Archive for the ‘ Playoff Preview ’ Category

SAL Championship Game 2 Preview: Asheville at Hickory

Game 2: Asheville Tourists (72-67, Southern Division Champions) at Hickory Crawdads (81-57, Northern Division Champions) Hickory leads the best-of-five series 1-0.

Site/ Time: L.P. Frans Stadium, Hickory, N.C..  7 p.m.

Affiliations: Asheville (Colorado Rockies)/ Hickory (Texas Rangers)

Game 1 Recap: The Hickory Crawdads took the lead in the second inning and coasted to a 7-2 win Monday night at home. The Crawdads went up 1-0 when Edwin Garcia and Jairo Beras steered back-to-back doubles into the left-field corner. Luke Tendler’s first playoff homer put Hickory up 2-0 in the fourth. Poor outfield play opened the game up for Hickory leading to the final five runs. In the sixth, Tendler scored from second when Wes Rogers was slow in getting the ball back to the infield after catching Jairo Beras’ fly to center. Eduardo Pinto doubled in a run to make it 4-0. In the eighth, Dylan Moore reached third on a dropped fly ball in left. Trevino drove him in with a single and scored himself on Tendler’s double. Beras’ RBI triple completed the score. Pedro Payano pitched a six-hitter over six shutout innings and struck out eight. Joe Filomeno added two more scoreless innings of relief and fanned two. The Tourists scored their only run on a two-run homer in the ninth by Shane Hoelscher against Dillon Tate.

Probables: ASH: Ryan Castellani (RH, 2-7, 4.48) vs. HKY: Brett Martin (LH, 5-6, 3.49)

Lineup: ASH: Wes Rogers-8, Forrest Wall-4, Shane Hoelscher-D, Dom Nunez-2, Roberto Ramos-3, Josh Fuentes-5, Omar Carrizales -7 Cesar Galvez-6, Yonathan Daza-9.

HKY: Jose Cardona-8, Dylan Moore-4, Jose Trevino-2, Luke Tendler-D, Edwin Garcia-6, Jairo Beras-9, Eduard Pinto-7, Juremi Profar-5, Carlos Arroyo-3.

Castellani vs. Hickory: In his lone start of the season against the Crawdads, Castellani allowed two runs on six hits and struck out five over five innings at McCormick Field on July 24. Hickory took a 1-0 against him in the first when Cardona, Josh Morgan and Pinto all singled. Trevino added a fourth hit in that inning, but Morgan was thrown out on the bases to limit the rally to one run. They made it 2-0 as Pinto was hit by a pitch, Trevino singled and Tendler brought in Pinto with a sac fly. Profar had the other hit against Castellani with a double in the second.

The No. 17 prospect (mlb.com) in the Rockies organization was the second-round choice of Colorado out of Brophy Prep School in Phoenix. The 6-foot-4, 19-year-old brings a low 90s fastball with a change and a looping curve according to mlb.com. He tries to keep the ball down as his 1.30 GO/AO ratio suggests and he has allowed only five homers this season – just two at McCormick. However, he relies on contact to get outs (94Ks, 113.1 innings). The lack of missed bats has hurt him at times as the SAL is hitting .291 against him this season. The OBA has jumped in the second half to .308 (.268 in the first half) and the ERA jumped to 5.32 (3.23). In his 16 road starts, he has a 3.52 ERA and hitters are batting .293. Castellani has gone past five innings just three times this season and has given up seven or more hits seven times. He has shown good control (29 walks), walking more than two hitters just three times.

Martin vs. Asheville: The native of Morristown, Tenn. faced the Tourists in two road games this season, taking the win in a strong start back on April 20 and a no-decision on July 23.

In the April start, Martin needed only 60 pitches (41 strikes) to easily handle the Tourists to the tune of one run on three hits over six innings. He retired the first ten of the game before Emerson Jimenez singled in the fourth. Henry Garcia homered against Martin to lead off the sixth with Wes Rogers getting the other single. Ten of the 18 outs he recorded came on groundouts (7) or strikeouts.

The July start was a bit more harrowing as he allowed four runs on nine hits in four innings. Much of the damage came when the Tourists jumped him for three runs on five hits in the first. Max White tripled in Carrizales, who had singled, and then scored on a sac fly by Hoelscher. Nunez and Jairo Rosario hit back to back doubles with Daza getting the final hit. Fuentes and Carrizales each singled in the second without scoring; White singled and later scored in the third. Martin was off the hook for the loss as they scored seven runs over the first two innings in an 8-6 win.

