Toothless at the plate much of the early season, the Kannapolis Intimidators muscled up three homers in support of three pitchers in an 8-4 win over the Hickory Crawdads in front of 2,525 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium Friday night.
The win snapped the Intimidators three-game losing streak, as well as the Crawdads three-game winning streak.
Hickory took a 1-0 lead in the first as Leody Taveras hit the first pitch from Bernardo Flores into the right field corner for a triple. A wild pitch later scored him.
Kannapolis used an error to get even in the third. After Joel Booker walked, Mitch Roman singled him to third and then Booker scored with LF Yanio Perez’s throw to third clanked off Booker’s helmet.
Brandon Dulin’s second homer of the season put the Intimidators in the lead 2-1 in the fourth. One inning later, Booker singled with two outs, stole second and scored on Jameson Fisher’s single to right.
The Crawdads got a run back in the sixth. Perez led off with a single and worked his way to third on successive grounders to third. Travis Bolin singled in Perez and the Crawdads eventually loaded the bases with two outs. Alex Katz entered the game and struck out Brallan Perez to end the threat.
Fisher unloaded a two-run blast off the scoreboard in right-center in the eighth and Seby Zavala added a solo shot to make it 6-3.
Hickory eased back into the game briefly in the bottom of the inning. Jose Almonte and Isaias Quiroz each walked. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base and Perez’s single scored Almonte. Taveras came to the plate as the tying run, but Lane Hobbs struck him out to end the threat.
Kannapolis pushed two more runs across in the ninth before Preston Scott’s sacrifice fly scored Yeyson Yrizarri in the bottom of the inning to account for the final margin.
Roman went 4-for-4 with a walk, Fisher, Dulin and Zavala homered, but Joel Booker had the key at-bats of the game.
Booker saw 34 pitches during his five plate appearances and it was his persistent patience that played into a big night. With two outs and the bases empty in the third, Booker worked a walk. He made an aggressive play to go first to third and it paid off when Perez’s throw hit him in the helmet and led to a run.
In the fifth, Hickory starter Emerson Martinez needed just eight pitches to get the first two outs. Martinez got ahead 0-2 but was unable to put Booker away, who worked the count full before steering a single to left. Martinez went on to throw 28 pitches in the inning and inflated his pitch count to 76 and cost him a chance to go deeper into the game.
With two outs in the ninth, Booker again fell behind 0-2 before working the count even and eventually made contact on a swinging bunt up the first base line to score Max Dutto.
Hickory reliever made his first appearance of the season in the sixth. His debut was delayed after he got ill upon his arrival in Hickory. Flowers threw 93-94 mph and mixed in the slider with ease missing three bats. He struck out two during a perfect inning.
My memory of Emerson Martinez was a guy that threw low 90s, mixed in a change and slider and a bit of guile to get hitters out. According to the Rangers pitch trackers, Martinez was hitting 95 mph. His change at time had the Intimidators off balance, but as seen above, he was unable to finish off innings with a put-away pitch. After getting 12 of 15 outs via the whiff and groundball in his first start at Greensboro, had just 9 of 15 on Friday.
The Kannapolis staff has taken the step of throwing breaking balls to Yeyson Yrizarri and it made him look silly. He fanned in his first two at-bats – five swing-and-misses for the game, all on breaking balls – then was out on his front foot during back-to-back grounders. Up five runs in the ninth, the Intimidators threw a first-pitch fastball the Yrizarri rifled to the wall in left-center.
Both sides had some curious baserunning plays that potentially cost the team runs. In the no-harm-no-foul category. In the second, Brallan Perez appeared to take a couple of steps in reverse during a pop-up to second with two outs.
Ti’Quan Forbes delayed the turn at second, which proved costly during Preston Scott’s down double the line in left. Forbes then tried to make up for lost time during a scamper to the plate, but was thrown out.
Kannapolis had a curious baserunning decision of its own in the fifth. Fisher’s double scored Booker from second. Roman trailed behind at third and held up with two outs while the throw went to second.
3B Ti’Quan Forbes continues to shine defensively and he in the eighth contributed two more plays to his portfolio of artistic plays. He made a backhanded stab of a liner to the right of his knees as he spun backwards to keep his balance. But there was a better one to come. The inning concluded when Forbes stumbled left to corral a Zach Remillard ground, then from his knees, fired a strike to first for the out.
2B Brallan Perez started a double play in the second by snatching a quick short-hop during which he had to avoid the obstruction of the umpire. In the ninth, Perez had his feet slip on the wet track, but he was able to reach back over his right shoulder to take a high hop and complete the out at first.