Results tagged ‘ Columbia Fireflies ’
Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (10-2, 2nd Northern Division)
Columbia Fireflies (New York Mets) (6-7, 4th Southern Divisioin)
The Hickory Crawdads take a quick roadtrip to Segra Park for a three-game series against the Fireflies
IF YOU PLAN TO GO:
WHERE IS IT?: From Hickory, take Hwy 321 South to Gastonia, then I-85 North towards Charlotte. Take exit 30 to the I-485 outer loop, then I-77 South toward Columbia. Take I-77 to 277 South to Columbia. Take the Farrow Road/SC-555 exit. Turn left onto Farrow Road/SC-555. Continue onto Colonial Drive. Turn left onto Gregg Street. Turn right onto Freed Street. The ballpark is located on the left side of the street.
GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:
Thursday: 7:05 p.m. (Copa de la Diversion, Thirsty Thursday)
Friday: 7:05 p.m. (Copa de la Diversion, Chicharrones Piggy Bank Giveaway to first 1,500 fans)
Saturday: 6:05 p.m. (Copa de la Diversion, ZOOperstars Appearance, Post-game Fireworks)
TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.
PARKING: All parking is $3.
RECENT SERIES HISTORY:
The Crawdads have had decent success against the Fireflies since their move from Savannah (Ga.) after the 2015 season. Over the three seasons since the Fireflies relocation to Columbia, the Crawdads are 15-9 overall, 8-3 in Columbia. Last year, Hickory held a 4-3 edge in the season series with a split in the four-game series in South Carolina.
PROBABLES (Hickory/ Columbia)
Thursday: RHP Ronny Henriquez vs. RHP Christian James
Friday: RHP Jean Casanova vs. RHP Dedniel Nunez
Saturday: LHP John King vs. RHP Woods Richardson
The Crawdads polished off a 4-2 homestand with a win on Wednesday morning over Asheville. Hickory took 2 of 3 in that series. They’ll take to the road for the second time this season after posting a 6-1 mark during the season-opening trip to Lakewood (N.J.) and Greensboro.
Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)
Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):
RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 83 in top-100)
SS Chris Seise No. 12
IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18
C Sam Huff No. 21
3B Sherten Apostel No. 22
RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 30
Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley or Sam Huff; 1B Curtis Terry; 2B Frainyer Chavez or Jonathan Ornelas; 3B Sherten Apostel; SS Chris Seise; LF: Miguel Aparicio; CF: Pedro Gonzalez; RF: Jose Almonte.
Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 5th homers (3)
Sam Huff – Tied for 1st homers (4), tied for 4th total bases, 5th slugging pct. (.583), tied for 8th strikeouts
Chris Seise – Tied for 6th steals (5)
Curtis Terry – 1st RBI (19), tied for 1st homers (4), tied for 1st total bases, 2nd slugging pct. (.688), tied for 3rd doubles (6), 4th OPS (1.040), tied for 4th hits,
Matt Whatley – Tied for 10th walks
Tim Brennan – 5th WHIP (0.55)
Hans Crouse – 2nd WHIP (0.35), tied for 9th strikeouts (19)
Abdiel Mendoza – Tied for 3rd saves (2)
Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.238 (4th)/ .299 (10th)/ .422 (2nd)/ .721 (2nd).
Other key rankings: 1st home runs, 2nd runs, 2nd total bases, 2nd fewest caught stealing, 3rd stolen bases, 3rd doubles, T-4th hits, tied for 12th walks
Team Pitching: 1st ERA (1.92), 1st WHIP (0.90), fewest hits allowed, fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, 3rd fewest home runs allowed (2), fewest walks allowed, 4th strikeouts.
The Fireflies won three of their last four games to cap a seven-game roadtrip to Lexington (Ky.) and Rome (Ga.). Columbia was 3-3 during its first homestand to open the season.
Manager: Pedro Lopez (2nd season)
Prospects – Columbia (rankings by MLB.com):
SS Ronny Mauricio No. 3
3B Mark Vientos No. 4
RHP Woods Richardson No. 7
RHP Christian James No. 26
Possible Lineups: C: Juan Uriarte or Hayden Senger; 1B Brian Sharpe; 2B Chandler Avant or Walter Rasquin; 3B: Mark Vientos; SS: Ronny Mauricio; LF: Brad Marquez or Wagner Lagrange; CF: Anthony Dirocie; RF: Jose Miguel Medina.