Martin has not pitched since injuring his hip on August 28, when he allowed three runs on seven hits over 4.2 innings to Delmarva. He’s had two other lengthy layoffs this season with mixed results. After a 15-day layoff from May 22-June 6, Martin gave up four runs on six hits over 4.2 innings. Martin came back from an 11-day layoff in early August and pitched a three-hitter over four shutout innings.

Martin is currently the Rangers No. 16 prospect according to mlb.com. The 20-year-old has a low 90s fastball with some run to go with a curve and change. Martin generally exhibits good control, but can run into spates of wildness at times. He has walked three or more batters in four starts, fewer than two in 14 starts. He leans slightly as a groundball pitcher (1.19 GO/AO) and has induced 13 double play balls in 95 innings. Martin can go deep into games if he finds a groove (pitched into the seventh three times), but the Rangers will likely limit him to five innings coming off the injury.

Tourists hitters vs. Hickory: Shane Hoelscher had three hits – including the ninth-inning homer, which was the lone extra-base hit – and Forrest Wall and Josh Fuentes each had two in the game-one loss.

Despite playing seven of the nine regular-season games at hitter-friendly McCormick Field this season, the Tourists batted only .244 against the Crawdads this season with five homers among 24 extra-base hits.

Yonathan Daza led the team at .346 (9-for-26) vs. Hickory. SAL All-star Omar Carrizales hit .333 (4-for-12) and his all-star teammate Shane Hoelscher was 3-for-10. SAL No. 4 second base prospect Forrest Wall was 5-for-15, which included a grand slam at L.P. Frans. Daza also had four RBI to lead the team.

Crawdads hitters vs. Asheville: In game one, the Crawdads pounded six extra-base hits with Beras ripping a double and triple, with Tendler lining a double to go with his homer.

Jose Trevino has five home runs and 12 RBI in eight games to go with a .313 (10-for-32) average in eight games this season. Eduard Pinto had 17 hits (.532) and eight RBI. Luke Tendler struggled against the Asheville staff with 11Ks in 37 plate appearances.

What to watch for: With neither starting pitcher expected to go deep into the game, middle relief should play a role. For Hickory, Joe Filomeno and Dillon Tate are likely out. Luis Ortiz could be available to eat innings to get to close Scott Williams. Other middle relievers Adam Dian, Shane McCain and Chris Dula have not pitched in the playoffs.

With 246 steals the Tourists run and run often and do so throughout the lineup with six players totally double-digit steal totals. Martin has allowed 14 of 21 runners to steal and catcher Jose Trevino has thrown out 33.7% of the runners trying to steal.

Conversely, though Hickory has run very little – only Jose Cardona has 10+ steals (30) – they may take shots against catcher Dom Nunez, who has caught a league worst 21.2% of runners trying to steal.

The opposites on the defensive sheet could not be more different as Hickory led the league in defense (121 errors) with Asheville committing the most (206). That played out last night with the Crawdads taking advantage of two outfielder miscues. An error on pickoff by Asheville put Moore at second in the first, but he was stranded there.

The Crawdads have done well in tight games, posting a SAL-best 27-16 mark in one-run games. Asheville was last at 14-22. They’ve also done poorly in the middle innings of tight games. When tied after the fifth, the Tourists are 10-14 (Hickory 14-7). Tied after the sixth, they are 9-12 (Hickory 6-7) and after the seventh they are 7-9 (Hickory 8-0).

The Tourists look to SAL all-star close Josh Michalec, who led the league with 30 saves.

SAL Championship Preview: Game 1 Asheville at Hickory

(My apologies for grammatical or spelling errors, I was in a hurry– Mark)

Game 1: Asheville Tourists (72-67, Southern Division Champions) at Hickory Crawdads (81-57, Northern Division Champions)

Site/ Time: L.P. Frans Stadium, Hickory, N.C.

Affiliations: Asheville (Colorado Rockies)/ Hickory (Texas Rangers)

How Asheville Got Here: With the Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats winning both half-season titles, the Tourists needed to claim the second overall best record in the Southern Division. They did so on the final day of the season last Monday when the Greenville (S.C.) Drive fell to Savannah. The Tourists defeated the Sand Gnats at home in game one, then after dropping game two at Savannah they rebounded to capture the series with a 2-1 win on Luis Jean’s two-run homer in the eighth.

