April 2019

Series Preview: Hickory Crawdads at Greenville (S.C.) Drive April 30-May 2

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (16-7, 2nd Northern Division)

Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox) (11-12, 3rd Southern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads start a weeklong homestand with a three-game series at Fluor Field at West End in downtown Greenville.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: From Hickory, take Hwy 321 South to Gastonia, then I-85 South into South Carolina. Take I-385 (exit 51) towards downtown, which ends into North St. Turn right onto North Church St. Follow that down to the Municipal Complex and plan to park there. Shuttle from the lot to the stadium is free, as is parking.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Tuesday: 2:05 p.m. (Drive Business Downtown)

Wednesday: 7:05 p.m.

Thursday: 7:05 p.m. (Dollar Drink Night)

TICKETS: Prices in advance range from $8 at Pesky’s Porch to $16 for Green Monster Seats. Add $1 on the day of the game. $8 lawn and deck seating available on the day of the game.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

The two teams played all eight games at Greenville a year ago with Hickory taking six of the eight played at Fluor Field. Overall, since 2009, the Crawdads are 46-41, 22-21 at Greenville.

PROBABLES (Hickory/ Greenville)

Tuesday: RHP Yerry Rodriguez vs. RHP Chris Machamer

Wednesday: RHP Hans Crouse vs. RHP Brayan Bello

Thursday: RHP Jean Casanova vs. RHP Alex Scherff

 

ABOUT HICKORY

The Crawdads polished off their second winning homestand of the young season by defeating Lakewood 10-3 on Sunday. Hickory split this four-game series against the BlueClaws and went 4-3 overall. The team has played better on the road. They are 8-2 on the road and 8-5 at home.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 8 in top-100)

SS Chris Seise No. 12

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

C Sam Huff No. 21

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 30

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley or Sam Huff; 1B Curtis Terry; 2B Frainyer Chavez or Jonathan Ornelas; 3B Sherten Apostel; SS Chris Seise; OF LF: Miguel Aparicio; CF: Pedro Gonzalez; RF: Jose Almonte.

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 2nd homers (7)

Sam Huff –1st homers (12), 1st slugging pct. (.805), 1st OPS (1.163), 1st total bases, tied 3rd runs (17), tied for 9th hits (25), tied for 8th RBI (16)

Jonathan Ornelas – 8th batting avg. (.345), 9th on-base pct. (.419), 9th OPS (.947)

Chris Seise – Tied for 2nd triples (3), 2nd caught stealing, tied for 8th strikeouts

Curtis Terry – 1st doubles (11), 1st RBI (23), tied for 2nd total bases, 3rd slugging pct. (.639), tied for 3rd homers (6), 8th OPS (.960),

Matt Whatley – Tied for 2nd walks

Individual pitching:

Hans Crouse – 3rd WHIP (0.69), 5th ERA (1.33), tied for 7th hit batters.

John King – 6th hits allowed

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.229 (9th)/ .294 (11th)/ .429 (1st)/ .723 (2nd).

Other key rankings: 1st home runs, 1st total bases, 5th runs, 2nd total bases, 2nd fewest caught stealing, 3rd stolen bases, 3rd doubles, 11th hits, 12th walks

Team Pitching: 1st ERA (2.52), 1st WHIP (1.06), fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, fewest hit batters, fewest walks allowed, 4th fewest hits allowed.

 

ABOUT GREENVILLE:

The Drive return home from a 4-3 road trip after splitting a four-game series at Lexington (Ky.). Greenville is 5-4 at Fluor Field.

Manager: Iggy Suarez (1st season)

Prospects – Greenville (rankings by MLB.com):

1B Triston Casas No. 2 (No. 6 1B prospect)

3B Brandon Howlett No. 15

RHP Alex Scherff No. 21

RHP Brayan Bello No. 25

LHP Yoan Aybad No. 29

Possible Lineups: C: Kole Cottam; 1B Triston Casas; 2B: Korby Batesole or Kervin Suarez; 3B: Brandon Howlett; SS: Grant Williams; LF: Jordan Wren; CF: Cole Brannen; RF: Tyler Esplin.

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Cole Brannen – Tied for third caught stealing (3), tied for 4th steals (8), tied for 8th strikeouts

Kervin Suarez – Tied for third caught stealing (3)

Individual pitching:

Rio Gomez – Tied for 1st saves (4)

Hunter Hayworth – Tied for 7th hits allowed, tied for 9th runs allowed, tied for 10th earned runs allowed

Chris Machamer – Tied for 10th hits allowed

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.217 (12th)/ .299 (10th)/ .290 (13th)/ .620 (13th).