Ronny Mauricio – Tied for 1st hits, 5th batting avg. (.346)
Jose Butto – Tied for 3rd hits allowed, tied for 7th runs allowed,
Jaiso Vilera – Tied for 5th earned runs allowed, tied for 6th hits allowed, tied for 9th runs allowed, tied for 9th walks
Ezequiel Zabaleta – 1st games pitched (7), tied for 1st saves (3)
Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.229 (7th)/ .295 (12th)/ .319 (10th)/ .614 (11th).
Other key rankings: 3rd fewest strikeouts, 11th home runs, 11th walks, tied for 11th doubles, 13th runs scored, last steals (3).
Team pitching: 3rd hits allowed, 3rd fewest walks allowed, 3rd fewest strikeouts, 4th earned runs allowed, 8th WHIP (1.27), 11th ERA (4.22)
NOTES OF INTEREST: Crawdads CF JP Martinez (Rangers No. 2 prospect) was promoted to High-A Down East on Wednesday… RHP Ronny Henriquez will make his stateside debut on Thursday. In 11 starts in the Dominican Summer League last season, the 18-year-old struck out 79 and walked 8 over 58 innings with a 1.55 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. He skipped two levels to join Hickory…Columbia is second in the SAL in fielding pct.
The Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies rallied back from an early deficit and salvaged the final game of a three-game series with an 8-3 win Friday night over the Hickory Crawdads at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The Fireflies (18-16) snapped a three-game losing streak and now return home to face Delmarva (Md.) in a four-game series. Meanwhile, the Crawdads (11-20) host Rome (Ga.) for four games starting Saturday night.
The Crawdads put up single runs in the first and second to build a 2-0 lead. Tyreque Reed singled in Miguel Aparicio and Sam Huff popped his second home run in as many games.
However, Columbia put together four straight hits to start the fourth. Scott Manea’s infield hit broke up a fledgling no-hit bid by A.J. Alexy. Gio Alfonzo followed that with a single and both runners scored on Hansel Moreno’s triple into the corner. Raphael Gladu singled in Moreno.
Matt Winaker blasted his second home run of the season in the first before Austin O’Banion got the run back by tripling in Reed to make it 4-3 Columbia.
Hickory missed a chance at a double play and that contributed to a two-run seventh. Quinn Brodey singled and then Jeremy Vasquez hit a grounder to Huff at first. Huff quickly fed a throw to Cristian Inoa who relayed the throw to the pitcher Joe Kuzia covering at first. Kuzia caught the ball but he was unable to find the bag behind him with his foot. Winaker walked before Rigoberto Terrazas and Manea each singled with Manea’s hit scoring Vasquez. A wild pitch scored Winaker and the Fireflies led 6-3.
Columbia added the final two runs on Brodey’s run-scoring double and Vasquez’s single.
The game’s turning point:
I didn’t get to see the dominant performance of Alexy at West Virginia last Friday, but if it was anything like the first inning on Friday, it must have been special. Alexy overmatched the Fireflies in the first, needing 11 pitches to get through the inning. The big right-hander threw all fastballs in the 93-95 mph range before he capped the first with a high-heat 96 that Brodey couldn’t catch up to.
The second inning gave clues as to the direction the remainder of Alexy’s start would go. A first-pitch curveball missed and then another one hit Vasquez. The fastball settled into the 92-93 range and began to miss spots. Winaker flew out to deep center and Terrazas drove a pitch to deep left. Both were outs, but both were squared up well. Manea was hit by a curveball – the umpire ruled he didn’t attempt to get out of the way – and then was walked on four straight. Alexy rebounded to paint the corner with a fastball to fan Alfonzo.