Asheville playoff history: The Tourists are the defending South Atlantic League (SAL) and are looking for their third title four seasons. Since rejoining the SAL in 1980, Asheville has three league championships altogether (1984, 2012, 2014). The Tourists have made eight trips to the SAL playoffs and have lost in the champion series twice (1986, 1987).

How Hickory Got Here: The Crawdads won the first-half Northern Division title to clinch a playoff spot. In the Northern Division series, Hickory dropped game one on the road to West Virginia, then returned home take two straight from the Power to claim the series.

Hickory playoff history: The Crawdads are making their third appearance in the SAL Championship Series, having claimed titles in 2002 and 2004. This is the 10th playoff run in the team’s 23rd season.

Season series: Hickory went 7-2 this season vs. the Tourists, with a 1-1 mark at L.P. Frans in early April.

Probables: ASH: Helmis Rodriguez (LH, 9-8, 3.36) vs. HKY: Pedro Payano (RH, 3-1, 1.10)

Lineup: ASH: Wes Rogers-8, Forrest Wall-4, Shane Hoelscher-D, Dom Nunez-2, Roberto Ramos-3, Max White-7, Josh Fuentes-5, Yonathan Daza-7, Luis Jean-6.

HKY: Jose Cardona-8, Dylan Moore-4, Jose Trevino-2, Luke Tendler-D, Edwin Garcia-6, Jairo Beras-9, Eduard Pinto-7, Juremi Profar-5, Carlos Arroyo-3.

Rodriguez vs. Hickory: Rodriguez faced the Crawdads just one time in a home start on July 23. In that game, the Crawdads took advantage of Rodriguez’s wildness as they received five walks to go with three hits and a hit batsman in 1.2 innings. Hickory scored six runs against Rodriguez and went onto an 8-6 win. Jose Trevino tagged him for a two-run single in the first inning of that game and Jairo Beras followed with a singled. Eduard Pinto ripped a three-run double in the second to chase Rodriguez.

The No. 27 prospect (mlb.com) in the Rockies has walked as many as five in four of his 27 starts this season, including seven twice. However, he walked just two overall in his last two starts covering 14 innings, though he did hit three batters. Rodriguez has issued 63 walks this season in 147.1 innings, third in the SAL. He relies on getting groundball outs (1.61 GO/AO) and has done a remarkable job keeping the ball in the yard given the hitters-paradise of his home ballpark at McCormick Field. All nine home runs allowed by Rodriguez have occurred at home.

Rodriguez, 21, has posted a 2.42 ERA on the road (4.52 at home), but has given up 32 walks and hit 11 batters in 81.2 innings. He has gotten stronger over the last month of the season, posting a 1.98 ERA since August 4, which included a no-hit bid that lasted into the eighth inning at Rome on August 20. Rodriguez has the ability to go deep into games as he has pitched seven or more innings seven times, six or more 15 times.  He is a pitcher that opponents have to get early as his ERA in the first is 5.67 with19 walks in 27 innings. After the third, his ERA drops under 2.00 with 22 walks in 69 innings.

The native of Coloncito, Venezuela offers a high-80s fastball, but his change is his best pitch according to several scouting reports. Rodriguez also throws a curve and has added a slider.

Payano vs. Asheville: The native of San Francisco de Macoris, D.R. has made only six starts since joining the Crawdads on August 4, none of those against Asheville. His last start came against Rome at home on September 6 when he allowed one run on five hits and struck out a season high of nine. In 32.2 innings, Payano, 20, has struck out 31 and walked ten.

In his two home starts, Payano has allowed two runs on 11 hits and struck out 15.

He’s had some minor trouble facing hitters the second time through the order as his ERA is 3.60 in the third inning.

Payano features a mid-90s fastball that has some run into right-handed hitters. He also throws a change and a sweeping curve that he uses for strikeouts.

Tourists hitters vs. Hickory: Despite playing seven of the nine games at hitter-friendly McCormick Field this season, the Tourists batted only .244 against the Crawdads this season with five homers among 24 extra-base hits.