Other key rankings: most strikeouts, most caught stealing, 13th runs scored, 13th hits, 13th total bases

Team pitching: 3rd most hits allowed, 8th ERA (3.55), tied for 11th WHIP (1.35)

 

Crawdads Blasts Gain Win

Success for the Hickory Crawdads this season has usually been courtesy of the team’s big bats. It was true again Sunday afternoon as Hickory swatted four home runs in defeating the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws 10-3 in front of 1,528 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win gave Hickory (16-7) a split in the four-game series, which helped it avoid their first losing series of the season, as well as back-to-back losses for the first time. It also gave the Crawdads a winning homestand at 4-3 this week. They will take off Monday before starting a seven-game road trip the next day at Greenville (S.C.).

Hickory also used the victory to pick up ground on first-place Delmarva (Md.) in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division standings. The Shorebirds (17-4) dropped a 3-0 game to Augusta (Ga.) and have lost two straight, which has shrinked their lead over Hickory to two games.

Lakewood (8-16) wrapped up its road trip at 4-3 and now return home to face West Virginia on Tuesday.

The Crawdads pounded out 11 hits on Sunday with four of them leaving the park. Hickory now has double-digit hits in five games overall this season, two of those coming in the series and four of the five total against Lakewood pitching.

With the four home runs, Hickory now has 33 for the season, which is six more than Greensboro. The Crawdads also lead the SAL with a .429 slugging pct.

The barrage started in the first against Lakewood starter Francisco Morales (0-2). After the first two hitters fanned, Curtis Terry drilled a 96 miles-per-hour fastball to right for his sixth home run of the season. Three pitches later, Sam Huff walloped a 97 mph pitch well out to left for his 11th of the season. Huff is not tied with Round Rock’s Yordan Alvarez and Reno’s Kevin Cron for the minor league lead.

In the third, Matt Whatley added a two-run shot – his first of the season – to left.

An error on a force play opened the gate for Hickory to add two more in the fourth. The first run scored when Frainyer Chavez successfully laid down and beat out a squeeze bunt that scored Pedro Gonzalez from third. On the play, Miguel Aparcio advanced from first to third, which proved beneficial for the Crawdads after Chris Seise brought him in with a fly ball to center to make it 6-0.

Tim Brennan held Lakewood scoreless through four innings, but ran into trouble with two outs in the fifth. With Malvin Matos on first, Cole Stobbe joined him with a single. Jonathan Guzman singled in Matos before back-to-back misplays on the infield set up the second run. Ben Pelletier grounded to third but the throw went to second, where Guzman beat third baseman Sherten Apostel’s throw, to load the bases. Rafael Marchan hit a routine grounder to second, but the first baseman Terry slipped while covering the bases and that brought in two more runs.

Grant Anderson was brought in and he ended the rally by getting Abrahan Gutierrez to hit the first pitch and fly out to right.

Gonzalez got the two runs back with his seventh home run of the season, a two -run shot to left. The outfielder is now second in the SAL in homers.

The Crawdads rounded out the scoring in the sixth on Terry’s RBI double, and he later scored when first baseman Matt Kroon dropped a throw on the relay home following Gonzalez’s single.

Hickory’s bullpen allowed just three walks over 4.1 shutout innings. After getting the final out in the fifth, Anderson (3-1) worked around a walk in the sixth.

Hever Bueno pitched two scoreless innings with two walks allowed. Dylan Bice struck out two of the three in the ninth to close out the win.

Lakewood Trio Declaws Crawdads Bats

Three Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws pitchers combined to hold the Hickory Crawdads to three hits in a 4-1 win Saturday afternoon in front of 3,529 at L.P. Frans Stadium.

Lakewood has won two out of three during the four-game series,  which wraps up Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. Hickory (15-7) will try to avoid its first series loss of the season after winning the first six.

Lakewood (8-15) entered the series ranked near the bottom of the South Atlantic League in most pitching categories. However, for the second time in three games, the BlueClaws held the Crawdads to three hits in winning both of their games. For Hickory, it is the third time during the homestand and fourth out of seven it has had just three hits in a game.

As it turned out, the BlueClaws scored what it needed in the second against Crawdads starter John King (1-2). Carlos De La Cruz hit the first of his doubles in the game to start the inning. Two outs later, Jake Holmes fisted a roller down the line past first for a run-scoring triple. Ben Pelletier’s infield hit scored Holmes to make it 2-0.

Coming off 13 hits on Friday, the Crawdads picked up the attack again early. They put two on with two outs in the first but stranded both. Pedro Gonzalez swatted his sixth home run of the season in the second to cut Hickory’s deficit in half.