Though the Fireflies didn’t score, the third inning had much to do to foul up Alexy’s night. With one out, Gladu and Blake Tiberi both walked, as Alexy started to bring in the changeup for the second time through the order. Brodey joined them after he was hit by a pitch. Alexy completed the 28-pitch inning by striking out Vasquez and then Brodey. The Brodey strikeout seemed to charge the Crawdads battery as Yohel Pozo gave an emphatic fist pump when he left his crouch and ran to the dugout, while Alexy strutted resolutely from the mound.
Up to that point, the Crawdads hitters had the chance to feast on the offerings of Joe Cavallaro. Using a three-quarter delivery that occasionally dropped lower, the right-hander had trouble getting his slider to bite and the flat, middle-in changeups he served to Reed and Huff were punished accordingly. Combine that with an 87-88 fastball that Cavallaro had trouble spotting. With the Crawdads sending up hot hitters in the bottom of the third, the game seemed ready for the taking facing an ineffective pitcher that had thrown 41 pitches already. A long inning like the previous two would give Alexy a chance to regroup and give him a bigger cushion with which to work.
Reed grounded to short on three pitches. O’Banion struck out on four. Pozo lined to right on the first. Eight pitches total and a wearied Alexy was back to the mound.
The fourth started well as Alexy fanned Terrazas. However, an 0-2 breaking ball was beaten into the ground. Third baseman Ryan Dorow valiantly tried to make the run-and-grab throw to first but bounced it on what was ruled Columbia’s first hit of the game. The small leak in the dam became a steady flow as Alfonzo, Moreno and Gladu each squared up Alexy’s pitches that turned into three runs.
The Fireflies and Crawdads traded runs, but Columbia never trailed again and put the game on ice with the runs in the seventh and eighth.
Columbia Fireflies (New York Mets) (17-14, 3rd SAL South), at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (9-19, 7th SAL North)
If You Plan to Go:
GAME TIMES: Wednesday 6:00 p.m., Thursday 7:00 p.m., Friday 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday –Wine Wednesday
Thursday – Thirsty Thursday; Dunder-Mifflin Night
Friday – Craw-moms Weekend; Hickory vs. Cancer Night; Boy Scout Night; Post-game Fireworks
TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.
WHERE: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.
PARKING: All parking is $3.
CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. Here is that menu http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4
The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf
Probables (Columbia/ Hickory):
Wednesday: RHP Marcel Renteria vs. RHP Tyree Thompson
Thursday: RHP Tony Dibrell vs. Alex Eubanks
Friday: RHP Joe Cavallaro vs. RHP AJ Alexy
Recent Series History:
The Crawdads and Fireflies split a four-game series at Columbia in April. The Fireflies moved from Savannah, Ga. to Columbia at the start of the 2016 season. Since then, the Crawdads are 13-8 overall but just 5-5 at L.P. Frans. Hickory is 41-33 overall, 20-16 at home since 2009, which is the start of the Crawdads/ Rangers affiliation.
About the Crawdads:
The Crawdads limp home after finishing a rain-shortened, 1-5 road trip with two walk-off losses at West Virginia on Monday… A revamped roster will greet fans at L.P. Frans Stadium at the start of the homestand. Outfielder Eric Jenkins and catcher Melvin Novoa were both promoted to high-A Down East and shortstop Yonny Hernandez is now with AA Frisco (Tex.). Center fielder Pedro Gonzalez is on the disabled list with an undisclosed injury. Coming to the Crawdads are outfielders Bubba Thompson (extended spring) and Austin O’Banion (Frisco), infielder Cristian Inoa (Frisco) and first baseman Tyreque Reed (extended spring)… What had been a strong suit prior to the series at West Virginia stumbled over the weekend. After entering the series with the fewest errors in the SAL, Hickory committed six errors in three games… The pitching staff continues to struggle with walks. Though they have given up the fourth fewest hits in the SAL, the Crawdads are 11th in ERA on the backs of the second most walks allowed in the league.
Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):
CF Bubba Thompson (No. 6) 2017 stats at AZL Rangers: 30 games, .257/.317/.434, 7 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 5 SB, 5 CS. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL.
RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 5 games (4 starts), 20 IP, 19 H, 16 R (15 ER), 2 HR, 2 HB, 15 BB, 25 K, 6.75 ERA, .257 OBA, 1.70 WHIP. Last start 5/4 at West Virginia: 6 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 12 K. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 5th walks allowed.
RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 18): 2018 stats: .216/.260/.340, 2 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 6 BB, 16 K. Last series vs. West Virginia: 1-for-12, 1 HR, 1 K. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela.
RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 10 games, 14 IP, 11 H, 7 R (5 ER), 1 HR, 13 BB, 25 K, 3.21 ERA, .208 OBA 1.71 WHIP. Second-round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA). SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd Ks-per-9 innings among relievers (16.07).
C-1B Sam Huff (No. 26): 2018 stats: .215/.279/.354, 5 2B, 2 HR, 5 BB, 28 K. Last series at West Virginia: 1-for-3, 1 BB, 1 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).
Others to watch – Hickory:
RHP Tyree Thompson: 2018 stats: 5 games (4 starts) 21.1 IP, 22 H, 16 R (13 ER), 2 HR, 2 HB, 4 BB, 9 K, 5.48 ERA, .265 OBA, 1.22 WHIP. Last start at Kannapolis 5/2: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 HB, 2 BB, 2 K. Twenty-sixth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Edna Karr HS, New Orleans.
RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 stats: 5 games (5 starts) 21.2 IP, 34 H, 23 R (23 ER), 6 HR, 5 BB, 28 K, 9.55 ERA, .358 OBA, 1.80 WHIP. Last start 5/3 at Kannapolis: 2.2 IP, 9 H, 7 R (7 ER), 2 HR, 1 BB, 3 K. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Clemson Univ. SAL top-10 rankings: T-2nd earned runs allowed, T-2nd home runs allowed, T-5th runs allowed.
1B Tyreque Reed: 2017 stats at AZL Rangers: 35 games, .350/.455/.617, 13 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 22 BB, 26 K. Eighth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. Attended Houlka (MS) HS. Named to Arizona Summer League All-star team in 2017.
IF Cristian Inoa: 2018 stats combined at AA Frisco and AAA Round Rock (Tex.): 5 games, .083/.214/.083, 2 BB, 3 K. Played mostly at SS last season at short-season Spokane. Signed with the Rangers in 2016 as an international free agent. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.
OF Austin O’Banion: 2018 stats at AA Frisco: 4 games, .188/.235/.188, 1 BB, 7 K. Played mostly in LF at short-season Spokane in 2017. Thirty-seventh round pick by the Rangers in 2016 out of Cal State-Fullerton.
About the Fireflies:
Managed by Pedro Lopez in his first season at the helm of the team… Went 5-2 during their homestand over the past week including a 3-1 series win over Lakewood (N.J.). The Fireflies are off to a hot start at the plate in May. Currently, their .278 avg. is second in the SAL for the month and they scored six or more runs in four of the seven games at home. However, the road has been tough for Columbia as it has posted a .240/.367/. 325 slash line away from home. Overall, they are third in the SAL in batting avg. (.257) and second in OBP (.349). It is a patient team as the Fireflies lead the SAL in walks with players occupying the first, second and fifth spots individually. Columbia is second in the league in runs scored, third in hits and total bases… On the mound, it’s a group that throws a lot of pitches. Columbia leads the SAL in both strikeouts and walks allowed.
Prospects to watch-Columbia (rankings by MLB.com):
LHP David Peterson (No. 2): 2018 stats: 3 games (3 starts) 23.2 IP, 20 H, 8 R (6 ER) 1 HB, 8 BB, 121 K, 2.28 ERA, .227 OBA, 1.18 WHIP. Last start 5/7 vs. Lexington Ky.: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K. Pitched for US National team in 2016. First-round draft pick by the Mets in 2017 out of the University of Oregon. Attended Regis Jesuit HS in Aurora, Colorado. Native of Denver.
LHP Anthony Kay (No. 14): 2018 stats: 5 games (5 starts) 26.1 IP, 21 H, 12 R (10 ER), 9 BB, 24 K, 3.42 ERA, .221 OBA, 1.14 WHIP. Last start 5/5 vs. Lakewood (N.J.): 6.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 HR, 1 HB, 2 BB, 6 K. First-round pick of the Mets in 2016 out of the University of Connecticut. Native of Stony Brook, N.Y. Made pro debut this spring after recovering from “Tommy John” surgery.
