Archive for the ‘ Playoff ’ Category

The Throw: Beras’ Tools on Display in SAL Playoffs

Before the first game of the opening round series 2015 South Atlantic League playoffs between Hickory and West Virginia, I ran a tweet that said,

“Going to give a prediction that Jairo Beras has a huge series. It’s time he takes the work he’s done in the 2nd half and do big things”

Jairo Beras did indeed do big things throughout the playoffs and his game-saving throw in the seventh inning during the decisive game three of the SAL Championship Series was a key play for the Hickory Crawdads in closing out a three-game sweep of the Asheville Tourists.

Championship-caliber play didn’t seem likely on the second game of the season when the native of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R. continued a behavioral pattern that happened occasionally in 2014 – lack of hustle on pop-ups or groundballs. After getting sent to baseball purgatory for a month – extended spring training in Arizona – a hamstring injury upon his return cost him two more weeks.

Another “lack of hustle” incident occurred in a game on June 29, this time in front of Texas Rangers senior director of player development Mike Daly. Beras was benched for a game.

During an interview I did with Daly after the June 29 game, I asked him about the continued disinterest that Beras seemed to have in his own abilities.

“It’s really up to the player to decide that they’re going to do the things each and every day that’s part of being a professional player…” Daly said in June. “Our job as an organization is to support him and when he doesn’t do the things that he’s supposed to do to correct them and teach him and to make sure he learns from him. Ultimately, it’s up to Jairo to make those changes.”

Beras did indeed make those changes in putting up a 21-game hitting streak in the second half, which included a hustle single that broke up a fledgling prefect-game bid on July 20.

He carried his strong second half into the playoffs with a two-hit game – including a homer – in game one at West Virginia. In the final game of that series, he threw out Power runner Kevin Newman in the first inning of what turned out to be 1-0 win for Hickory.

In the championship series, he reached base four times over the first two games and knocked in three runs, but it is his throw in the final game that had the Crawdads players, coaches and players in awe.

The right field wall at Asheville’s McCormick Field is measured at 297 feet from home plate to the foul pole, 320 in the gap – the approximate distance of a football field.

It is from that distance that right fielder Jairo Beras made what Hickory Crawdads radio voice Jason Patterson called on the air “a throw Beras will tell his children and grandchildren about.”

The play developed with Nunez at first and two outs. Tourists hitter Roberto Ramos hit a low line drive to Beras in right for single. Trying to come up the ball, it skipped past Beras and rolled to the wall. Beras sprinted back to recover from the mistake, gathered the ball, and from the wall, fired an on-target throw that hit catcher Jose Trevino chest high and easily beat the runner by several steps.

“He fired an absolute laser,” said Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale. “I just stood in awe and watched it. It was unbelievable.”

Said pitcher Shane McCain in the locker room, “I’ve never seen a throw like that before.”

Players that go onto the majors seem to have those moments that springboard them toward that level. Those that watched Beras in the 2015 playoffs may have just seen that leap.

SAL championship celebration

Jairo Beras (5) far right, celebrates with his teammates at the conclusion of the Hickory Crawdads sweep of Asheville in the SAL Championship Series (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

SAL Championship celebration photos

I missed the clinching game, but I did get a few pics of the celebration and a snapshot with the SAL trophy.

Welcome to McCormick (Photo by Mark Parker)

Welcome to McCormick (Photo by Mark Parker)

SAL Game three lineup (photo by Mark Parker)

SAL Game three lineup (photo by Mark Parker)

Pedro Payano (center) and Kelvin Vasquez (R) celebrating the SAL title (photo by Mark Parker

Pedro Payano (center) and Kelvin Vasquez (R) celebrating the SAL title (photo by Mark Parker

Scott Williams (L) and Luke Tendler (photo by Mark Parker)

Scott Williams (L) and Luke Tendler (photo by Mark Parker)

Hitting coach Francisco Matos (L) and Eduard Pinto (photo by Mark Parker

Hitting coach Francisco Matos (L) and Eduard Pinto (photo by Mark Parker

(L to R) Eduard Pinto, Juremi Profar, Edwin Garcia, Michael DeLeon (photo by Mark Parker