The Crawdads seemed poised to tie or take the lead in the third against Jhordany Mezquita. Coming off Friday’s four-hit game, Jonathan Ornelas chopped a single over the head of the first baseman Holmes. Ornelas stole second and after Matt Whatley walked, he stole third as well. Curtis Terry struck out, but Sam Huff built a 3-0 advantage. However, Mezquita was able to get Huff to foul out to Holmes and Sherten Apostel to fly out to left.

That turned out to be the last hurrah for the Crawdads in the game. Mezquita pitched the four innings and Robinson Martinez turned threw a scoreless fifth before turning the ball over to Dominic Pipkin. The right-hander allowed just one walk over the final four innings and struck out four to pick up the scorer’s decision win. Pipkin improved to 1-1 on the season.

King allowed just the two runs over seven innings, which is his pro career high, as well as the team high for the season. The lefty surrendered nine hits without a walk and struck out four.

Lakewood added its final two runs against reliever Scott Engler in the eighth on a home run by Alec Bohm, his third of the year.

Ornelas Four-hit Game Leads Crawdads Attack in Win

Jonathan Ornelas had four hits and sparked an early rally to lead the Hickory Crawdads to a 6-2 win over the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws Friday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The Crawdads and Blue Claws have now split the first two games of the four-game series, which will resume Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m.

Hickory (15-6) moved within 2.5 games of first-place Delmarva (Md.) in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division after the Shorebirds (16-2) were rained out of their game against Augusta (Ga.) Friday night. Those two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday. The win also allowed the Crawdads to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time this season. Lakewood defeated Hickory 3-1 in game one of the series on Thursday.

After just 55 hits over the last 10 games, Hickory put together 13 on Friday with 11 coming in the first four innings, during which the Crawdads scored all their runs.

Ornelas’ four-hit night is a pro career high for the Texas Rangers’ third-round pick in 2018. The native of Glendale, Ariz. had three hits on four occasions last year with the AZL Rangers and once already this season on April 12 vs. Kannapolis.

With the Crawdads collectively struggling for offense, Ornelas was placed in the leadoff spot for the first time this year, and that immediately paid off. After a lackluster three-hit performance on Thursday, the Crawdads got a jolt of instant energy from Ornelas during his first trip to the plate.

Facing starter Tyler McKay (0-2), Ornelas sent a blooper down the line in shallow right. Sensing extra bases, Ornelas sprinted out of the box, steered wide in the turn around first and eventually slid into second just ahead of the throw for a double. One out later, Matt Whatley snapped an 0-for-21 slump with an RBI single over the drawn-in infield.

Sam Huff followed with a two-run homer to right to make it 3-0. The high-arching blast was Huff’s fourth-consecutive game with a home run, which was also his SAL-leading tenth of the season. It also increased the team total to a league high 27.

Lakewood (7-15) scored a run in the second, courtesy of an error. With runners at first and second and one out, a wild pitch advanced both 90 feet. An attempt by Matt Whatley to cut down Jonathan Guzman moving to second sailed into center and allowed Malvin Matos to score from third.

The Crawdads rebounded quickly in the third, when they put the first three aboard. Huff started the inning with a walk and moved to third when Sherten Apostel doubled off the base of the wall in left. Jose Almonte singled in Huff and Chad Smith’s grounder to first brought in Apostel. Gilmael Troya’s wild pitch scored Almonte to complete the inning and make it 6-1.

The game’s scoring finished in the fourth when Lakewood’s Cole Stobbe smashed his first homer of the season.

Ornelas added singles in the second, fourth and seventh innings to complete his four-hit night. Whatley and Apostel also had three hits each.

Lakewood put 11 baserunners aboard in seven innings but hit into three double plays and stranded six. One double play in the third likely saved a run and kept the BlueClaws at 3-1. With runners at first and second, Matos hit a ball to the left side of the bag at second. Seise moved to his right and in fielding the play, he reacted quickly to a bad hop by catching the ball with his head turned toward the outfield to start the 6-4-3 twin killing.

Jean Casanova pitched the first four innings for the Crawdads before Tai Tiedemann took over. Lakewood threatened to score against Tiedemann in the sixth, when Matos was hit by a pitch with one out. Guzman singled to put runners on the corners on the corners with two outs. However, Wes Robertson was brought in and struck out Stobbe to end the threat.

Trejo singled to start the seventh but was eliminated on a double play turned between first baseman Apostel and Seise. Robertson pitched to the minimum over his 3.1 innings of work and struck out three to earn the win (1-0).