Yonathan Daza led the team at .346 (9-for-26) vs. Hickory. SAL All-star Omar Carrizales hit .333 (4-for-12) and his all-star teammate Shane Hoelscher was 3-for-10. SAL No. 4 second base prospect Forrest Wall was 5-for-15, which included a grand slam at L.P. Frans. Daza also had four RBI to lead the team.

Crawdads hitters vs. Asheville: Jose Trevino has five home runs and 12 RBI in eight games to go with a .313 (10-for-32) average in eight games this season. Eduard Pinto had 17 hits (.532) and eight RBI. Luke Tendler struggled against the Asheville staff with 11Ks in 37 plate appearances.

What to watch for: With 246 steals the Tourists run and run often and do so throughout the lineup with six players totally double-digit steal totals. The ability of Payano to keep runners off the base as much as possible, and then to maintain composure as an untried pitcher in a big-game atmosphere could be a key. Four of the five baserunners attempting to steal against Payano have done so successfully. Catcher Jose Trevino has thrown out 33.7% of the runners trying to steal.

Conversely, though Hickory has run very little – only Jose Cardona has 10+ steals (30) – they may take shots against catcher Dom Nunez, who has caught a league worst 21.2% of runners trying to steal.

The opposites on the defensive sheet could not be more different as Hickory led the league in defense (121 errors) with Asheville committing the most (206).

The Crawdads will not likely have Scott Williams available after closing out back-to-back wins on Friday and Saturday. Hickory will probably turn to Adam Dian to close out a late-game situation. Dillon Tate and Luis Ortiz will likely not pitch and so with Payano probably going 5-6 innings, middle relievers Joe Filomeno and Shane McCain will probably get looks to bridge the game to Dian.

The Crawdads have done well in tight games, posting a SAL-best 27-16 mark in one-run games. Asheville was last at 14-22. They’ve also done poorly in the middle innings of tight games. When tied after the fifth, the Tourists are 10-14 (Hickory 14-7). Tied after the sixth, they are 9-12 (Hickory 6-7) and after the seventh they are 7-9 (Hickory 8-0).

The Tourists look to SAL all-star close Josh Michalec, who led the league with 30 saves.

SAL Playoffs Game 3 Preview: West Virginia at Hickory

South Atlantic League Playoff Series

Game 3: West Virginia Power (87-52, 1-1 series lead) at Hickory Crawdads (81-57, 1-1)

Site/ Time: L.P. Frans Stadium, Hickory, N.C.

Game 2 Recap: The Crawdads finally took control of a see-saw affair in the middle innings and went on to even the series with a 6-3 home win at L.P. Frans. After an Edwin Garcia, RBI single put the Crawdads ahead in the first, the Power jumped back ahead 2-1 with a two-run blast in the second by Connor Joe. Hickory tied it in the third when Dylan Moore doubled and scored when Garcia picked up his second RBI of the game on a groundout. An unearned run put the Crawdads ahead in the fourth, but again the Power tied the game 3-3 when Pablo Reyes singled with two outs and later scored Kramer’s run-scoring single. The Crawdads inched ahead for good in the sixth when after Stephen Tarpley issued back-to-back walks, Jose Cardona lofted a soft liner to left that scored Juremi Profar. Luke Tendler provided the final margin by tripling in two more in the eight. Dillon Tate picked up the win in relief with Scott Williams throwing two scoreless innings and striking out three for the save.

Game 1 Recap: The Power struck for three runs in the fifth inning and went on the capture a 4-2 home win. After Crawdads pitcher Yohander Mendez allowed two baserunners over 4.1 innings, a double by Chase Simpson and Taylor Gushue tied the game at 2. West Virginia added an unearned run in the inning, which scored on a wild pitch by Joe Filomeno on a dropped third-strike after fanning Michael Suchy with two outs. The Power tacked on the fourth run in the seventh on an error by 1B Carlos Arroyo. The Crawdads put seven baserunners on over the first five innings, but managed only a solo homer by Jairo Beras and an RBI groundout by Arroyo. The trio of Austin Coley Sam Street and Nick Neumann retied the final 13 Crawdads of the game.

Probables: WV: Yeudy Garcia (RH, 12-5, 2.10) vs. HKY: Collin Wiles (RH, 11-3, 2.96)

Lineup: WV: Kevin Newman-6, Pablo Reyes-4, Kevin Kramer-D, Michael Suchy-9, Jerrick Suiter-7, Elvis Escobar-8, Connor Joe-3, Taylor Gushue-2, Tyler Filliben-5.