(L to R) Eduard Pinto, Juremi Profar, Edwin Garcia, Michael DeLeon (photo by Mark Parker

Jose Trevino (L) and Mark Parker (photo by Mark Parker)

Jose Trevino (L) and Mark Parker (photo by Mark Parker)

Clubhouse celebration (photo by Mark Parker)

Clubhouse celebration (photo by Mark Parker)

MGR Corey Ragsdale addressing the players (L to R) Jairo Beras, Austin Pettibone, Nick Gardewine, Pedro Payano, Luke Tendler Edwin Garcia (photo by Mark Parker)

MGR Corey Ragsdale addressing the players (L to R) Jairo Beras, Austin Pettibone, Nick Gardewine, Pedro Payano, Luke Tendler Edwin Garcia (photo by Mark Parker)

(L to R) Collin Wiles, Brett Martin, Shane McCain (photo by Mark Parker)

(L to R) Collin Wiles, Brett Martin, Shane McCain (photo by Mark Parker)

Players back to front: Carlos Arroyo, Yohander Mendez, Ariel Jurado, Kelvin Vasquez, Eduard Pinto, Josh Morgan, Jose Cardona, (unknown), Luis Ortiz (photo by Mark Parker)

Players back to front: Carlos Arroyo, Yohander Mendez, Ariel Jurado, Kelvin Vasquez, Eduard Pinto, Josh Morgan, Jose Cardona, (unknown), Luis Ortiz (photo by Mark Parker)

A pic with the SAL trophy (photo by Mark Parker)

A pic with the SAL trophy (photo by Mark Parker)

The Anthem Singer: An Undefeated Season at LP Frans

(The following does not represent the views of the Hickory Crawdads, its management, staff or players, nor of Crawdadsbeat.com, or its blogger… it’s tongue-n-cheek, enjoy)

Most of my time at the ballpark is spent as the official scorer for the Hickory Crawdads. I make decisions that affect the livelihoods of ball players, manager and coaches all across the South Atlantic League. I carefully weigh the pros and cons of every call and rule with an iron first. I am firm, but fair, leaving all parties basking in the glow of my baseball knowledge and wisdom.

But a side task is the infrequent rendering of the National Anthem. It is a task in which I feel great honor in performing. I’m usually called upon when there is a no-show, or a night when they couldn’t get a live body to come out. So I sing.

My offering of the anthem is short, sweet, and to the point. There are no 47-note melismas per line, no three-syllable words for “by: (buh-eye-ee), no five seconds to sing the word “light” (Lie –hah-hah-huh- high-ee-yi).

There are no key changes when it gets too high. I do not sing it as a rock ballad, or a song you might use to bury your mother to. There is nowhere that Francis Scott Key is to believe to have said, “I spent half the night awake afraid for my life, but we kicked the British’s tails, so I wrote this poem. I hope someone writes a mournful dirge to it.” I sing it in 3/4 time, not 4/4.

It is for this reason that I believe I am the favorite anthem singers of ball players everywhere around the South Atlantic League. I know all the words, and the other than the occasional battle with phlegm and a gnat flying around my face, there is no drama. I get on, gather everyone for 65 seconds of their time, and then hand the microphone back and go sit back in the press box for my scorekeeping duties. Long ago, I have come to terms that no one has paid so much as a nickel to hear me sing the national anthem.

I’ve done this for 11 years now, but this year something magical has happened with the anthem. I believe I may have had a hand in the SAL championship run. You see, this season, the Hickory Crawdads went 13-0 when I sang the anthem.

I first noticed this trend about a month ago when I was 6-0. I told the community relations director Megan Meade about this and so we began to test the luck as the playoffs approached.

First try with the knowledge of the streak vs. Charleston on Aug. 28… winner.

Two separate games vs. Rome in the final five games of the season … winners both.

It was soon playoff time, but not without fear. Down one game to none against West Virginia and the tough Stephen Tarpley, I sang. It was a see-saw battle, but the righteousness of my anthem lingered over the field. And the Crawdads were inspired and they won.

In the decisive game three, against pitcher of the year Yeudys Garcia, the notes stayed into the hearts of the brave boys on the field. And they won… 1-0.  I was greeted in the clubhouse with a hero’s welcome. It went something along the lines of, “You are (blanking) singing the (blanking) anthem against Asheville, right?”

