The Hickory Crawdads rallied with two runs in the bottom of the ninth Thursday night to defeat the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies 4-3 in the first of a four-game, weekend series in the South Atlantic League.
The Crawdads (38-22) won their second straight and are now 3-1 during the final homestand of the first half. Despite the win, the first-half, Northern Division title hopes continued to fade as Delmarva (Md.) took a 3-2 win in extra innings over in-state rival Hagerstown. Hickory remains 7.5 games out with ten to play and the elimination number dropped to three.
Ronny Mauricio, who plagued Hickory throughout the night, capped a 3-for-4 night with his second home run of the season in the eighth to put the Fireflies up 3-2.
Facing reliever Jose Moreno (2-2), the Crawdads got even when Sherten Apostel hit a high, arching shot just over the fence in right for his eighth of the season to tie the game. Moreno then hit Pedro Gonzalez with a pitch before Matt Whatley joined Gonzalez on the bases with a single.
Melvin Novoa was given the task to advance the runners on a bunt, but fell into a 1-2 hole, with the second pitch hitting his hand on the bat as he tried to avoid a pitch up and in. Novoa hit the next pitch down the line and off the wall in the left-field corner for a double that scored Gonzalez to end the game.
Pitching by both sides dominated much of the game, although Columbia had a quick spurt at the start. Mauricio pulled a 1-2 pitch into the right-field corner for a double and went to third when Pedro Gonzalez bobbled the play. Hansel Moreno cashed in the unearned run with a sacrifice fly to left.
From there, Crawdads starter Tim Brennan retired the next 13 in a row. The right-hander allowed struck out six and allowed five hits over 6.2 innings.
Columbia starter Thomas Szapucki worked around a bases-loaded jam in the first. Kole Enright singled before Miguel Aparicio and Apostel each walked. A quick mound visit settled Szapucki, who then struck out Gonzalez and induced Whatley to hit into a double play.
Colin Holderman took over in the third and Hickory put up single runs the next two innings. Enright and Aparicio singled to place runners on the corners before Apostel’s sacrifice fly brought in Enright.
The Crawdads manufactured a run to take a 2-1 lead and it started with a walk to Whatley. The Crawdads catcher stole his 14th base of the season before moving to third on a wild pitch. Jose Almonte’s single put the Crawdads ahead.
Columbia got even in the sixth with Mauricio against playing a role. With one out, he split the gap in left-center for a double and scored on Hansel Moreno’s single.
Brennan ran into trouble in the seventh, as Columbia threatened to take the lead. After two outs, Brian Sharp and Hayden Senger each singled, which ended Brennan’s night.
Kelvin Gonzalez was brought in, and after three straight balls to Taylor Lane, a grounder to third put down the threat.
Other than Mauricio’s homer, Kelvin Gonzalez held the Fireflies to just a walk and struck out two over 2.1 innings for the win (2-0).
Remember being a little kid with your friends and you’d pick teams to play whatever sport was in season, and there was that one kid no one wanted on their team. And there’d be this long back-and-forth of, “I don’t want him, you take him.” The Hickory Crawdads and Greensboro Grasshoppers played nine innings of that game Tuesday night.
Greensboro had the final “you can take it” in the eighth and Hickory finally said, “okay” and went home with a 4-3 win in front of 1,382 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium. The victory wrapped up a 3-1 series win over the Grasshoppers and completed a 5-3 homestand, the longest of the season.
Unfortunately for Hickory, it did not make up ground on Delmarva (Md.), which defeated in-state rival Hagerstown 5-4 to move to 40-11, seven games ahead of the Crawdads in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. However, the Crawdads (33-18) moved within a game of Greensboro (34-17) for second place, which could have a bearing at the end of the season. If Delmarva goes on to win the first half – the Shorebirds now lead Greensboro by six games with 19 to play – and then takes the second half, as well, the team in the division with the next best record will take a wildcard spot in the playoffs.
Even by Low-A ball standards, this was an ugly one. On the books, Hickory walked seven, while Greensboro hit three batters and walked two. Combined, the teams – among the top offenses in the SAL – had just ten hits and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. It took two errors in the eighth that literally gave the Crawdads the decisive run.
Facing Cole Winn, the Grasshoppers scored in the first. With two outs, Winn walked both Mason Martin and Rodolfo Castro. Crawdads killer Michael Gretler – he went 4-for-8 with four walks after entering Sunday’s game at .182/.250/.218 – singled in Martin to make it 1-0.
The Crawdads punched back with two-out firepower in the bottom of the inning. Greensboro starter Brad Case entered the game with only three home runs allowed over 55.2 innings. Curtis Terry and Sherten Apostel added two more to Case’s ledger after putting up back-to-back solo shots and Hickory then lead 2-1. Terry’s blast to left was his 12th of the season and Apostel hit his fourth.
The score remained 2-1 until the seventh, but both teams missed opportunities to add runs. In the top of the second, Winn walked two of the three he faced. However, the right-hander induced Zac Susi to hit into a double play. After Kyle Mottice walked to bring up Ji-Hwan Bae, rather than allow the leadoff hitter batting .320 to take cuts against a struggling pitcher, Mottice took off for second and was thrown out by catcher Matt Whatley.