HKY: Eric Jenkins-7, Dylan Moore-4, Jose Trevino-2, Luke Tendler-D, Edwin Garcia-6, Jairo Beras-9, Juremi Profar-5, Carlos Arroyo-3, Jose Cardona-8.

Garcia vs. Hickory: The righthander from Sabana Yegua, D.R. was named the SAL pitcher of the year after leading the league in ERA, was second in OBA (.204) and third in WHIP (1.07). He went 1-1 against Hickory, though he did not allow an earned run. In the loss on May 19 at L.P. Frans, the Crawdads scored two unearned runs in the first and made them stand up for a 3-1 win. Garcia allowed three hits and two walks with four strikeouts over 4.2 innings. Chase Simpson’s error at first was key in the opening inning with Josh Morgan scoring on the play with outs before Luke Tendler followed on Travis Demeritte’s single.

In the August 16 contest, only Eduard Pinto’s walk in the third and Luke Tendler’s single in the fifth smudged Garcia’s outing over five innings in a 2-1 win. Garcia struck out three in the contest, but needed 68 pitches (40 strikes) to complete the five innings.

Wildness has been a problem for Garcia coming down the stretch as he walked five over five innings in a start at Lexington and then two over four innings at Kannapolis. Garcia has gone past five innings just twice this season.

Wiles vs. West Virginia: The right-hander Overland Park, Kansas has not faced the Power this season. He was second in the SAL in WHIP (1.05), fifth in OBA (.239 and fifth in ERA. He has thrown at least six innings in 13 of 22 starts this season going into the eighth twice.

In the final outing of the season, Wiles took a no-decision after allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits over 7.1 innings. He did allow a season high of five earned runs in the previous start on August 27 against Charleston. Wiles has walked more than one batter just five times this season.

Control is the key for his success. He offers a high-80s, low-90s fastball that he will cut on occasion. Wiles also throws a mid-80s slider, a change and a curve that he generally brings out the second time through the order.

Power hitters vs. Hickory: Kevin Kramer is 4-for-7 in the two games so far with Pablo Reyes cranking out three hits. Taylor Gushue and Connor Joe each have homered and have two RBI each. Kramer has the other RBI for the Power. West Virginia has struck out 20 times in 65 at bats.

Among active players, Elvis Escobar has the highest batting avg. vs. Hickory during the regular season at .355 (11-for-31). Jerrick Suiter went 6-for-18 (.333) and Kevin Newman went .286 (4-for-14).  Connor Joe hit only .200, but picked up eight walks in six games. All-star OF Michael Suchy had a team-high five RBI on four extra-base hits.

Crawdads hitters vs. West Virginia: In the two games of the series, Jose Trevino have four hits to lead the Crawdads attack. Six other players have two hits. Edwin Garcia and Luke Tendler have two RBI each. Newcomers Eric Jenkins and Dylan Moore have had trouble with contact as Jenkins has struck out four times and Moore has three.

Among active players during the regular season, Carlos Arroyo is the lone player hitting above .250 against West Virginia. Arroyo is 6-for-15 (.400) with a triple, a homer and two RBI. Beras and Garcia are at the .250 mark with Beras cranking a pair of homers to go with the one in game one. He leads the team with five RBI and Jose Trevino has four.

What to watch for: How deep the two starts can go and how well the bullpens bridge the gap to their closers will be a key. Wiles has shown the ability to minimize damage in early innings, then get into a groove over several innings. The goal for Garcia is to get through five innings and let the pen take over… After pitching two innings on Friday, Crawdads closer Scott Williams is likely not available. Look for Luis Ortiz to get an inning or two if the game is close or the Crawdads have the lead late with Adam Dian pitching the ninth… The Crawdads should see Sam Street at some point in the middle innings with Nick Neumann available for the ninth.

SAL Playoffs Game 2 Preview: West Virginia at Hickory

South Atlantic League Playoff Series

Game 2: West Virginia Power (87-52, 1-0 series lead) at Hickory Crawdads (81-57, 0-1)

Site/ Time: L.P. Frans Stadium, Hickory, N.C.