So I put my 11-0 record on the line Monday in game one of the SAL championship series… and they won. And the chants grew, “Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark!”… or maybe it was a player yelling at me in the clubhouse (Yeah, you Joe Filomeno!).

On Tuesday, the legend had grown to 12-0. Would it be an unlucky 13th game that would do us all in? Not on your life! Another win in the final home game of the season!  13-0.

The last I saw of Megan Meade, sh was in a conversation with the Asheville GM as to whether or not they had an anthem slot open for the games at McCormick Field.

I have suggested that should the Crawdads go on to win the SAL championship, two things should happen. One, I get a ring. I mean… 13-0. And two, the microphone is permanently retired, dipped in gold and hung in the press box for all to see and recall the miracle at Frans.

And if the Crawdads lose on Thursday, I may show up unannounced on the field at McCormick and hijack the anthem.

Looking at my best side, I put my spell upon the unwittingly vexed Asheville Tourists in the SAL Championship opener. (photo courtesy of Crystal Cook)

Looking at my best side, I put my spell upon the unwittingly vexed Asheville Tourists in the SAL Championship opener. (photo courtesy of Crystal Cook)

SAL Championship Game 2 Story: Asheville at Hickory

For the second straight game, the Hickory Crawdads took an early lead. They then used five pitchers to shut down the Asheville Tourists 3-1 Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. The Crawdads now lead the best-of-five series 2-0. After a day off Wednesday. the remaining games shift to Asheville’s McCormick Field starting on Thursday with a game time at 7:05 p.m.

The Crawdads are seeking the club’s third SAL title, the first since 2004. Hickory also claimed the 2002 championship.

What Happened?:

Hickory put together four hits to score two in the second against Tourists starter Ryan Castellani. Edwin Garcia and Eduard Pinto sandwiched singles around a fly out. After Juremi Profar struck out, Carlos Arroyo slapped a soft liner into left to score Garcia. Castellani walked Jose Cardona to load the bases and then took a liner from Dylan Moore off the foot that scored Pinto.

In the fourth, Profar reached when Josh Fuentes’ throw short hopped Roberto Ramos at first. A sac bunt from Arroyo and Cardona’s single pushed Profar to third before he scored on Moore’s grounder to third.

Nineteen days after injuring his hip, Brett Martin returned to the hill and threw a brilliant start. He allowed just two hits and struck out four while pitching to just one over the minimum.

Facing Adam Dian, the Tourists put the first two on before a sac bunt put the runners at second and third. Cesar Galvez ripped a run-scoring single to score Roberto Ramos scoring on the play. After a mound visit by Oscar Marin, Dian got Yonathan Daza to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

The similar script played out in the sixth for the Tourists against reliever Shane McCain. A walk and hit batter put runners and first and second with one out. Again after a mound visit by Marin, McCain got Dom Nunez to roll into a 6-4-3 double play.

That set up Luis Ortiz to enter the game in the seventh and throw two scoreless innings of relief. He struck out three and allowed one hit to earn the scorer’s decision win.

Scott Williams hurled a perfect ninth to get his third save of the playoffs.

Martinized:

After a 19-day layoff, the unknown of what Brett Martin would provide on the mound was the story line prior to the game. It is fair to say that all is well with the 20-year-old as he retired the first seven hitters of the game and 11 of the 13 he faced.

“After the first throw I had in warmups, I knew I was going to be fine,” Martin said. “Everything felt right and was going well. The hip fell great and then I got up there on the mound and just relaxed and stayed calm and did what I know to do.”

His most dominant inning came in the second when he struck out the side – the last two on six pitches. By my count, Martin finished with 52 pitches, throwing 37 strikes. He missed 11 bats with the changeup especially effective, garnering six of the swing-and-misses (4 on fastballs at 91-93, 1 curve).

“I threw it a lot more playing catch the past three weeks that probably I have all season,” said Martin. “I’m just trying to get comfortable with that pitch again. I knew I was going to need it against them to keep them off balance.”

His dominance didn’t go unnoticed by manager Corey Ragsdale, who had said prior to the game Martin would be limited to four innings.

