Game story Uncategorized

Crawdads Cap Tough Month with a Walk-off Win

On the brink of another loss to Delmarva (Md.) to end a dreadful homestand on the final game of a tough month, the Hickory Crawdads on Sunday erased a five-run deficit over the final three innings, which was capped by a wild pitch that scored a runner from second base to end a three-run, ninth-inning rally and beat the Shorebirds 7-6 at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win for Hickory (8-14) ended both its four-game losing streak and the Shorebirds (16-8) four-game winning streak. The Crawdads also avoided the first sweep by the Shorebirds at L.P. Frans Stadium since July 2008.

The walk-off win was the first by Hickory since defeating the Shorebirds on July 9, 2017 on a solo homer by Blaine Prescott. It was also the first walk-off win by a wild pitch for Hickory since May 23, 2013 when the Crawdads capped a five-run 12th innings as Jordan Akins scored against Kannapolis.

The Crawdads entered the game with a total of six runs over the first five meetings with Delmarva and it looked like they would be snake bit again. After Seamus Curran put Delmarva ahead with a two-run single in the third, the Crawdads cut the deficit in half when Melvin Novoa doubled in Miguel Aparicio. Novoa went to third on the throw home and it appeared he would score the tying run when Sam Huff lined a single up the middle. However, Huff’s liner struck the base umpire and Novoa was sent back to third. Yohel Pozo then fouled out to right to end the inning.

Delmarva’s 2-1 lead increased by four in the seventh when the Shorebirds put the first four on base against reliever Dario Beltre. Jean Carrillo homered, Branden Becker and TJ Nichting both singled and scored on Mason McCoy’s triple. Josh Advocate entered and struck out the first two he faced before Will Robertson lined an RBI double to make it 6-1.

Hickory cut the lead by a run in the seventh but missed a chance for more after loading the bases with one out. The Crawdads settled for an Eric Jenkins RBI grounder.

In the eighth, Scott Burke walked Novoa and Huff to open the inning. Both runners advanced on Pozo’s deep fly to right and scored when Tyler Ratliff got enough on a soft liner to left for a single. Reliever Alex Katz entered and induced Kole Enright to ground into a double play.

The Shorebirds had a chance to increase the 6-4 lead in the ninth as they worked two walks and a hit batter. However, Grant Zawadzki started a 1-6-3 double play during the inning and he struck out Ryen Ripken to get through unscathed.

Delmarva entered the game statistically as the best defensive team in the South Atlantic League but it was its defense that played a hand in the decisive ninth. With one out, Yonny Hernandez and Jenkins walked. Aparicio chopped a bouncer back to Katz on what appeared to be a game-inning double play. Katz initially dropped the ball but recovered and threw to second on time only to have the shortstop McCoy drop the ball allowing Jenkins to reach to load the bases.

Reed Hayes was brought in to face Novoa, who lined a hard single to left to bring in Hernandez and Jenkins to tie the game. On the play, Delmarva missed a chance for an out as when the throw from left fielder Zach Jarrett skipped away past home, Novoa was caught between first and second as Aparicio remained at second on the overthrow. A throw to first from Hayes, who had backed up the play, was in plenty of time to get Novoa, but Ripken never turned to apply the tag as Novoa sneaked by.

With Huff at the plate, a wild pitch by Hayes skipped away from the catcher Carrillo. With the runners taking off, Novoa was caught in a rundown on his way to second. Though he was tagged out after the fourth throw of the play, Novoa stayed in the rundown long enough to allow Aparicio to sprint from second to home to score the winning run.


Novoa’s day: The 21-year-old returned behind the plate for the first time since taking a pitch off the right knee in a game against Greensboro on Wednesday. He certainly played a big part of the outcome on Sunday in the batter’s box and defensively.

Novoa went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a walk. (The one out was a hard liner to short.) He had two of the four hits allowed by Hall, including a run-scoring hit in the third.