Series Preview: Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws at Hickory Crawdads April 25-28

Lakewood BlueClaws (Philadelphia Phillies) (6-14, seventh place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (14-5, second place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads continue their weeklong homestand with a four-game series against the Lakewood BlueClaws from Thursday through Sunday.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: 2500 Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Thursday: Lakewood at Hickory, 7:00 p.m. Thirsty Thursday, Salute to Scrubs Week (Healthcare professionals receive a free ticket with a current ID badge), NFL Draft Party

Friday: Lakewood at Hickory, 7:00 p.m. Salute to Scrubs Week (Healthcare professionals receive a free ticket with a current ID badge)

Saturday: Lakewood at Hickory, 5:00 p.m. Sanctus Real Post-Game Concert

Sunday: Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring a church bulletin to the ticket office and receive a $6 ticket with $4 from each ticket donated back to the respective church), Red Out Night (Wear red and receive a free ticket to the game), Bark at the Park.

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section. NOTE: Tickets for Saturday’s game and concert are $16, $21 for VIP seating.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

The Crawdads took three of four from Lakewood in New Jersey to open the 2019 season. The BlueClaws dominated the South Atlantic League a year ago and they did not spare Hickory from their wrath. Lakewood won 7 of 10, which included a 3-1 mark at LP Frans last August. Since 2009, when the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation began, Lakewood is 17-16 at Hickory, 55-50 overall.

 

PROBABLES (Lakewood/ Hickory)

Thursday: RHP Colton Eastman vs. RHP Ronny Henriquez

Friday:  RHP Tyler McKay vs. RHP Jean Casanova

Saturday:  LHP Jhordany Mezquita vs. LHP John King

Sunday: RHP Francisco Morales vs. RHP Tim Brennan

 

ABOUT HICKORY

The Crawdads enter the series on the heels of two straight wins over Augusta (Ga.) to claim a 2-1 series win. Hickory is 6-3 at home this season.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 80 in top-100)

SS Chris Seise No. 12

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

C Sam Huff No. 21

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 20

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley or Sam Huff; 1B Curtis Terry; 2B Frainyer Chavez or Jonathan Ornelas; 3B Sherten Apostel; SS Chris Seise; OF LF: Miguel Aparicio or Chad Smith; CF: Pedro Gonzalez; RF: Jose Almonte.

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Jose Almonte – Tied for 9th doubles (6)

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 2nd homers (5)

Sam Huff – 1st home runs (8), 1st total bases, 1st slugging pct. (.750), 2nd OPS (1.063), tied for 9th runs, tied for 10th strikeouts

Chris Seise – 2nd caught stealing (4), tied for 10th stolen bases (5)

Curtis Terry – 1st RBI (21), tied for 2nd homers (5), 3rd total bases, tied for 3rd doubles (8), 5th slugging pct. (.600)

Matt Whatley – 5th walks

Individual pitching:

Tim Brennan – 8th WHIP (0.76)

Hans Crouse – 4th WHIP (0.69), tied for 4th hit batters (3), 10th ERA (1.33), 10th innings (20.1)

Scott Engler – Tied for 6th saves (2)

Abdiel Mendoza – Tied for 6th saves (2)

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.227 (19th)/ .291 (11th)/ .424 (2nd)/ .715 (3rd).

Other key rankings: 1st home runs, 3rd total bases, 4th runs, 11th hits, next to last walks,

Team Pitching:

1st ERA (2.42), 1st WHIP (1.02), fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, fewest walks allowed, fewest hit batters, 4th fewest hits allowed, 11th home runs allowed (8),

 

ABOUT LAKEWOOD:

Though the lost the finale of a three-game series at Rome, Ga., the BlueClaws won two of three against the Braves coming off a 1-10 stretch. The two wins at Rome snapped an 0-8 start on the road.

Manager: Mike Micucci (1st season)

Prospects – Lakewood (rankings by MLB.com):

3B Alex Bohm No. 1 (No. 56 in top-100, No. 6 3B)

SS Luis Garcia No. 4

RHP Francisco Morales No. 8

C Rafael Marchan No. 14

RHP Dominic Pipkins No. 23

LHP Jhordany Mezquita No. 26

Possible Lineups: C: Rafael Marchan or Abraham Gutierrez; 1B: Matt Kroon; 2B: Luis Garcia or Jonathan Guzman; 3B: Alec Bohm; SS: Jonathan Guzman or Luis Garcia; LF: varied; CF: Yerwin Trejo or Malvin Matos; RF: Carlos De La Cruz or Malvin Matos.