Said Ragsdale of Martin’s outing, “Wow! Coming back and throwing like that, that’s obviously huge setting the tone.”

Middle Management:

Unused in the playoffs prior to Tuesday night, Adam Dian and Shane McCain were put into a tight ball game following Martin’s brilliant work. Their job was simply to bridge the gap to Luis Ortiz in the seventh. The two relievers shook off the rust and made big pitches to get out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings.

Dian – eight days removed from his last appearance – was shaky at the start and it seemed the Tourists line was glad to see someone other than Martin. Roberto Ramos lined an 0-1 slider to right before Dian walked Josh Fuentes on four pitches.

“It didn’t start out the way that I wanted it to,” said Dian. “But I was pretty happy the way that I was able to work out of it and at least limit the damage. It’s pretty tough to pitch when you haven’t thrown in a while, but it’s not an excuse. I thought I made some good pitches off the bat, but I was up a little bit and they took advantage of that. “

After Galvez’s RBI single, Oscar Marin made a mound visit to help Dian gather himself.

“He just told me to take a deep breath and trust my stuff,” Dian said. “He was thinking that I was kind of letting the game get to me a little bit. It was speeding up; you get two runners on right off the bat and it’s a little tough for you to calm down and stay focused on what you need to do. He just wanted to give me a breather and make sure I had my mind straight before I faced that next hitter.”

Dian served up a 2-1 fastball away to Yonathan Daza to get the 4-6-3 double play and keep the Tourists at bay 3-1.

After 11 days off, lefty Shane McCain came in and also struggled at first with fastball command and then the slider in putting two men on.

“I was a little tight,” McCain said. “It did feel a little weird to be out there. I hadn’t been out there in a week or so, or maybe more. I really just had to trust my stuff. I was having trouble keeping my slider in the zone. That’s been my best pitch. I wasn’t able to start it where I wanted to, where I needed to.”

Another mound visit by Marin brought on an adjustment by McCain with the slider.

“I knew I had to start my slider more behind the lefthanders,” said McCain. “Once I did that, I got the two ground balls that I needed and luckily I got out of it.”

Facing LH hitter Dom Nunez with one out after the mound visit, McCain’s slider away was rolled to Edwin Garcia at short for the easy twin-killing.

“Those two guys right there, they went through the heart of the lineup,” said Ragsdale. “So, those two guys were huge for us tonight.”

Dian said that although he and McCain were both out of sorts after not pitching in a regular routine, they were still expected to do their jobs in the ball game.

Dian said, “That’s what Ragsdale asks of us, to come and to our job. It’s nice when you don’t have to have somebody come bail you out and you’re able to finish your inning. Obviously, it could’ve gone a number of different ways for both of us. I thought we both did a good job. We just gutted it out. We didn’t have our best stuff today, but we were able to minimize the damage. Shane did a hell of a job getting out of that situation.”

Ortiz Breaking Down Wall:

Luis Ortiz didn’t have the sharp command of his fastball, but he didn’t need to either. Omar Carrizales was able to expose that in the seventh when he worked the count full and then drilled a high slider for a single. Ortiz got out of the inning with no further damage.

Ortiz then cranked up the slider in the eighth, using three straight to fan Daza. He got away with a poorly placed fastball that Rogers lined hard to second to bring up Forrest Wall, the number 4 second base prospect in the minors (mlb.com). Ortiz struck out Wall on three pitches, swinging through a changeup, fastball and slider.

Domineering Williams:

After getting Shane Hoelscher to fly to right, Williams worked through a nine-pitch battle with Dom Nunez, finally getting him to undercut a high fastball that went lazily to right. A first-pitch slider to Ramos was rolled easily to second.

Moore and Moore:

Dylan Moore continues a strong playoff run with a couple of hits and an RBI. He stayed on Castellani’s slider in the first for a single, then was able to gear up for the fastball that was lined off Castellani’s foot for the RBI hit. Moore pulled off an away fastball in the fourth, but got enough on it to score the runner from third.

Castellani’s Early Struggles:

The 19-year-old threw a fastball that ranged 93-95 mph that at times had a slider look. However, he is a pitcher that relies on keeping the ball down (1.30 GO/AO) and the inability to do that early cost him. Six of the nine hits against him were hard liners with seven of his outs coming on liners or fly outs. He dodged a bullet in the fifth when Juremi Profar ripped a line drive that went straight to Fuentes at third. The catch likely saved two runs.