Game 1 Recap: The Power struck for three runs in the fifth inning and went on the capture a 4-2 home win. After Crawdads pitcher Yohander Mendez allowed two baserunners over 4.1 innings, a double by Chase Simpson and Taylor Gushue tied the game at 2. West Virginia added an unearned run in the inning, which scored on a wild pitch by Joe Filomeno on a dropped third-strike after fanning Michael Suchy with two outs. The Power tacked on the fourth run in the seventh on an error by 1B Carlos Arroyo. The Crawdads put seven baserunners on over the first five innings, but managed only a solo homer by Jairo Beras and an RBI groundout by Arroyo. The trio of Austin Coley Sam Street and Nick Neumann retied the final 13 Crawdads of the game.

Probables: WV: Stephen Tarpley (LH, 11-4, 2.48) vs. HKY: Ariel Jurado (RH, 12-1 2.48)

Lineup: WV: Kevin Newman-6, Pablo Reyes-4, Kevin Kramer-D, Michael Suchy-9, Jerrick Suiter-7, Elvis Escobar-8, Chase Simpson-5, Taylor Gushue-2, Connor Joe-3.

HKY: Eric Jenkins-7, Dylan Moore-4, Jose Trevino-2, Luke Tendler-D, Edwin Garcia-6, Jairo Beras-6, Juremi Profar-5, Carlos Arroyo-3, Jose Cardona-8.

Tarpley vs. Hickory: The lefty from Los Angeles made two starts against Hickory this season with mixed results. Back on June 21 in West Virginia, Tarpley allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Jose Trevino singled in a run in the first, a run that was unearned due to a passed ball. The Power took a 4-1 lead in that game before the Crawdads picked up a run in the fourth on Jose Cardona’s single. Tripp Martin’s double chased him in the sixth and the Crawdads eventually rallied later in the game for a 10-5 win.

Tarpley dominated the Crawdads in a start at L.P. Frans on August 15 when he shut down the Crawdads on three hits over eight shutout innings. The Crawdads lineup had difficulty solving a three-pitch mix as Tarpley recorded 16 groundball outs and threw 93 pitches (63 strikes).

In his last start at Kannapolis, Tarpley allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits and struck out three. He was named to Baseball America’s Low-A All-Star Team.

He features a low-90s fastball with some run into right-handed hitters. He can keep hitters off-stride with a slider and change.

 

Jurado vs. West Virginia: The right-hander from Aguadulce, Panama outdueled SAL pitcher of the year Yeudys Garcia in a 3-1 win back on May 19. In that start, Jurado allowed one unearned run on four hits and struck out three. The Power stranded runners in scoring position both in the first and second before tallying their only run of the game when Tyler Filliben singled and went to third on a throwing error. He scored on a sacrifice fly.

Jurado is coming off his worst performance of the season after giving up five runs (two unearned) on seven hits over three innings for his only loss of the season. Like Tarpley, he was named to Baseball America’s Low-A All-Star Team.

He features a hard sinker at 94 that runs to the back foot of right-handed hitters and also changes speeds well. Jurado can run a slider glove side and has had some success with a developing curveball.

Power hitters vs. Hickory: In game one, Pablo Reyes and Kevin Kramer (one walk) each doubled and were the lone Power hitters with two hits as the Crawdads held them to only six hits. Chase Simpson and Tyler Gushue homered.

Among active players, Elvis Escobar has the highest batting avg. vs. Hickory during the regular season at .355 (11-for-31). Jerrick Suiter went 6-for-18 (.333) and Kevin Newman went .286 (4-for-14).  Connor Joe hit only .200, but picked up eight walks in six games. All-star OF Michael Suchy had a team-high five RBI on four extra-base hits.

Crawdads hitters vs. West Virginia: In game one, Hickory piled up seven hits with Jairo Beras getting two. Eric Jenkins and Jose Trevino both doubled with Dylan Moore, Edwin Garcia and Juremi Profar singling.

Among active players during the regular season, Carlos Arroyo is the lone player hitting above .250 against West Virginia. Arroyo is 6-for-15 (.400) with a triple, a homer and two RBI. Beras and Garcia are at the .250 mark with Beras cranking a pair of homers to go with the one in game one. He leads the team with five RBI and Jose Trevino has four.