 

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Alex Bohm – Tied for 3rd hits, 6th batting avg. (.343), 6th on-base pct. (.425), tied for 8th walks, 9th OPS (.947), tied for 9th doubles (6), tied for 10th total bases

Carlos De La Cruz – Tied for 3rd caught stealing

Jonathan Guzman – Tied for 10th stolen bases (5)

Rafael Marchan – Tied for 9th doubles (6)

Individual pitching:

Colton Eastman – Tied for 6th earned runs allowed, tied for 8th runs allowed

Ethan Evanko – Tied for 9th appearances (7)

Kevin Gowdy – Tied for 2nd walks allowed

Robinson Martinez – Tied for 6th saves (2)

Tyler McKay – Tied for 10th earned runs allowed, tied for 10th runs allowed

Jhordany Mezquita – Tied for 6th earned runs allowed, tied for 10th runs allowed

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS): .235 (6th)/.306 (7th)/ .313 (13th)/ .318 (12th)

Other key rankings: 1st caught stealing, 2nd steals, 3rd hits, 4th strikeouts, 11th total bases, 12th runs scored, 13th home runs (5)

Team pitching:

Most hits allowed, most walks allowed, 2nd most runs allowed, 2nd most earned runs allowed, 13th ERA (4.84), 13th WHIP (1.49),

Smith’s Blast Sting GreenJackets

Chad Smith rocked a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Hickory Crawdads a 5-4 win over the Augusta (Ga.) GreenJackets Wednesday night in South Atlantic League action.

The victory was the Crawdads (14-5) second in a row, which gave them the three-game series after losing the opener on Monday. Hickory has now won all six series to open the season. The win also kept Hickory two games behind Delmarva (Md.) in the early Northern Division standings. The Shorebirds (15-2) defeated Asheville 15-7 Wednesday night.

The weeklong homestand continues Thursday when the Crawdads open a four-game series against Lakewood (N.J.) with the first pitch at 7 p.m.

The teams entered the ninth tied at four with Augusta getting the first shot to break the tie. Facing Grant Anderson (2-1), the GreenJackets started the inning with a walk issued to Shane Matheny. Anderson then struck out both Diego Rincones and Frankie Tostado, but Jacob Gonzalez appeared to have given the GreenJackets the lead with a line drive to deep left-center. Off with the crack of the bat, Matheny was on his way to score easily on the hit, but Gonzalez’s drive one-hopped over the wall, which turned the play into a ground-rule double and sent Matheny back to second. Aaron Bond ended the inning with a grounder to short.

Smith finished the game quickly in the bottom of the inning by hitting Solomon Bates’ (1-2) third pitch over the fence in right center. The home run was Smith’s second since he joined the team last Thursday.

Home runs continue to be the story for the Crawdads offense during the first month of the season. Entering the game with the most in the SAL, Hickory added four more Wednesday night to push the total to 26 for the season, 11 more than second-place teams Asheville and Greensboro.

Pedro Gonzalez broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer to left-center. Augusta retied the game quickly in the fifth with a double by Matheny and a single by Rincones.

However, the GreenJackets gave away the lead in the bottom of the inning after Chris Seise reached on Jacob Gonzalez’s fielding error at third and later scored on Curtis Terry’s double.

Pedro Gonzalez added his fifth homer of the season with another solo shot in the sixth to put Hickory up 3-1. However, the Crawdads bullpen struggles continued Wednesday, this time against Tai Tiedemann in the eighth.

Matheny continued his series long assault against Hickory with a leadoff home run, his fourth of the year. Matheny finished the series 6-for-12 with a double and two home runs. Rincones and Tostado each singled to chase Tiedemann with Hickory choosing to bring in Anderson.

A passed ball placed runners at second and third, which set up consecutive sacrifice flies by Gonzalez and Bond, who put Augusta ahead 4-3. The GreenJackets eventually loaded the bases before Ismael Munguia grounded out to third to strand all three.

For the game, Augusta put together 12 hits and received five walks, but hit into two double plays and stranded 11.

Sam Huff set up the ninth with his eighth home run of the season, which leads the SAL. The solo blast was his second in as many nights, both hitting the batter’s eye beyond the centerfield fence.

Hans Crouse – the Texas Rangers’ top prospect (mlb.com) – started for Hickory and held the GreenJackets to one run over six innings with three walks and six hits allowed to go with four strikeouts.

Joey Wong – the San Francisco Giants’ no. 7 prospect – allowed three runs (two earned) on nine hits and struck out five.

Home Runs, Pitching Carry Crawdads to Win

The combination that has proven successful for the Hickory Crawdads this season was used again Tuesday night in a 3-2 win over the Augusta (Ga.) GreenJackets.