“He’s a good pitcher,” said Novoa. “But when I go up to home plate and I make good contact I can have a good moment. I want to help my team for at bat and every pitch. It was a good moment for the team and we want it to continue.”

Novoa threw out McCoy attempting to steal in the fifth, the fifth runner nailed out of six trying to steal this season. Manager Matt Hagen said that Novoa blocked seven balls in the dirt as well.

On the game’s final play, Novoa said, “When I got into the rundown, I think I was able to cause some confusion and Miguel was able to score and win the game. “

Game story Uncategorized

Game Story 4/14/17: Kannapolis Dials Long Distance to Defeat Hickory

Toothless at the plate much of the early season, the Kannapolis Intimidators muscled up three homers in support of three pitchers in an 8-4 win over the Hickory Crawdads in front of 2,525 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium Friday night.

The win snapped the Intimidators three-game losing streak, as well as the Crawdads three-game winning streak.


What Happened

Hickory took a 1-0 lead in the first as Leody Taveras hit the first pitch from Bernardo Flores into the right field corner for a triple. A wild pitch later scored him.

Kannapolis used an error to get even in the third. After Joel Booker walked, Mitch Roman singled him to third and then Booker scored with LF Yanio Perez’s throw to third clanked off Booker’s helmet.

Brandon Dulin’s second homer of the season put the Intimidators in the lead 2-1 in the fourth.  One inning later, Booker singled with two outs, stole second and scored on Jameson Fisher’s single to right.

The Crawdads got a run back in the sixth. Perez led off with a single and worked his way to third on successive grounders to third. Travis Bolin singled in Perez and the Crawdads eventually loaded the bases with two outs. Alex Katz entered the game and struck out Brallan Perez to end the threat.

Fisher unloaded a two-run blast off the scoreboard in right-center in the eighth and Seby Zavala added a solo shot to make it 6-3.

Hickory eased back into the game briefly in the bottom of the inning. Jose Almonte and Isaias Quiroz each walked. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base and Perez’s single scored Almonte. Taveras came to the plate as the tying run, but Lane Hobbs struck him out to end the threat.

Kannapolis pushed two more runs across in the ninth before Preston Scott’s sacrifice fly scored Yeyson Yrizarri in the bottom of the inning to account for the final margin.


Book it:

Roman went 4-for-4 with a walk, Fisher, Dulin and Zavala homered, but Joel Booker had the key at-bats of the game.

Booker saw 34 pitches during his five plate appearances and it was his persistent patience that played into a big night. With two outs and the bases empty in the third, Booker worked a walk. He made an aggressive play to go first to third and it paid off when Perez’s throw hit him in the helmet and led to a run.

In the fifth, Hickory starter Emerson Martinez needed just eight pitches to get the first two outs. Martinez got ahead 0-2 but was unable to put Booker away, who worked the count full before steering a single to left. Martinez went on to throw 28 pitches in the inning and inflated his pitch count to 76 and cost him a chance to go deeper into the game.

With two outs in the ninth, Booker again fell behind 0-2 before working the count even and eventually made contact on a swinging bunt up the first base line to score Max Dutto.


Flowers Blooming:

Hickory reliever made his first appearance of the season in the sixth. His debut was delayed after he got ill upon his arrival in Hickory. Flowers threw 93-94 mph and mixed in the slider with ease missing three bats. He struck out two during a perfect inning.



My memory of Emerson Martinez was a guy that threw low 90s, mixed in a change and slider and a bit of guile to get hitters out. According to the Rangers pitch trackers, Martinez was hitting 95 mph. His change at time had the Intimidators off balance, but as seen above, he was unable to finish off innings with a put-away pitch. After getting 12 of 15 outs via the whiff and groundball in his first start at Greensboro, had just 9 of 15 on Friday.