What to watch for: The Crawdads will have to figure out a way to solve Tarpley’s ability to change speeds and make him get pitches up… On the mound, if Jurado can put up his usual five innings-plus the Crawdads will have Tate and Ortiz available to bridge the gap to close Scott Williams (10 saves)… The Power like to play small ball (90 sac bunts) which could put pressure on an infield that has not played much together. 1B Carlos Arroyo had never played first as a pro until last weekend – a three-game career at the position – and Dylan Moore has six games with Hickory at second… Eric Jenkins at the top of the order and Jose Cardona at the bottom could give the Crawdads the chance to put some speed to use. Hickory was next to last in steals this season (Cardona had 30 of the 95), so the new toy of Jenkins speed could be a wrinkle that the Power has to contend with. As Hickory searches for offense against Tarpley, Jenkins ability to bunt to get on base – and get to second – could be key. Power catcher Tyler Gushue is next to last in the SAL in caught stealing (26.6%). Gushue led the SAL with 24 passed balls.

Hickory / West Virginia SAL Playoff & Game 1 Preview

South Atlantic League Playoff Series

Game 1: Hickory Crawdads (81-57) at West Virginia Power (87-52)

Site/ Time: Appalachian Power Park, Charleston, West Virginia

Crawdads Playoff History:  The Crawdads will make their tenth playoff appearance in 23 seasons since joining the South Atlantic League in 1993. It is the first appearance since 2011. This will be the third trip to the playoffs during the seven seasons the Crawdads have been affiliated with the Texas Rangers.

Hickory has won two SAL championships, both coming during the affiliation of the club with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002 and 2004.  The Crawdads have not won a series since claiming the title in 2004, nor have they won a playoff home game since the clincher of that series.

Power Playoff History: West Virginia has made seven playoffs appearances since staring South Atlantic League play in 1987. The lone SAL title came in 1990 as the Charleston Wheelers – a Reds affiliate – swept the Savannah Cardinals in three straight. This is the fourth playoff appearance under the name of the West Virginia Power (beginning in 2005), the second as a Pirates affiliate (2013), which began in 2009.

Hickory/ West Virginia Playoff History: The Crawdads defeated the Charleston Alley Cats (Blue Jays) in two straight in the first round of the 2004 playoffs. The clincher of the 2004 sweep was the final game played at Watt Powell Park in Charleston.  West Virginia (Brewers) took a 2-1 first-round series win in 2007.

How Hickory Got Here: The Crawdads led the first-half Northern Division chase wire-to-wire, eventually finishing with a 44-24 mark, 7 ½ games ahead of second-place West Virginia.

How West Virginia Got Here: The Power bullied the SAL in the second half and finished 50-20. It was the first time a SAL club had 50 half-season wins since Augusta turned the trick in 2007. West Virginia finished ten games ahead of second-place Delmarva in the second half and 13 games ahead of fourth-place Hickory.

Game 1 Pitching matchup: Hickory-Yohander Mendez (LH, 3-3, 2.44) vs. West Virginia- Austin Coley (RH, 16-6, 3.66)

Hickory Pitching:

Mendez: After pitching in a piggyback arrangement with Ariel Jurado much of the season, Mendez split off on his own late in the season. After allowing more than two runs just once in his first 19 outings, the lefty gave up four in five innings to Greensboro on August 23 and five to Delmarva in 3.1 innings on September 1 to close out the regular season. He gave up one homer in each of those outings, the only long balls he allowed this season. Mendez finished the season with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. SAL hitters batted .230 against Mendez in 2015. His struck out 74 and walked 15 in 66.1 innings. Against West Virginia in 2015, Mendez allowed one unearned run on three hits, two walks and struck out seven in eight innings (two appearances, one start).

Relievers: Scott Williams likely will get the first look for a save situation. The right-hander picked up ten saves in the second half and built a 40-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31.1 innings in the second half. In three outings vs. the Power in 2015, Williams allowed one run – a homer to Michael Suchy on June 19, on three hits and struck out two over four innings… Joe Filomeno gave up two runs to the Power late in a game on August 16… Shane McCain was roughed up in an outing vs. West Virginia on August 15 (2.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K…Having not pitched since September 2, it would not be unusual to see 2015 first-rounder Dillon Tate get an inning in the middle of the game.  Manager Corey Ragsdale indicated that Tate and Luis Ortiz would be available for action in the series… Adam Dian (5 saves) threw an inning on Monday’s win. He has pitched out of the pen on one day’s rest just once.

