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).
In anticipation of an oncoming storm, neither the Hickory Crawdads and nor the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs expected to see a full nine innings Friday night. Played in a cool mist from the start, the game made it to the sixth inning before rain claimed the remaining innings and the Crawdads would up with a 2-1 win.
With the win, the Crawdads (13-21) salvaged the final game of the three-game series with Charleston (17-18), a series in which the RiverDogs took the first two by a combined 25-6 margin.
Fully aware of the rain to come, the game kept a brisk pace and that seemed to help both starting pitchers attack hitters effectively.
Hickory’s Edgar Arredondo had his best outing of the season as he allowed a run on five hits over five innings and struck out three. The five innings tied his longest outing of the season and he picked up his first win (1-2) of the season.
Coming off a rough week in which most of the Crawdads starters struggled, Arredondo’s outing was a welcomed sight for manager Spike Owen.
“It was really, really good to see,” said Crawdads manager Spike Owen. “He attacked the hitters tonight and really went after them. He had a really good changeup tonight and kept a good hitting team in check.”
A key moment, as it turned out, came in the fourth inning. Blake Rutherford doubled and when Donny Sands singled to left, manager Patrick Osborn gambled and sent Rutherford to the plate. Strong throws by LF Miguel Aparicio and 3B Yanio Perez got the ball to C Alex Kowalczyk in time, but the throw handcuffed the catcher and forced the backstop to drop the ball.
Sands went to second and advanced to third on a back.
Arredondo got two of his three Ks back-to-back to end the innings as both Brandon Wagner and Isiah Gilliam whiffed to strand Sands at third.
“Leaving the guy stranded at third base was big,” said Owen. “(Arredondo) showed good mound presence and composure. He attacked the hitters, which is what you have to do. His fastball and changeup were very effective.”
Former Texas Rangers farmhand Nick Green was nearly as sharp early, but then ran into trouble in the fourth. He walked Perez to start the inning then surrendered a double to right-center by Kowalczyk. A balk scored Perez and moved Kowalczyk. Ti’Quan Forbes served a soft fly to shallow CF. Rutherford lost the ball off the bat and his late charge for the catch went unrewarded with Kowalczyk scoring on the bloop single.
Green allowed just the two runs on five hits. He also walked three and struck out four.
That was all the rain allowed as the game was called after a 40-minute delay in the sixth.
The Hickory Crawdads shook off the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies with a tying run in the ninth and a walk-off RBI double by Preston Scott in the tenth to claim a 9-8 win in front of 4,325 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for the Crawdads (9-14) is the third in a row during the four-game series, which concludes Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. Columbia (12-12) has dropped four of its last five games and six of eight.
Columbia’s outfielder Tim Tebow did not play. The crowd behaved and were quite well-mannered. Only one chant of Tebow occurred in the ninth inning.
What really happened?:
For the third straight game, the Crawdads offense got in gear and carried the team to the walk-off win. After scoring just 22 runs over its first 10 home games, Hickory now has 28 over the last three.
Columbia took a 3-0 lead after its first two at-bats. In the first, Andres Gimenez, the New York Mets No. 8 prospect (MLB.com) who was just added to the Fireflies roster, homered in his first stateside at-bat, a towering blast over the 32-foot high billboards in rightfield. Gene Cone added a two-run double in the second.
The Crawdads, who lead the Sally League in homers, added two in the second as Yanio Perez and Preston Scott snacked back-to-back solo blasts to left against starter Harol Gonzalez.
The Fireflies got the two runs back in the fourth. Jay Jabs singled and Desmond Lindsay walked before a passed ball moved both runners up. Ali Sanchez slammed a liner off the back of starting pitcher Argenis Rodriguez. 3B Ti’Quan Forbes scooped the ball up and made the play to first, but Jabs scored on the play. Milton Ramos doubled in Lindsay.
Yanio Perez then continued his assault on Fireflies pitching with a three-run homer to left to tie the game at 5-all. For the season, Perez is now 10-for-20 in six games with a double, four homers, four walks, 8 runs scored and 11 RBIs.
Hickory took the lead in the fifth as Yeyson Yrizarri singled in Eric Jenkins and scored himself on Forbes’ groundout.
The see-saw affair continued in the sixth when Columbia scored three times to take an 8-7 lead. Sanchez singled in two runs before Cone’s grounder brought in Lindsay for the go-ahead run.
