After Kannapolis put up the first two runs, Hickory scored the final ten of the game and blasted the Intimidators 10-2 at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Kannapolis (4-6) needed took the lead in the first inning when Tyler Sullivan doubled and later scored on a wild pitch by Crawdads starter Jonathan Hernandez.
The Intimidators made it 2-0 in the third after Corey Zangari lifted a fly ball over the fence in left for a solo homer (2).
After Johnathan Frebis retired nine of the first 12 hitters of the game, he walked back-to-back hitters after two were out in the fourth. Frandy De La Rosa then sent a fastball over the fence in left-center for a three-run blast (2) which, as it turned out, gave Hickory the lead for good.
The Crawdads (8-2) blew open the game with seven runs in the sixth. Yeyson Yrizarri reached on an infield hit and after stealing second, Dylan Moore joined him with a walk. That chased Frebis from the game and brought in Jaider Rocha.
The key at-bat early in the inning came when Tyler Sanchez hit a chopper up third base line that Cody Daily fielded cleanly, but threw wide of first. Yrizarri scored with Moore going to third. After De La Rosa whiffed, Eduard Pinto’s RBI single scored Moore. Jose Almonte loaded the bases when catcher Seby Zavala was called for catcher’s interference.
Rocha walked Darius Day for a run and Eric Jenkins’ grounder brought in Pinto. The final blows came on a two-run double by Andy Ibanez and an RBI single by Yrizarri.
Hernandez completed six innings – his longest outing since 2014 – and allowed two runs on four hits, two walks and struck out three to even his mark at 1-1. Johan Juan picked up a rulebook save with three scoreless innings, as he allowed three hits and one walk with three strikeouts.
Hickory put up nine hits in the game with Yrizarri, Moore and Pinto each getting two. The team struggled with the softer-tossing, left-hander Frebis (87-89 fastball, 80-82 CH, Curve) and at times were anxious.
Frebis struggled with command (89 pitches, 47 strikes, 42 balls), but Hickory helped him out by chasing pitches out of the zone.
In the second, after Moore singled and Tyler Sanchez walked on four straight balls, De La Rosa – originally looking for the sacrifice – took the first two fastballs that were low. A mound visit by Kannapolis ensured, followed by another fastball off the plate that De La Rosa tried to pull and it went for a double play.
“It took them a little bit to get that lefty figured out,” said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz. “He was kind of mixing it and keeping it down and was really throwing a lot of balls off the plate that we were chasing a little too much early.”
Sanchez had the key at-bat in the fourth, as he worked the count 2-2. He laid off a fastball just off the outside corner for ball three that both Frebis and the catcher Zavala wanted for strike three. Ball four was another fastball well off the plate. That allowed De La Rosa to come up to the plate for the homer.
De La Rosa’s homer was a first-pitch fastball that strayed over the plate and it wasn’t missed.
The decisive sixth inning wasn’t so much a lineup mauling as it was the Crawdads putting the bat on the ball and seeing what happens. Yrizarri’s single was just to the right of the 2B Mendick. Moore put together a good AB to walk. Sanchez got enough on the ball to work it up the 3B line (Arguably, it could’ve been a hit). Pinto got enough on the ball to sneak it just past Rocha and the middle infielders. The only ball of the 12 batters that was well struck was Ibanez’s double off the wall in LCF. Said Mintz of the inning, “They got going and we started hitting it and we got of soft hits where we just hit it out of reach and a couple of hits that kind of finished it off. It was a good inning.”
The lineup will have their moments of being low-A players, but as a group, they show good bat control and are able to put the ball in play and allow their speed to force the issue.
Mintz said, “The guys, they just feed off of one another and have that, ‘I don’t want to make the last out mentality.’ It’s fun to watch and seeing the guys run around the bases.”
After a bit of a rough start, Jonathan Hernandez settled in nicely over the final five innings. His fastball sat 93-94 with a top speed of 97. The best use of that pitch came against Zangari, who swung through three straight heaters in the first. However, Zangari got the best of him on a first-pitch fastball (95) in the third. The control was iffy at first, but got progressively better as time went on. His used the Changeup and slider more as the outing continued and used them both almost exclusively to strike out Micker Adolfo to end the sixth.
“Hernandez, tonight, was very, very good,” said Mintz. “He struggled in that first inning, but then he got going and started throwing his fastball over the plate and started getting some of his offspeed stuff going a little bit better and was able to hold them to two runs. It obviously gave us a chance to get back into the ballgame.”
The most noticeable thing I noticed with Hernandez this time in comparison to his start at Kannapolis was the ability to be more in control on the mound. Whereas before, Hernandez appeared to overthrow his pitches and was seen falling off to the grass on the first base side of the mound, on Saturday, he seemed more compact and reserved with his delivery.
“Definitely from the first start to the second start, he had a whole different demeanor and was very in control of himself out there,” said Mintz. “His mound presence was very good, even after a couple of mistakes.”
I had hoped to pay attention to Johan Juan’s outing, but Gameday issues messed that up. What I did get to see, Juan brings a lively 92-93 mph fastball to the plate with a slider and change. He froze Zangari with a fastball to strike him out in the 7th, It was a slider that did the trick against Grant Massey in the ninth.
A pretty routine night a field. Jenkins made a nice catch after a long run in RCF to nab a ball on the run.
Ibanez made a nice, sliding grab of a hot grounder after Hernandez flicked it on the mound.
The adventure that is Crawdads baserunning added to their ledger on Saturday. With Eric Jenkins on first in the first, Andy Ibanez flew out to medium center. Jenkins did not pick up the ball and briefly fell for a decoy by second baseman Daniel Mendick. When Jenkins realized that Mendick didn’t have the ball, he took a few steps toward third, but then realized the situation and retreated to first. Unfortunately for Jenkins, he forgot to retouch second and was doubled up.
Moore, Yrizarri and Jenkins all stole second in the game. The first two were off Frebis and the final by Jenkins against Rocha. Both pitchers took their time to deliver a pitch home, and so Hickory was able to read the moves of both and take advantage. Jenkins steal against Rocha came as he was nearly a third of the way down the line to second as the pitch came home.
Other notes of importance: Something that could bear watching -Hernandez took a liner off his right arm in the sixth. The field and training staff took a look at Hernandez and after throwing a couple of pitches, they were satisfied enough to let continue. Mintz relayed that Hernandez nearly lost a nail on the play…
Kannapolis DL’d SS Johan Cruz, the White Sox No. 16 prospect (mlb.com). The White Six then assigned OF Micker Adolfo (No. 9) to Kannapolis.