It was Hickory’s turn to botch a rally in the third. Jonathan Ornelas was hit by a pitch, then moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on Miguel Aparicio’s lineout to right. With the infield playing in to cut off the run at third, Terry hit a ball to the second baseman Castro, playing on the shortstop side of the bag. Castro fields the ball, checks Ornelas twice at third. Seemingly daring Castro to throw to first so Ornelas could sprint home, Castro took the day and threw behind Ornelas to catch him returning to the bag.
Greensboro put seven runners on over four innings against Winn, but scored just the one in the first. Case retired ten in a row after hitting Ornelas before running into trouble in the sixth. With one out Case hit both Terry and Apostel before the Grasshoppers signaled for Will Gardner in relief. Gardner walked Melvin Novoa on four pitches to bring up Pedro Gonzalez. After talking the first pitch for a ball, Gonzalez hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Hickory soon regretted the missed opportunity when Greensboro tied the game in the seventh against reliever Scott Engler. With one out, Justin Harrer walked and moved to third on Brett Kinneman’s double. Susi’s fly ball to left scored Harrer to tie the game at 2.
Greensboro took the lead in the eight when Fabricio Macias lined a Grant Anderson pitch over the wall in left, his seventh of the season.
Hitless since the first, with one out the Crawdads got infield hits from both Miguel Aparicio and Terry. From there, the inning fell apart for the Grasshoppers. Novoa hit a routine fly to center for the second out. As the ball returned to the mound, the throw by Bae skips past the pitcher Conner Loeprich to the backstop. Alertly, while Greensboro argued as to whether it had called time, Terry and Apostel moved up to second and third.
It then got worse for the Grasshoppers. With Gonzalez at the plate, Loeprich bounced a pitch to the backstop. Terry scored on the wild pitch and when Susi’s throw to the plate zoomed past Loeprich (1-2) covering, Apostel sprinted all the way home for the go-ahead run.
Anderson (5-3) pitched a perfect ninth to close out the game.
After a day off Wednesday, the Crawdads return to action Thursday to start a four-game series at Kannapolis.
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.
The Hickory Crawdads suffered major changes to their lineup over the past week. Yet on Thursday, the retooled group put together a steady performance for a 6-2 win over Asheville at L.P. Frans Stadium.
After losing their second in a row for the first time this year on Wednesday, Hickory (22-10) never trailed in evening the three-game series with its in-state, South Atlantic League rival. The Crawdads and Tourists (11-21) will finish off the series Friday night.
The victory also placed Hickory back in sole possession of second place after Greensboro (21-11) lost at Delmarva (Md.) on Thursday. However, because Delmarva (25-5) won, Hickory remained four games behind the Shorebirds in the Northern Division.
During the day on Thursday, the Crawdads received news on two of their top hitting prospects. Catcher Sam Huff, who leads the minors with 15 home runs, was promoted to High-A Down East.
Hickory also received word that shortstop Chris Seise will miss the remainder of the season after he will undergo surgery for a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Seise injured the shoulder during a play last Thursday in Greenville. The Crawdads are still without outfielder Miguel Aparicio who went to the injured list last week getting hit in the eye with a throw in Greenville (S.C.) last week.
With the changes at hand, the revamp lineup collected 11 hits on Thursday with all nine players getting at least one.
“We’ve had some pretty major subtractions to our roster lately,” said Crawdads manager Matt Hagen. “But, the saying is next man up. We still have a really good team. It’s actually going to give some guys more opportunities to blossom into the best version of themselves that they can possibly be.”
Scoreless after three, the Crawdads finally broke through against starter Shelby Lackey (1-3). With runners on the corners and none out, Tanner Gardner’s fielder’s choice scored Jonathan Ornelas, who singled to start the inning. Pedro Gonzalez reached on an infield hit, then he and Gardner advanced to second and third on a throwing error by Coco Montes at third. One out later, Jose Almonte doubled to the wall in left center to make it 3-0.
Hickory’s Ronny Henriquez was dominant in his start over four shutout innings. The 18-year-old struck out eight and gave up just two singles during his 54-pitch (38 strikes) outing.
“He’s shown that at times,” said Hagen. “But what he did tonight was the first time he’s shown that for a four-inning stint. Tonight, he was in control for all four.”
Particularly effective was the use of the slider by right-handed Henriquez against left-handed hitters. Henriquez set the tone right away by striking out the side in the first. All three outpitches were sliders in at the hands.
“Usually, from a right-handed guy,” Hagen said. “You want to see something that can equalize bats, and you think changeup. He’s slider was absolutely on tonight as the equalizer.”
Tai Tiedemann took over and after a scoreless inning, the Tourists struck back in the sixth. Kyle Datres walked and was joined on the bases by Cade Harris, who reached on a bunt single. A sacrifice moved both up before Grant Lavigne’s grounder to second brought in Datres. Harris later scored on a wild pitch.
However, the Crawdads rebounded quickly with three singles to start the sixth with Sherten Apostel’s single to center scoring Gardner.
Almonte’s second two-run double of the night added insurance runs in the eighth and accounted for the final margin.