The score remained there until the bottom of the ninth when Anderson Tejeda doubled to start the inning. One out later, Yrizarri squeezed in a single through the left side of the infield. Taveras then lofted a blooper just beyond the reach of the shortstop Gimenez, who had retreated to center, to score Tejeda. Matt Blackham then struck out Forbes and Ricky Valencia to end the inning and send the game to the tenth.
A perilous moment occurred in the tenth, when Ramos drove a deep fly to left. Eric Jenkins trotted back to the track, then dropped the ball and allowed Ramos to reach second. However, C.D. Pelham recovered to strike out Cone looking to end the threat.
In the bottom of the tenth against new reliever Joseph Zanghi (0-2), Perez got his third hit of the game with a hard single to left. Scott then lasered a double to the wall in left center to score the winning run.
Pelham (1-0) pitched two-hit ball over three scoreless innings with three strikeouts to keep the Fireflies at bay. Jake Lemoine preceded Pelham’s work with two shutout innings of his own.
Tejeda base savvy:
I have to make note of a couple of brilliant base-running plays by Anderson Tejeda in the game, both occurring on second-to-third plays.
In the third, Yeyson Yrizarri hit a grounder to Ramos at third. Ramos made the diving stop to his left and threw to first on his knees for the out. Watching the play, Tejeda crept off the bag at second and then scrambled to third ahead of the return throw.
After he doubled in the ninth, Yrizarri’s grounder was just out of the reach of Ramos and Gimenez at short. Tejeda, anxious initially, waited until the play developed before making his move to third.
A near disaster in the OF Part 1:
Columbia’s Luis Carpio lined a shot to the gap in right-center field. Perez from right and Taveras from center both tracked the ball with neither calling the other off. The two converged and bumped, but Taveras made the catch and held on. The two had a conversation before returning to their positions. For a brief moment, it looked scary.
A near disaster in the OF Part 2, or Jenkins part 1:
There’s no gentle way to put this. On the play in left in the tenth, Jenkins trotted and pranced to the track and then put the glove up for the nonchalant catch. Except he didn’t make the catch. It didn’t look good.
Jenkins part 2:
In talking with Eric some on Saturday, he talked about some of his adjustments, especially in addressing the strikeouts from 2016. He talked about not following the swing high, but keeping the swing up the middle. An emphasis on working the count is also a part of his approach. For the most part, he’s done well with getting deep into counts and putting the ball in play. Though the average hadn’t shown it, he hadn’t been giving away at bats.
The two steps forward this week is now a step back. First AB was a one-pitch, weak grounder to 1B. The second AB was a one-pitch fly to LF. He reached on an infield hit in the fifth, then was looking on three pitches in the seventh and tried to muscle up a pitch in the ninth and struck out.
Taveras mastery at the plate:
In this homestand, Taveras has seen 102 pitches. He has swung and missed just five. Think about that when considering this is an 18-year-old. Three of those were vs. Braves No. 6 (MLB.com) prospect Ian Anderson.
One of those was tonight in the ninth when he wailed violently at a 1-0 fastball from Matt Blackham with runners on the corner. He settled down, worked the count full, then put the bat to the ball. It wasn’t a full-swing, but he made enough contact to loft the ball into short center for the game-tying RBI single.
In the fifth, he yanked an 0-2 off-speed pitch to RF for a single. Two innings later, it was an 0-2 fastball off the plate that he served to left.
Looking back through my mind’s eye, I remember how good Jurickson Profar was as an 18-year-old here. More walks than Ks, he would spoil two-strike pitches to the point of driving opposing pitchers batty. At 17 and early 18, Nomar Mazara, though he fanned a good bit, would battle and battle with two strikes. For me, at least for now, Taveras is right up there as far as strike-zone judgment.
Perez zeroed in:
After the two homers, he saw only curveballs during a full-count walk in the fifth. In the eighth, he crushed a change which wondered over the plate that Gimenez made a leaping catch of. The single in the tenth, also a fastball, was smoked to left.
Baserunning rally killers:
Both teams made curious decisions on the bases that stunted run-scoring innings. In the fourth, Columbia scored two and took a 5-2 lead with seemingly more on the way. With one out and Cone at the plate, Ramos wondered off the bag at second as Cone bunted through a pitch. Alex Kowalczyk saw the play and calmly threw to second for the pickoff. Cone then struck out to end the inning.
Hickory took a 7-5 lead with two in the fifth and had runners at the corners with two outs. With the count 2-2 to Preston Scott, Perez took off from first. When the throw from the catcher Sanchez went to second, Taveras scrambled for home. Luis Carpio cut off the throw at second and easily gunned down Taveras at the plate.