A crowd of 1,515 at L.P. Frans saw the Crawdads improve to 13-5 on the season with the victory. Hickory remains two games behind Delmarva (Md.) in the standings after the Shorebirds defeated Asheville Tuesday night.

After splitting the first two games of the series, Augusta (9-8) and Hickory will play the rubber game Wednesday night. The Crawdads have yet to lose a series this season and with the win on Tuesday, they avoided their first back-to-back losses of the season, following a 5-1 loss on Monday.

Hickory’s Yerry Rodriguez and Augusta’s Matt Frisbee matched zeroes through the first three innings before the Crawdads asserted the power game. Curtis Terry lined a 1-1 pitch to right field to break the scoreless tie with his fifth homer of the season. Huff followed Terry’s blast one out later with a first-pitch clout off the batter’s eye in center for his seventh of the year.

Huff and Terry are currently first and second in the South Atlantic League in home runs.  As a team, Hickory also leads the SAL with 22, seven ahead of second-place Asheville.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez (2-1) held the GreenJackets scoreless on four hits until the sixth. With one out, Diego Rincones barreled up an offspeed pitch to the wall in left-center for a double. One out later, Jacob Gonzalez singled in the run with a liner to left.

Rodriguez finished the night with one run allowed on six hits and a walk to go with seven strikeouts.

Wes Robertson struck out one over two perfect innings and Hickory supported the pitching further with an unearned run in the eighth. Miguel Aparicio reached on an error to start the inning and later scored on Matt Whatley’s sacrifice fly.

Augusta made it interesting in the ninth when Aaron Bond sneaked a home run just above the fence and just inside the right-field pole to make it 3-2.

However, Scott Engler averted further damage when second baseman Frainyer Chavez fielded a ball that ricocheted off Terry at first and completed the out at first to end the game. For his efforts, Engler picked up his second save.

With the two runs allowed, the Crawdads lowered their SAL-leading ERA to 2.33. Frisbee allowed the two runs on four hits and a walk and struck out six to take the loss (0-1).

 

Comfortable in His Own Stuff, Tim Brennan Strives to Keep Hitters Off-Balance

When Hickory Crawdads pitcher Tim Brennan made his last start a week ago, he faced the South Atlantic League’s best offense in the Asheville Tourists. Entering that three-games series against Hickory, the Tourists had the top mark in the SAL in all three slash statistical categories (batting avg., on-base pct., and slugging), and were second in home runs. Asheville also had the reigning SAL hitter of the week in Willie MacIver.

Making just his second pro start, it didn’t appear that Brennan, the Texas Rangers’ seventh-round pick last June out of St. Joseph’s, would be a good matchup against the powerful Tourists lineup. And it certainly wasn’t – for the Tourists.

Brennan retired the first 12 hitters and held the Tourists hitless through five on the way to a 2-0 win last Monday.

Entering the start, the right-hander said the plan was to use the aggressive nature of the Tourists lineup against them.

“I like when teams swing early,” said Brennan, who gave up one walk, one hit and struck out three for the win. “I want to get ahead, and I’m just going to try and miss barrels. I think I had 16 out of 20 batters with four pitches or less last night, which is exactly what I’m looking for to go deep into games.”

Compared to much of the Crawdads staff, Brennan, 22, doesn’t have the eye-popping velocity that catches the eye. The right-hander’s sinking fastball zips around 87-89 mph, which is relatively pedestrian to several other Crawdads pitchers that hit the gun regularly from 95-99. Brennan, who throws a slider and changeup as his secondaries, is comfortable with who he is.

“I know what I have and I know how it plays,” said the native of Philadelphia. “I’ve studied guys that throw similarly. I’ve watched a lot of Kyle Hendricks with the Cubs…I’ve had the same stuff since college and obviously my stuff has gotten a little better and I’ve tinkered with things. But, I’ve thrown the same way for the last four or five years and I’m comfortable with it. Now, I’m just trying to master it.”

After his selection last June, with a cold, college season at St. Joseph’s behind him and a touch of shoulder inflammation, Brennan sat out the summer before throwing some at instructionals last fall. He finally got his first official action in a start at Greensboro on April 9, when he allowed a run on three hits, with one walk and two strikeouts.

Along with getting his shoulder ready for this season, he prepared for his season and that first start by getting some advice from other pro pitchers. The advice he got mirrored that of the trust he has in his stuff – to be who he is.

“The biggest advice I got was to have fun and be yourself,” said Brennan. “If you try to do too much and be somebody you’re not, then you’re not going to be as effective. Go with what you’ve got and go out there and own it.  That’s what I try to do.”