Defensive Woes Continue:

A lazy throw by Fuentes to first allowed Profar to reach and score in the fourth to make it a three-run lead. In the fifth with Beras at first, Pinto lifted a bloop single to left center. Beras running on contact made it easily to third, the left fielder Carrizales threw to third anyway, which allowed Pinto to move up to second.

Small Ball, Small Expectations:

Down two runs in the fourth, the Tourists got a base hit from Wes Rogers to start the inning. Rather than taking a chance with leading base stealer (46 steals) to try and get to second on his own, Asheville chose to use Wall – the number one draft pick and No. 4 second base prospect, who had a .288/.355/.438 slash as a 19-year-old – as a bunter. The sacrifice worked, but Rogers advanced no further.

In the fifth after the Tourists put the first two runners on, they chose to use their SAL all-star leftfielder – who as a 20-year-old posted a .286/.333/.410 slash and hit into one double play all year – as a bunter. The sacrifice was successful and a run was scored, but it also proved crucial when a double play ended the inning.

It seems to me those were opportunities for the Tourists to try and siphon some momentum by letting a player make a play. But managers manage to a fault at times and this appeared to be a case of overmanaging.

Shutting down the running game:

Not enough can be said as to how well the Crawdads during the series have shut down the running game of the Tourists, who stole 258 bases this season. The pitchers have been relentless at keeping the runners close and allowing the catcher Trevino to make plays. He’s thrown out both runners trying to steal in the series, including the lone attempt on Wednesday.

SAL Championship Game 1 Story: Asheville at Hickory

Game Story: Asheville Tourists at Hickory Crawdads (Game 1, SAL Championship)

The Hickory Crawdads never trailed in taking the first game of the best-of-five series by a score of 7-2 over the visiting Asheville Tourists Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. Game two of the SAL Championship will take place at Frans with the first pitch at 7 p.m. After a day of Wednesday, the series picks back up Thursday at McCormick Field in Asheville.

The Crawdads are two wins away for their third SAL title in club history, the first since 2004.

What Happened?:

The Crawdads took the lead in the second inning against Helmis Rodriguez when Edwin Garcia and Jairo Beras led off the inning with back-to-back doubles to the left field corner.

Luke Tendler made it 2-0 when he cranked his first homer of the playoffs, a towering shot to right over the billboards.

That was more than enough for Crawdads starter Pedro Payano, who threw a six-hitter over six innings and struck out eight. The right-hander struck out six straight at one point.

Hickory added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth with the key play coming on a defensive miscue. With one out and runners on first and second, Jairo Beras lifted a fly ball to Wes Rogers in deep center. As Tendler tagged and moved to third, the throw to the infield from Rogers was a high-arching throw. Seeing the throw, manager Corey Ragsdale coaching at third waved Tendler around and he scored without a throw home. Eduard Pinto then ripped a double to center to score Edwin Garcia from first and put the Crawdads up 4-0.

In the eighth, Dylan Moore reached on a three-base error when Max White dropped a routine fly ball in left. Jose Trevino singled up the middle through the drawn-in infield to score Moore and then scored on Tendler’s double to center. After Garcia struck out, Jairo Beras drove a triple to center to bring in Tendler for the final run.

Asheville broke through in the ninth when Shane Hoelscher homered to left-center against Dillon Tate. The homer broke a 21-inning shutout streak by Crawdads pitching.

Four-Pitch Pedro:

Payano, the 20-year-old from San Francisco de Macoris, D.R., continued a strong end-of-the season run for the Crawdads and is making a bid for a top-30 prospect spot. Along with catcher Trevino’s pitch selection, the two did a masterful job of mixing speeds and keeping the Tourists hitters off stride much of the night. Payano offered a fastball sitting 91-93 mph to go with a change, his most effective secondary pitch. He also threw a 12-to-6 curve and an occasional slider.

Payano needed 79 pitches to get through six innings, tossing 55 strikes. Of the 55 strikes, 17 missed bats on four different pitches, 15 of those on secondaries (8 CHs, 4 curves, 3 sliders). Both looking Ks came in the second with fastballs on the corner.

