Game story

Defense Dooms Crawdads; Asheville Takes Series Finale 5-3

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.

Game story

Pitching and Defense the Difference in Tourists Win

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.