Along with understanding what he has and using it to his advantage, Brennan thinks his style of pitching is advantage in the bigger picture of a game, when the high-velocity arms of the bullpen enter.

“The chances are the guys in our bullpen are going to be completely different,” Brennan explained. “There’s going to be different arm slots and 95-plus. Our bullpen has been absolutely electric this year. The goal is to get through the lineup three times, be winning the game and then turn it over to them, and then, we’re probably going to win.”

Looking at the rest of this season, Brennan, who says he manipulates his slider at times to give it the appearance of a curveball, wants to develop a fastball that stays up in the zone.

“With throwing all sinkers in college,” said Brennan. “I didn’t try and go up at all. Now, it’s just go up to get them off my fastball down and my offspeed. I’m getting more and more comfortable with it and I think that’ll be a big weapon for me down the road.”

Series Preview: Augusta (Ga.) GreenJackets at Hickory Crawdads April 22-24

Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants) (8-7, 2nd place, Southern Division)

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (12-4, 2nd place Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads start a seven-game homestand Monday with three against Augusta at L.P. Frans Stadium.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: 2500 Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Monday: Augusta at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Make-A Difference Monday (Bring canned goods $5 or more in value and receive a free ticket), Salute to Scrubs Week (Healthcare professionals receive a free ticket with a current ID badge)

Tuesday: Augusta at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Dollar Dog Tuesday ($1 hot dogs, dogs admitted for $1), $2 craft pints, Salute to Scrubs Week (Healthcare professionals receive a free ticket with a current ID badge)

Wednesday: Augusta at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Kids Win Wednesday (All kids 12 and under receive a free ticket, free meal voucher, and free bounce house, speed pitch and carousel voucher every Wednesday night game) Salute to Scrubs Week (Healthcare professionals receive a free ticket with a current ID badge), Wine Wednesday

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

Hickory swept Augusta in a three-game series last June in the only series played by the two teams. The Crawdads have not played at Augusta since 2016 when they took two of three there. Since 2009, which is the start of the Crawdads affiliation with the Rangers, Augusta holds a 31-29 edge in games played, 19-15 at Hickory.

 

PROBABLES (Augusta/ Hickory)

Monday: RHP Blake Rivera vs. RHP Tim Brennan

Tuesday: RHP Matt Frisbee vs. RHP Yerry Rodriguez

Wednesday: RHP Jake Wong vs. RHP Hans Crouse

 

ABOUT HICKORY

Hickory took two out of three at Columbia (S.C.) over the weekend. During their first homestand, the Crawdads went 4-2 against Kannapolis and Asheville.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 80 in top-100)

SS Chris Seise No. 12

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

C Sam Huff No. 21

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 20

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley or Sam Huff; 1B Curtis Terry; 2B Frainyer Chavez or Jonathan Ornelas; 3B Sherten Apostel; SS Chris Seise; LF: Miguel Aparicio or Chad Smith; CF: Pedro Gonzalez; RF: Jose Almonte.

 

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 6th homers (3)

Sam Huff – 1st home runs (6), 1st total bases, 1st slugging pct. (.722), 3rd OPS (1.037), tied for 10th runs

Jonathan Ornelas – Tied for 10th runs

Chris Seise – tied for 8th steals (5)

Curtis Terry – 1st RBI (19), tied for 2nd homers (4), tied for 4th total bases, tied for 5th doubles (6), 7th slugging pct. (.569)

Matt Whatley – 4th walks

Individual pitching:

Hans Crouse – 2nd WHIP (0.35), tied for 3rd hit batters (3), 10th ERA (1.26)

Abdiel Mendoza – Tied for 5th saves (2)

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.229 (10th)/ .294 (13th)/ .416 (2nd)/ .710 (3rd).

Other key rankings: 1st home runs, 3rd runs, 3rd total bases, next to last walks,

Team Pitching:

1st ERA (2.18), 1st WHIP (0.97), fewest hits allowed, fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, tied for fewest home runs allowed (4), fewest walks allowed.

 

ABOUT AUGUSTA:

The GreenJackets completed their first homestand of the season on Saturday with a 3-1 loss to Charleston (SC), but finished off the week at 4-2 overall. Because of The Masters in its backyard, Augusta had a nine-game road trip to start the year and managed a 4-5 record.

Manager: Carlos Valderrama (2nd season)

Prospects – Augusta (rankings by MLB.com):

RHP Sean Hjelle No. 6

RHP Jake Wong No. 7

RHP Gregory Santos No. 8

RHP Blake Rivera No. 18

3B Jacob Gonzalez No. 19

LHP Seth Corry No. 25

Possible Lineups: C: Andres Angulo or Jeffry Parra; 1B: Frankie Tostado; 2B: Shane Matheny or Wander Franco; 3B:Jacob Gonzalez; SS: Nico Giarratano or Shane Matheny; LF: Diego Rincones; CF: Jose Layer; RF: Aaron Bond.