The walk-off win is the second of the season for the Crawdads and the first over the Mets Low-A affiliate since a 17-inning win over Savannah on 5/9/15, when Jose Cardona lined a homer into the leftfield corner. The day after, manager Jose Leger, who had argued Cardona’s homer was foul, was ejected during the home-plate meeting.
This was an ugly one for Hickory Crawdads fans, but a delight for many of the 4,998 fans (announced as such anyway) cheering on their hometown Greensboro Grasshoppers at First National Bank Field. The Grasshoppers took the lead in the bottom of the first and went on to the easy win in the season opener for both.
A cool, brisk night had little effect on the offenses as they combined for 36 baserunners. Unfortunately for the Crawdads, 25 of them wore the Grasshopper white uniforms. The hit column was fairly close (13-9 Greensboro) as were the extra-base hit totals (6-4 Greensboro). What killed Hickory was 12 walks. Well that, and RF Dalton Wheat who had a chance at the reverse cycle by the fifth inning.
Wheat, signed by the Miami Marlins after being named the top independent league prospect by Baseball America in 2016, literally put on his work gloves and went to work on the Crawdads pitching staff.
After Hickory settled for a run in the first, despite three hits and walk, the left-handed hitting Wheat – he is from Kansas – lined a two-run shot just over the fence in left. The liner was most impressive given that it was into a 15-25 mph wind. Wheat capped a five-run second with a two-run triple and later scored on Colby Lusignan’s double. In the fourth, Wheat got a hustle double into the Bermuda triangle between three Crawdads defenders meeting in CF and later scored.
Wheat’s attempts to complete the cycle fell through as he walked in the fifth and seventh. A snag of Wheat’s hot smash by 1B Yanio Perez in the eighth spoiled the chase for history.
Alex Jones and Corey Bird each had three hits, and Justin Twine walked three times.
Hickory’s night was salvaged at the plate on homers by Anderson Tejeda and Ti’Quan Forbes. Yanio Forbes went 2-for-4 with an RBI double.
Texas Rangers 2015 fourth-round pick Jake Lemoine made his pro debut after missing two seasons with shoulder problem. He walked two and struck out two over 1.2 IP.
Kaleb Fontenot was the most effective of the quintet of Crawdads pitchers on the mound, allowing just one hit and striking out two over 1.1 IP.
Momentum thwarted early:
Hickory had a chance to put its collective claws between the Grasshoppers thorax and head early.
Blaine Prescott opened the season with an infield hit, but was caught stealing. Tejeda walked and moved to second as Leody Teveras reached on an infield hit. Perez sliced a long flyball that rainbowed just inside the line in right to score Tejeda and putting runners at second and third.
To that point, Grasshoppers starting pitcher Jordan Holloway had struggled with his command, as with a bit of bad luck on the three hits. Facing Jose Almonte, a 1-0 fastball went up and in, but Almonte was unable to check his swing. Now 1-1 instead of a 2-0 count, Holloway gathered himself and went on to fan Almonte. The next hitter Ti’Quan Forbes went ahead 2-1, but missed a fastball and eventually whiffed.
Wheat’s two-run blast in the bottom put Greensboro in front and it never relinquished the lead.
He’s only 18, but at 5-11, 185-pounds, Anderson Tejeda showed he can crank a fastball with the best of them at this level. His solo blast in the third was legendary. Greensboro’s staff has the technology to measure these things and they said it was 106 mph off the bat and it went 441 feet.
Here is the pic off the field. Above the red Budweiser sign there is what looks like 2/3 of a goal post. Above that is a LED decorated tree. It went past that tree.
In the fifth, Tejeda just missed a bunt single as the ball traveled up the third-base line before trickling foul at the bag.
Forbes 2016 carry over:
I can make an argument that 3B Ti’Quan Forbes was most improved Crawdads player in the second half of 2016. His slash line was remarkably better and his defense at third was stellar.
He’s continued to bulk up and the power was on display with a lined two-run homer to left. Greensboro’s stat folks had the blast timed at 109 mph off the bat. He had the best play of the night when he charged and barehanded a bunt halfway down the line and fired a bullet to first on the run for the out.
These cleats were made for walking:
Twelve walks by Hickory pitching will certainly get the ire of coach Jose Jaimes. With the guys coming from Arizona last week and two days of hard rain here, Tuesday was the only day the pitchers could get side work in. I don’t know if that would have an effect, but almost no one had command of the fastball, save Lemoine’s sixth inning.
