Defensive miscues and lapses played a big role Friday night in the Hickory Crawdads 5-3 South Atlantic League loss to the Asheville Tourists at L.P. Frans Stadium.
A crowd of 2,999 saw the Crawdads (22-11) drop the final game of a three-game series and, in turn, lose their first series of the season. The Crawdads had won seven and tied two others prior to the series with the Tourists, which improved to 11-22 with the win. Hickory did not lose any ground to first-place Delmarva (Md.) in the Northern Division, but did fall back into a tie for second with Greensboro after its win over the Shorebirds. Both Hickory and Greensboro are four games behind Delmarva.
Hickory entered play Friday as the second-best fielding team in the South Atlantic League with 27 errors committed in 32 games. The Crawdads showed their defensive skills early on in support of starter Grant Wolfram.
Luke Morgan and Grant Lavigne hit back-to-back doubles in the first, but centerfielder Miguel Aparicio was able to field a carom of the wall on Lavigne’s double and quickly relay the ball to the infield to hold Morgan at third and save a run.
In the second, Frainyer Chavez ranged far to his left to make a sliding grab of a roller in the outfield grass and throw out Daniel Montano at first.
Curtis Terry started the Hickory offense with his seventh home run of the season in the third. But the defense played a role in allowing the Tourists to get even in the fourth.
After Lavigne singled, Willie MacIver reached when third baseman Sherten Apostel mishandled a double-play grounder at third. The Crawdads got a brief reprieve when Johnny Cresto lined into a double play. However, Montano doubled in MacIver, who circled around from first to make it 1-1.
The Tourists scored twice in the fifth to take the lead. With one out, Javier Guevara walked and Will Golson lined a single to right. On the play, Jose Almonte allowed the ball to get by and roll to the wall. His error allowed Guevara to score and moved Golson to third from were he came in on Terrin Vavra’s sacrifice fly.
Hickory got even in the sixth with the help of control issues by reliever Mike Nikorak. Jonathan Ornelas started the inning with a double and strolled home on Curtis Terry’s single. Nikorak walked the bases loaded, then hit Aparicio to force in a run and tie the score at three.
Crawdads reliever Nick Snyder had his best outing of the season in relief. Picking up for Wolfram in the fifth, Snyder retired all seven he faced and struck out four through the seventh.
However, the game fell apart for Hickory in the eighth with Grant Anderson (3-3) on the mound. Vavra doubled to start the inning and moved to third on a wild pitch. Morgan battled through a 14-pitch at-bat to earn a walk, then stole second. Anderson struck out Lavigne, but after Morgan stole second the Crawdads opted to intentionally walk MacIver to load the bases. The next hitter, Cresto, hit a slow grounder to Chavez at second. The runner, MacIver, stopped en route to second, which prompted Chavez to get the sure out at first. Vavra scored on the play and when MacIver extended the rundown, Morgan also scored from second for what turned out to be the final margin.
Derrik Watson worked out of Nikorak’s jam in the sixth, then got out of a mess of his own making to strand two in the seventh for the win (1-0).
Raymells Rosa pitched a scoreless eighth and Alexander Martinez threw a perfect ninth for his sixth save of the season.