“He’s been a special kid ever since he got here,” said Ragsdale. “To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about him when he got here.  He’s exceeded my expectations and has been a real pickup. He’s fit right in with the rest of the starters that have been really good helped us out. He was very good tonight.”

Hustling Pays off:

I’m sure the players hear the same manager-speak about busting tail and I’m sure it gets old as routine play after routine play is made. On Monday, it paid off twice and was and the two plays were the turning points of the game.

On Jairo Beras’ fly ball in the sixth, Tendler sprinted from second to third in such a manner that when Ragsdale from the third-base coaches’ box saw Rogers make the lollipop throw back to the infield, he decided to take a chance to send Tendler.

“Very surprised, it kind of shocked me a little bit,” said Tendler when asked of his reaction at the time. “That was a big run to give us a three-run lead. It was game-changer for us.”

Ragsdale said that with two outs, it was worth taking a shot to get a third run against Helmis Rodriguez and give an additional cushion to the pen. It also seemed to increase the momentum for his team.

“It seemed maybe they got down a little bit and it seemed to pick our spirits up a little bit,” Ragsdale said. “We were able to go on from there and put another good inning together.”

In the eighth, Moore sprinted from the start as his fly ball sailed into medium left field. When White dropped the ball, Moore was already well past second base and easily slid into third. Trevino then worked a 3-1 count before bouncing a Jerad McCrummen fastball into center.

 

Heart of the Order at the Heart of Success:

The number 3-6 hitters reached base eight times with six hits – five for extra bases – with five runs scored and six RBI.

Trevino’s leadoff walk started the sixth inning rally and he singled and scored in the eighth.

Tendler homered in the fourth, walked and scored in the sixth, doubled and scored in the eighth.

Garcia doubled and scored in the second, reached on a fielder’s choice and scored in the sixth.

Beras put up an RBI double to left in the second, an RBI triple to center in the eighth and had the key sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Filomeno Performs Well:

Joe Filomeno’s fastball-slider mix overpowered the Tourists during his two innings. He struck out two in the seventh, missing bats for strike three on a slider and a fastball. The lone hit was a leadoff single in the eighth, a grounder up the middle by Josh Fuentes. A double play followed by Yonathan Daza to end the threat.

Tate mixed reviews:

It was a little surprising to see Dillon Tate pitch with a seven-run lead in the ninth. However, because he had warmed up in the eighth, rather than wasting him on Monday – and likely not have him available for Tuesday – the decision was made to use him.

Forrest Wall started the minor rally for the Tourists in the ninth with a broken bat, bloop single to shallow center. From there, Tate seemed to struggle with fastball command. Hoelscher blasted 96 mph middle and slightly up for a homer just to the left of straight-away center.

An error by Juremi Profar at third extended the inning. After striking out Roberto Ramos, LH hitter Max White turned on a fastball in for a single to right.

Tate’s slider ended the night when Josh Fuentes flied out to center.

 

Defense Saves Tourists Early:

While their defense would let them down late, the Tourists kept the Crawdads at bay early with a couple of nice plays in the field.

With a runner at second with two outs in the first, Tendler smoked a sharp grounder up the middle. SS Luis Jean, playing near the bag to hold the runner Dylan Moore, made a quick pick of a short-hop at the cut of the outfield grass before a strong throw to first completed the out.

In the second with runners at the corner and one out, Ramos handled a one-hopper on the grass from Carlos Arroyo to start a 3-6-3 double play and save a run.

Base running Blunders Costly:

Rogers broke up Payano’s strikeout streak with two outs in the third when he fisted a changeup into shallow left for a hit. He then tried to stretch the play into a double, but was out easily as Eduard Pinto threw a bullet to Moore at second for the tag.

One inning later, Wall and Hoelscher each singled to start the fourth inning. With cleanup hitter Dom Nunez at the plate, Wall took off for third and was cut down easily on Trevino’s throw. The bigger blunder happened when Hoelscher stayed at first on the play. After Nunez struck out, the mistake was magnified when Ramos steered a slow bouncing single through the hole at second – a hit that with two outs would’ve likely scored Hoelscher.