Yrizarri scuffling:

The Kannapolis staff has taken the step of throwing breaking balls to Yeyson Yrizarri and it made him look silly. He fanned in his first two at-bats – five swing-and-misses for the game, all on breaking balls – then was out on his front foot during back-to-back grounders. Up five runs in the ninth, the Intimidators threw a first-pitch fastball the Yrizarri rifled to the wall in left-center.


Baserunning boo=boos:

Both sides had some curious baserunning plays that potentially cost the team runs. In the no-harm-no-foul category. In the second, Brallan Perez appeared to take a couple of steps in reverse during a pop-up to second with two outs.

Ti’Quan Forbes delayed the turn at second, which proved costly during Preston Scott’s down double the line in left. Forbes then tried to make up for lost time during a scamper to the plate, but was thrown out.

Kannapolis had a curious baserunning decision of its own in the fifth. Fisher’s double scored Booker from second. Roman trailed behind at third and held up with two outs while the throw went to second.


Defensive gems:

3B Ti’Quan Forbes continues to shine defensively and he in the eighth contributed two more plays to his portfolio of artistic plays. He made a backhanded stab of a liner to the right of his knees as he spun backwards to keep his balance. But there was a better one to come. The inning concluded when Forbes stumbled left to corral a Zach Remillard ground, then from his knees, fired a strike to first for the out.

2B Brallan Perez started a double play in the second by snatching a quick short-hop during which he had to avoid the obstruction of the umpire. In the ninth, Perez had his feet slip on the wet track, but he was able to reach back over his right shoulder to take a high hop and complete the out at first.

Player Interviews Uncategorized

Storming the Pros: An Interview with Hickory Crawdads Tyler Sanchez and Kannapolis Intimidators Alex Katz

Hickory Crawdads catcher Tyler Sanchez and Kannapolis Intimidators pitcher Alex Katz were teammates during the 2015 season at St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y. The Red Storm captured the Big East regular season title last year and then went on to capture the tournament title as well, which was played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb, home of the College World Series.

St. John’s reached the final of the NCAA regional at Stillwater, Okla., – knocking out the host Cowboys in the process – before bowing to Arkansas.

From the team that finished 44-10, the Red Storm had six players drafted in baseball’s 2015 first-year player draft out of the 11 total that were taken from Big East Conference. From among that group, Sanchez was taken by the Texas Rangers in the 17th round, while Katz was selected in the 27th round by the Chicago White Sox.

Both Katz and Sanchez credit long-time head coach Ed Blankmeyer for running a pro-style type of baseball program that helped them and their teammates to be selected by major league clubs. The six taken last June continued a long line of success since Blankmeyer took over the head coaching duties of the Red Storm in 1996. According to, 58 players have been selected in the June draft while Blankmeyer has led the program.

Sanchez and Katz faced each other for the first time last Saturday (April 9) in a game at Kannapolis. In the eighth inning of that game, Sanchez lined a first-pitch fastball over the fence in left. It was the first homer that Katz had allowed since his sophomore year in 2013.

In the interview below, Sanchez and Katz talked about the 2015 draft-day experience and beyond, as well as the homer hit by Sanchez against his former teammate.


What was draft day like for all you guys at St. John’s?

Sanchez: I’m sure it was a good time. Personally, I really wasn’t expecting to get drafted. I was more getting prepared for summer ball for that upcoming season. We ended up getting six guys drafted, five signed. It just showed how good our team was, at least pitching wise. We were pretty successful and hopefully we’ll all have pretty good careers.

Katz: I‘d say I was pretty nervous. I was the last one taken out of the six. It was definitely great seeing all my teammates get drafted and then see my name pop up. So that made it even better. Like Tyler said, it just showed how great the program is.


You had a head coach that has been around a good while. What did he do to prepare you guys for the pros? What are some things that you learned that you’ll carry into this part of your baseball careers?

