasons you’ve had a lot of in and out.

Ragsdale: We lost some of the guys in the first half, which is good. Some guys went up that did well. It is stuff, not necessarily about finding players. That group in the first half, they were all playing for the same thing. When you get an influx of new guys coming in there and switching around and all that stuff, it’s tough to make sure everybody’s on the same page all the time. That’s tough, but I think the guys that have come in, we’ve had great guys come in, guys that pretty much fall in line that want to do good and be good teammates. It hasn’t been hard on me or anything like that. I just think for them there’s a little bit of an adjustment for each guy having new teammates in and getting them comfortable.

On the infield, I know you’ve toyed around with some different arrangements, especially at first, and trying to find a mix and the lineup. How do you see this playing out?

Ragsdale: To be honest, the alignment took a hit the other day when (shortstop Michael) De Leon went down. With Dylan (Moore) coming in, we have a chance to move some things around. To be honest, at first base we’re still trying to figure that out. The other three positions, it’s probably going to look like what it looks like tonight. We’re trying to figure out just what gives us the best options and who’s most comfortable where. Obviously De Leon and J-Mo going down, that’s two very good defenders – two guys on the left side of the infield that were very good for us. It’s a little swift kick, but I think we’ve got guys that can step up and fill the void. It’s kind of like, “next man up, here we go.”

In the outfield (Luke) Tendler, (Jairo) Beras, (Jose) Cardona with (Eduard) Pinto at DH?

Ragsdale: I think Eric (Jenkins) gives us a nice new dimension. He’s obviously playing very well. He’ll be a guy that can possibly come off the bench and do something like that. He can run; he has very good speed. He’s shown some very good at bats and has shown some spark being in the leadoff position… he gives us something that, to be honest, we don’t have. So we’ll see over the next couple of days how that plays in and how that mixes in. We may try to get him some at bats and get him in there as well.

We’ve still got a couple of days. With those new guys, we’ll just see what they can and what they can’t do. It’s not exactly the position you want to be in going into the playoffs, but we’ll get it done.