Starter Jonathan Hernandez appeared bothered by the cold or wind or lack of control or whatever. He put together a strong final month in 2016, but last night’s start was a step back. Three walks, just five of 16 hitters started with a first-pitch strike, and 32 balls to 33 strikes on the evening. Fastballs were 92-94 range according to the Greensboro board, but often missed Valencia’s target arm side. Those that stayed over the plate were often punished.
Luke Lanphere at 90-91 mph fared little better as he walked three of the 14 he faced and threw 32 strikes over 58 pitches.
Jake Lemoine took a bit to find his feel and threw more secondary offerings than anyone I saw. From my high angle, many of those looked to be sliders. He had a strong sixth and point the exclamation point on things with a 91 on the glove-side corner to catch Aaron Knapp looking.
CD Pelham had a forgettable debut with four walks to the six batters he faced.
On April 27, 2016, an announced crowd of 927 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory, N.C. saw Hickory Crawdads pitcher Pedro Payano throw one of the most dominant games in the club’s history. Had Payano given up one fewer hit, likely 9,270 fans would claim to have been there, including myself.
(A note here: Anytime a cool event happens at L.P. Frans Stadium, I am probably not working the game. This time, I was celebrating my 53rd birthday at dinner with the wife.)
Payano threw a one-hitter against the Greensboro Grasshoppers, needing just 99 pitches (70 strikes) to claim the rare complete-game shutout for a class Low-A pitcher.
The outing started out as anything but dominant, as Anfernee Seymour of Greensboro battled Payano through a seven-pitch at bat before sending a full-count pitch lazily to center. Seymour’s at-bat turned out to be the longest plate appearance by pitches in the game.
After Payano struck out Stone Garrett to start the second inning, Rangers pitching rover Jeff Andrews made a comment to the field staff that Payano was going to throw a no-hitter.
“It was obvious when we got into the second inning and looking at some of the swings,” said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz. “And how he was able to command his fastball, and the changeup and the breaking ball just got better as he got into the middle innings… it was fun to watch.”
During his previous start a week earlier against Greenville, Payano struggled to get through five innings, needing 80 pitches (47 strikes) to get there. Although he gave up two unearned runs, he had difficulty finding a consistent arm slot and thereby had difficulty commanding his pitches, especially the fastball.
“Better fastball command,” said Payano, when asked about the difference in the two starts. “I was throwing my fastball away and in really good, and that’s why we had success. I was throwing a lot of fastballs for strikes.”
First-pitch strikes were definitely huge for Payano, as he racked up 24 of them to the 28 batters he faced.
Mintz agreed that the fastball command had a lot to do with his success, as it helped his secondary stuff become more effective.
Said Mintz, “He’s got a really, really good changeup and his breaking ball is decent. But when he pitches off his fastball, using those two, that’s when he’s most effective. Last night being able to throw the fastball inside on both sides of the plate really opened up other avenues for his pitches. That was the biggest thing for us, as we sat and watched him, was his fastball command was keen. The other stuff complimented it.”
Chuck Moorman, his catcher on Wednesday, noted that Payano had a much better rhythm during the Greensboro game than in his previous start.
“He had great tempo tonight,” Moorman said. “He was able to get ahead. We mixed in some really good sequences.”
Those sequences paid off in the manner of getting quick outs for much of the night. After walking Isael Soto with one out in the second – the only other seven-pitch at-bat of the game – Payano threw five pitches or less to 22 straight hitters, hitting the five-pitch mark just three times.After Payano needed 42 pitches to get through the first three innings, he threw four straight innings of ten or fewer pitches (44 total), three of those single digits.
“We were also on the same page,” said Moorman. It’s fun to catch a guy that can command all four pitches in any count at any time.”
As the innings went on and the idea of a potential no-hitter became real, Payano said he wasn’t so much nervous about pitching in the moment. “I was good, I was good,” Payano said through a laugh when asked about his reaction when he realized in middle innings he had a no-hitter in tact. His main focus then became to keep the situation out of his mind, as fellow teammates began to ignore him.
Payano said, “I stayed by myself and said, ‘Hey, I’m not going to think about this. Let me keep going.’”
Going and going he did. Having only 77 pitches through seven innings, there was no question in Mintz’s mind that Payano was going to get a shot at achieving the no-hitter.
“We have pitch counts and all that type stuff, but when you get into special moments like that – obviously, we’re not going to put the kid in jeopardy of hurting him – but if we can push him 10, 12, 15 pitches in order to be able to accomplish something like that, we’ll give him an opportunity… He looked strong. He stayed strong, even in the seventh and eighth innings, he was still throwing 92-93 mph. He looked good and he didn’t labor at all the whole night.”