Tiedemann (1-0) got the scorer’s decision win. Scott Engler struck out three over two scoreless innings for his third save.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Asheville has a lineup with plenty of firepower, but on Tuesday it was the Tourists pitching backed by key defensive plays that was the difference in a 2-0 win over Hickory at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The Tourists (6-7) have now earned a split over the first two of the three-game series after the teams have now traded 2-0 wins. Hickory (9-3) will host the finale Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. before embarking on a three-game trip to Columbia, S.C.
The series was to have featured the top two South Atlantic League lineups. However, the teams have combined for four runs and 19 hits combined over the 18 innings played. In fact, the Crawdads have struggled at the plate during the current homestand. They entered Tuesday’s game at a .203/.254/.451 line during the first four games played at Frans this year. Tourists left-hander Ryan Rolison added to that misery with a stellar performance.
Rolison, the Colorado Rockies’ first-round pick in last June’s first-year player draft, held the Crawdads without a baserunner through the first five innings. With only one three-ball count in the game, Rolison (2-1) constantly had the Crawdads guessing at which of the four pitches at his disposal that he would use. Pounding the strike zone, he struck out seven – five in a row at one stretch – with 46 strikes out of 62 pitches.
The Tourists gave Rolison all he needed with a run in the third against starter Yerry Rodriguez (1-1). The Crawdads hurler retired the first two batters, but Cade Harris extended the inning with a single to right. On successive pitches, Will Golsan singled and Rodriguez hit Hunter Stovall with a pitch to load the bases. The wild streak continued when Rodriguez walked Terrin Vavra to force in a run.
The Crawdads bats finally came to life in the sixth, when with one out Jonathan Ornelas grounded a single up the middle just past the dive of Vavra at short. Frainyer Chavez reached when he was able to line a bunt past Rolison on the first base side of the mound and outrace him to the bag. However, the Tourists escaped damage when a sharp line drive hit by J.P. Martinez was caught by first baseman Grant Lavigne, who then easily doubled up Chavez at first to end the inning.
Harris walked and later scored on a double-play ball to add an insurance run in the eighth.
However, the Crawdads appeared to be on the verge of at least cutting the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning. With two outs and nobody on, Miguel Aparicio doubled. A fielding blunder then kept the rally alive, as Ornelas hit a high chopper up the third-base line. The ball appeared to be curling foul, but pitcher Frederis Parra picked the ball up just inside the line to give Ornelas a single and put Aparicio at third. Chavez followed with a bouncer up the middle that tipped off the pitcher’s glove. The second baseman Stovall made a lunging stop of the ball. While remaining stretched out, he fired a strike to first to retire Chavez and end the inning.
Alexander Martin closed out the game by striking out the side in the ninth for his second save of the season.
Tim Brennan allowed just two baserunners over six shutout innings and shutdown the South Atlantic League’s top offensive to lead the Hickory Crawdads to a 2-0 win Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
In winning the first of the three-game series, the Crawdads (9-2) remained in second place in the Northern Division a half-game behind the Delmarva (Md.) Shorebirds (9-1), who defeated Kannapolis at home on Monday. During the current homestand, Hickory is now 3-1 and will look to improve on that against Asheville on Tuesday as the series continues with a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.
The Tourists entered Monday’s game with the league’s top numbers across the board (.282/.363/.493/ .856), but the starter Brennan had little trouble working his way through the lineup.
He retired the first 12 before surrendering a walk to current SAL hitter-of-the-week Willie MacIver to start the fifth. The lead runner was retired on successive fielder’s choices leaving Daniel Montano at first with two outs. He stole second second and moved to third on catcher Matt Whatley’s throwing error. However, Brennan got Coco Montes to fly to center to end the lone threat against him.
Hunter Stovall broke up Brennan’s fledgling no-hit bid in the sixth with a clean single to left to start the inning.
Brennan left the game after clearing the sixth on 73 pitches (46 strikes).
The right-hander was supported for his first professional win (1-0) in two starts by the offense, which gave him all he needed four batters into the game. Facing Ryan Feltner (0-2), J.P. Martinez drilled the righty’s second pitch to the leftfield wall for a double. He moved to third on Matt Whatley’s fly to the track in right for Curtis Terry ripped a double to right for the run.
Sam Huff hit a slider over the billboards in right for a solo blast in the sixth to account for the second run. His home run was the fourth of the season with ties him for the SAL and pushed his team’s league high to 14 on the year.
Asheville threatened to erase its deficit in the seventh against Abdiel Mendoza. Grant Lavigne singled and MacIver got his second walk of the game. Two outs later, Mendoza loaded the bases by walking Montes. However, Stovall flied out to shallow left to end the rally.
Scott Engler pitched two perfect innings for Hickory, striking out five of the six he faced to pick up his first pro save.
Game Notes: Cole Uvila was promoted to High-A Down East on Monday. The 40th-round pick of the Rangers last June (GA. Gwinnett) went 2-0 in three relief outings with ten strikeouts over seven innings. He allowed just three hits and one walk… The Crawdads now have three shutouts on the season and have seven games out of 11 with 0 or 1 run allowed.