Katz: I’d say that college ball and pro ball are pretty similar. It’s a daily grind, definitely. The day is pretty much similar, besides the fact that you go to school every day. I learned that because Coach Blankmeyer of St. John’s runs it pretty much like a pro style of baseball program.


Tyler, in talking about that, what maybe does your program do that perhaps other college programs do not do that prepares you guys?

Sanchez: I can’t really speak on other programs. But I know that at St. John’s, Blankmeyer doesn’t baby anybody. He tells you how it is and if you don’t like it, so be it. I think that prepares a lot of guys for pro ball.


So you guys that have started pro ball last June, do the six of you banter back and forth or text back and forth on how things are going?

Sanchez: We’ve got a little group chat going on. We get together and talk about it like once a month, maybe, just to see how everybody’s doing.


What, Alex is something that the six of you have talked about in your chat to each other about pro ball and adjusting to that? Maybe the mental side of it?  Is there something that is consistent to all of your experiences?

Katz: I think it’s pretty similar, no matter where you are in the country, no matter what organization or what team you play for. It’s pretty much the same experience. You’re basically getting there at 1:30 for a 7:00 start and playing ball all day and all night….so we could definitely relate to one another.


Did you two talk before you faced each other last weekend? Was there a little trash talk going on?

Katz: Actually a lot. We said hi to each other during batting practice. The last time we saw each other was a couple of months ago at St. John’s when we were working out in the offseason. After he hit that home run off of me, I texted him and said, “You’re welcome.” I’ve probably given him less credit than he deserves because, I told him that he knows me better than any player in the country.


As a catcher you’ve seen his stuff and you probably have an idea as to what was coming?

Sanchez: I wouldn’t say I had an idea. I knew he wanted to get ahead. I faced him a lot in the past, but I hadn’t really had very good success, like at intersquads and stuff. I was lucky to get a ball that I could hit.


Any thought of bat flipping?

Sanchez: No


Was there any sort of chitter-chat as you rounded the bases?

Sanchez: Nah, there was nothing like that. I try to keep it classy.

Katz: I told the shortstop he should’ve tossed his glove up because it was a line-drive missile right over the fence. He hit it good, but it was almost eye level.


Was there any chit-chat after?

Katz: Give credit to him, he hasn’t had much success off me in intersquads, but when it counts, I guess that’s all that matters. I’m probably going to face him a few more times this season, so I can’t tell him my game plan.


One year you’re teammates and the next year you’re enemies, as that’s what happens in baseball. Do you discuss, “hey watch out for Alex’s stuff.”, or do you say, “watch out for Tyler and what he does? Is there any sort of banter back and forth on that scale?

Sanchez: Not really. Once you’ve been around long enough, you’re going to see guys and you’re going to see what they’ve got. I let people do their own thing. I don’t want to say something and give them the wrong thing. So, I just let everybody do their own thing.

 Katz: I go along with what Tyler said. It’s a little different for him, he’s a position player. He’s in the dugout and he’s talking to the hitters. I guess I’m in the bullpen and I’m talking to all the relief pitchers. We’re going to face the guys many times throughout the year and you just have to make adjustments quickly… Every pitcher’s different, so it’s really hard to tell, based on scouting reports and things like that.


Has Blankmeyer talked with the two of you since you were drafted?

Katz: Both of us have worked out together in the offseason in the weight room. We actually help out some of the guys on the current St. John’s team… As far as calling during the season, we’re both kind of busy, so we don’t always get together on the phone. In the offseason we talk a lot.


What is the biggest memory from the Big East Championship?

 Sanchez: Taking it home and winning it, of course. Having our Saturday guy go down to the pen without anybody telling him to and coming in  the last inning and close it out for us.


And closing it out on the College World Series field?

Sanchez: A great atmosphere. Obviously, not as packed as we’d like it, but as a playing surface, you can’t get much better than that.


Sanchez Katz
Former college teammates P Alex Katz (L) of Kannapolis and C Tyler Sanchez of Hickory