The no-hitter was broken up by Soto to open up the eighth, as he sent a broken-bat flare over the head of shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri and into left.
“I’m good with that,” said Payano. “It was a blooper past the shortstop. It was a good pitch.”
It was assumed by several observers that with the no-hitter gone Payano’s night would conclude at the point. But after a mound visit by pitching coach Jose Jaimes, Payano stayed in and got Angel Reyes to hit the first pitch into a double play.
Still only at 86 pitches through eight – he had already thrown 91 during his first start of the season – Payano was sent back out for the ninth to try for the shutout.
“I felt good,” said Payano, when asked about getting a chance to get the complete game. “I felt normal. When I got done with the eighth inning, I said to myself, ‘I’m probably going to be done with this.’ But then Jaimes told me, ‘Hey, you’ve got to finish this. You’re going to go out again and finish this.’”
Payano needed just 13 pitches to strike out two of the three batters in the ninth, including Seymour for the final out and the 11th of the game.
Crawdads No-hitter History:
The team has thrown four no-hitters in their history, but just one of those was a complete game.
Wayne Lindemann still claims the distinction of having the only complete-game, nine-inning “no-no”, which came against the Albany (Ga.) Polecats in Albany on May 15, 1993.
The next no-hitter, and the first one of two that came at home, was on July 26, 2004 against the Charleston (WV) Alley Cats. Brian Holliday pitched the first 7.1 innings and surrendered two walks and a hit batsman, fanning 11. Chris Demaria retired all five batters he faced to complete the no-hitter.
Martin Perez made a strong impression to Crawdads fans and the baseball world in his first start for the team in 2009. In the first game of a doubleheader on April 11, 2009, Perez, who had turned 18 the week prior, tossed four no-hit innings in a home outing against the Bowling Green (Ky.) Hot Rods. The future Texas Rangers big leaguer struck out six and walked three before giving way to Tyler Tufts for two perfect innings and Fabio Castillo for the seventh to close out the game.
The last no-hitter for Hickory came on May 19, 2013 in the first game of a doubleheader. It also began with a pitcher making his first Low-A start, as Luis Parra shutout Delmarva (Md.) over the first three innings with one walk and three strikeouts. Keone Kela threw a scoreless fourth and struck out one. Ryan Bores walked one and struck out one over the fifth and sixth innings before Alex Claudio pitched a perfect seventh with one strikeout to close it out.
Recent complete game shutouts:
2000: Future major league pitcher Dave Williams and Jose Luis Lopez each threw a shutout that season.
2001: Brady Borner tossed one for the Crawdads
2003: Zach Duke had a one-hitter in a seven-inning whitewash during game one of a doubleheader at Rome, Ga. The lefty hit one batter and struck out four Braves in the June 12, 2004 contest.
2006: Luis Valdez, later to be known in the big leagues as Jairo Asencio, threw a five-hit, nine-inning shutout against Delmarva on July 17. The right hander allowed one walk and struck out seven in the game, which ended on Zach Dillon’s game-ending double play. While still atop the mound, Asencio pounded his glove and gave a point to the sky in celebration at the end of the one-hour, 56-minute contest. Asencio’s outing was also the last home complete-game shutout until Payano’s feat. Overall, it was the last such feat under the Pirates affiliation.
2010: Right-hander Joe Wieland tossed a five-hitter at the Hagerstown Suns on June 25th of that season, ending the game with one walk and five strikeouts. Wieland was perfect through four innings and carried a no-hitter into the sixth before Sandy Leon singled to right with two outs. It turned out to be his last start in a Crawdads uniform as Wieland was promoted to class High-A Bakersfield soon after. Wieland eventually got his no-hitter while pitching for AA Frisco against San Antonio. Similar to the events following his shutout with Hickory, Wieland was traded to the Padres in a July trade-deadline deal and finished that series with San Antonio.
Jake Brigham had the last nine-inning, complete game shutout prior to Payano’s gem on August 10 at Greensboro. The game started ominously for Brigham as Wes Long singled to left and Chase Austin reached on a bunt. Brigham got a break with Jeff Corsaletti lined into a double play. He then retired the next 25 batters he faced in the game and struck out 12.
2012: Lefty Victor Payano had the last shutout of any kind as he put up a rain-shortened whitewash at Savannah against the Sand Gnats. He allowed one hit, two walks and struck out three over five innings before inclement weather washed out the final four innings. Hickory scored an unearned run in the third against now major leaguer Michael Fulmer. The win was an important one for Hickory manager Bill Richardson, as it made him at the time the winningest manager in Crawdads history.
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.