West Virginia pitching:

Coley: The 23-year-old right-hander made all 27 starts this season and seemed to finish strong as he allowed one earned run in each of his last four starts (26 innings). Coley has showed good command with 111 Ks to just 25 walks in 147.2 innings. A fly ball pitcher, – He holds a 0.88 GO/AO ratio – Coley is susceptible to the long ball, having allowed a SAL-high 18 this season. The Crawdads touched him up for three in a loss back on August 14. Hickory has had perhaps the best luck against the 16-game winner tagging him for 20 hits over 11 innings in two starts. Among Crawdads hitters, Carlos Arroyo is 4-for-6 this season with a homer and Luke Tendler has doubled and homered in four plate appearances. Jairo Beras went 2-for-2 with a double.

Relievers: Nick Neumann is the Power close with 17 saves in 19 chances. He threw two perfect innings against Hickory this season, both coming in the first half… Other key relievers will likely include Sam Street, Jared Lakind and Julio Vivas. Of the trio, only Lakind (1 IP) has faced Hickory this year.

Hickory lineup:

Late season injuries to Josh Morgan and Michael De Leon put the Crawdads into a mix-and-match mode on the infield. Catcher Jose Trevino and third baseman Juremi Profar are the two likely certainties around the diamond. Ragsdale indicated that Edwin Garcia will likely play short and newcomer Dylan Moore will place second. Carlos Arroyo, who played second most of the season, was stationed at first the final two games of the season and handled the position without a problem. With his output against Coley (4-for-6) this season, and his success against the Power this season Arroyo may get the first look with Chuck Moorman and Jonathan Meyer available off the bench. Arroyo is the lone active Crawdads player to hit over .300 (6-for-15) against the Power in 2015.

In the outfield, the arrival of 2015 second-round Eric Jenkins gives Ragsdale a different wrinkle in the lineup with his speed. He went 7-for-18 during his five-game audition last week and he may well have earned some at bats in the series. The likely lineup will be Luke Tendler in left, Jose Cardona in center and Jairo Beras in right. Tendler ended his season fourth in the SAL in RBI and total bases. Beras had a pair of homers and five RBI during a mid-June series in Charleston. However, he went 0-for-7 against the Power in August. Eduard Pinto may get a look at first on in the DH slot.

Power lineup:

The Power had only 18 position players on their roster this season with eight players taking the field for 99 or more games (Hickory has three in the expected lineup, though Pinto has 98 games). The team finished the season at the top of the SAL with a .269 batting average and a .347 on-base percentage. It’s a team that will play classic National League small-ball (90 sacrifices) to scratch out runs for what has been a shutdown pitching staff. They are very patient at the plate. West Virginia leads the SAL in walks and has the second fewest strikeouts this season.

Behind the plate will likely be Taylor Gushue with Connor Joe – the Pirates No. 29 prospect (mlb.com) at first. Pablo Reyes and 2015 first-round pick Kevin Newman will play second and short respectively. Rounding out the infield at third will likely be Tyler Filliben, who has filled in for the injured Jordan Luplow.

A talented group is stationed in the outfield with SAL all-star Michael Suchy starting in right. Suchy, the fifth-round pick of the Pirates in 2014, finished the season second in the SAL in runs scored and in RBI.

A combination of Tito Polo, Elvis Escobar and Jerrick Suiter split up left and center, with Suiter getting many of the DH starts.  Suiter and Esocbar finished fifth and eighth in the SAL in batting avg. with Escobar third in hits.

Against the Crawdads, Escobar hit .355 (11-for-31) to lead the team among active players. The injured Luplow had two of the five homers struck against Hickory and he is tied with Suchy with five RBI.

Other things to know: This is likely to be a pitching-and-defense series. Hickory and West Virginia finished tied with the fewest errors committed in the SAL and went 1-2 in WHIP. The Crawdads finished second in ERA (3.19) with the Power fourth at 3.38…  Defending bunts had been a downfall for the Crawdads prior to their injuries and against a team that likes small ball, the revamped defensive alignment – especially with the likelihood of inexperience at first – could be a point worth watching… Both teams expect to win when they score first. The Crawdads went 54-14 when scoring first – tops in the SAL – and West Virginia was 59-16, which was second… Hickory has held up well under pressure as it was 71-4 when leading or tied after seven innings. In one-run games, the Crawdads are 27-16 with the Power at 19-22.