 

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Aaron Bond – 3rd strikeouts,  tied for 8th steals (5)

Shane Matheny – 4th RBI (15)

Ismael Munguia – Tied for 7th runs

Frankie Tostado – 9th batting avg. (.327), 10th on-base pct. (.411), 10th OPS (.921)

Individual pitching:

Seth Corry – Tied for 6th walks

Sean Hjelle – 1st innings (19.2)

Jesus Tona – Tied for 1st saves (3)

Franklin Van Gurp – Tied for 9th games pitched (6)

Ryan Walker – Tied for 9th games pitched (6)

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.234 (6th)/ .333 (4th)/ .346 7th)/.680 (6th)

Other key rankings: 2nd fewest strikeouts, tied for 2nd walks, 12th hits, 12th doubles,

Team pitching:

4th fewest hits allowed, 7th ERA (3.35), 8th WHIP (1.29)

 

NOTES OF INTEREST: RHP Cole Uvila and OF Julio Pablo Martinez were both promoted to High-A Down East last week. RHP Ronny Henriquez, OF Chad Smith joined the club. Henriquez is the first person born in the 2000s to pitch for Hickory … According to MLB.com, should he get to the major leagues, Augusta’s Sean Hjelle would be equal to Jon Rauch as the tallest pitcher in major league history… Augusta’s Jacob Gonzalez is the son of Arizona Diamondbacks World Series hero Luis Gonzalez… Hickory’s Sean Chandler and Augusta’s Keaton Winn both pitched at Iowa Western CC and were drafted one round apart (Winn 5th, Chandler 6th) last summer… Augusta RHP Matt Frisbee is the lone player with a North Carolina connection, as he pitched at Enka High and UNC Greensboro.

Who’s In? Who’s Out? Rangers Tweak the Crawdads Roster

The Texas Rangers have moved a few players around over the past couple of days. Here is a quick overview of who has moved on and who has arrived.

Moving on:

The big name to leave Hickory was the Rangers top hitting prospect, Julio Pablo Martinez. Given that he is 23 and already has significant baseball experience under his belt from his days in Cuba, I did not think there was any serious thought Martinez would be here for an extended period. The two previous Cubans – Andy Ibanez and Yanio Perez – to play here under the Rangers affiliation were both promoted prior to the all-star break and I figured Martinez would go even sooner.

So, when the announcement was made that Martinez was bumped up just 13 games into the season, it was curious. Down East (high-A) was already stocked in the outfield, so either a promotion was happening there, or something else. Unfortunately, that “something else” was a broken hamate bone injury suffered by Bubba Thompson, who will miss at least four weeks.

In ten games with Hickory, Martinez posted a .250/.295/.420 line with a double, triple, homer and four steals. Sadly, we got to see him for just four home games. He hit the ball hard a couple of times but also struggled with breaking pitches, which contributed to his five strikeouts.

The other player to go up to Down East was left-handed starter Jake Latz. Slotted in the second spot behind Hans Crouse, Latz (5th round 2018/ Kent State) showed he was a advanced for this level at age 23.

In two starts, Latz gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits, walked three and struck out 14. In the one start we saw, he had the ability to use the changeup well to compliment his 91-92 mph fastball and an occasional curve. For Hickory, he would’ve been valuable as an innings-eater starter, when his pitch limit increased. He’ll be interesting to follow as time goes on.

 

Moving in:

With the Rangers being less aggressive with pitching assignments over the last couple of years, I was a little surprised to see the promotion of Ronny Henriquez to the Crawdads. Still just 18, the Rangers skipped him two levels in order for him to make his stateside debut with Hickory.

In 11 starts last year in the Dominican Summer League, Henriquez struck out 79 and walked just 8 over 58 innings. Given his age and build (5-10, 155), I suspect he’ll be brought along slowly. He pitched on Thursday at Columbia (S.C.) and made just 44 pitches before getting pulled. Henriquez is billed to possess a fastball in the mid-90s and a biting curve. On the 20-to-80 scouting scale MLB.com has his fastball at 60 and the curve at 55.

Outfielder Chad Smith returns to Hickory after a brief stint at the start of 2018. The fifth-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of South Gwinnett (GA) High has been plagued with shoulders injuries the past two seasons. Began the year with the Crawdads a year ago and went 4-for-42 before leaving the team on May 1 with a shoulder strain.