C Ali Sanchez (No. 27): 2018 stats: .220/.298/.280, 3 2B, 6 BB, 9 K. Last series vs. Lakewood: 3-for-12, 2B, RBI, 2 BB, 2 K. Signed by the Mets in 2015 as an international free agent. Native of Carora, Venezuela.
CF Quinn Brodey (No. 28): 2018 stats: .231/.305/.453, 5 3B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 12 BB, 42 K, 3 SB. Last series vs. Lakewood: 4-for-17, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 K. Third-round pick by the Mets in 2017 out of Stanford Univ. Native of Glendale, Calif. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd RBI, 2nd strikeouts, T-5th triples, T-5th home runs, 8th total bases.
Others to watch-Columbia
RHP Marcel Renteria: 2018 stats: 4 games (4 starts), 23.1 IP, 24 H, 11 R (10 ER), 1 HR, 2 HB, 6 BB, 22 K, 3.86 ERA, .273 OBA, 1.29 WHIP. Last start 5/2 vs. Lexington (Ky.): 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Sixth-round pick of the Mets in 2017 out of New Mexico State. Played at Pima CC (Tucson, AZ) and high school ball in his native Nogales (AZ).
RHP Tony Dibrell: 2018 stats: 5 games (5 starts), 25.2 IP, 22 H, 16 R, 14 ER, 2 HR, 1 HB, 15 BB, 37 K, 4.91 ERA, .232 OBA, 1.44 WHIP. Last start 5/3 vs. Lexington: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 4 BB, 6 K. Fourth-round pick by the Mets in 2017 out Kennesaw (Ga.) State. Attended Chattahoochee HS, Alpharetta, Ga.
RHP Joe Cavallaro: 2018 stats: 5 games (4 starts), 28 IP, 19 H, 11 R (6 ER), 3 HR, 20 RBI, 2 HB, 9 BB, 28 K, 1.93 ERA, .196 OBA, 1.00 WHIP. Last outing 5/4 vs. Lakewood: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K. Twenty-fourth round pick by the Mets in 2017 out of the Univ. of South Florida. Attended Sarasota HS.
RHP Trey Cobb: 2018 stats: 10 games: 11 IP, 12 H, 4 R (2 ER), 2 HR, 2 BB, 1 BB, 16 K, 1.64 ERA, .273 OBA, 1.18 WHIP. Eighth-round pick by the Mets in 2017 out of Oklahoma State. Attended Broken Arrow HS (Okla.). SAL Top-10 rankings: T-4th saves (4).
1B Jeremy Vasquez: 2018 stats: .343/.457/.559, 9 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 23 BB, 22 K. Last series vs. Lakewood: 7-for-17, 2B, HR, 4 R, RBI, 1 BB, 3 K. Twenty-eighth round pick of the Mets in 2017 out of Nova Southeastern Univ. (Fla.) Played at Univ. of Florida as a freshman and sophomore. Attended Martin Co. HS and a native of Palm City, Fla. SAL Top-10 rankings: 1st OPS (1.016), 1st walks, 2nd batting avg., T-2nd doubles, T-3rd hits, 4th slugging pct., T-4th total bases, lT-10th RBI,
2B Blake Tiberi: 2018 stats: .309/.433/.402, 6 2B, 1 HR, 20 R, 9 RBI, 21 BB, 25 K. Last series vs. Lakewood: 7-for-15, 2B, 3 R, RBI, 3 BB, 4 K. Third-round pick of the Mets in 2016 out of the Univ. of Louisville. Attended Holy Cross HS in Covington, KY. SAL Top-10 rankings: 2nd walks, 4th OBP, T-8th runs, 10th batting avg.
The Hickory Crawdads shook off the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies with a tying run in the ninth and a walk-off RBI double by Preston Scott in the tenth to claim a 9-8 win in front of 4,325 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for the Crawdads (9-14) is the third in a row during the four-game series, which concludes Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. Columbia (12-12) has dropped four of its last five games and six of eight.
Columbia’s outfielder Tim Tebow did not play. The crowd behaved and were quite well-mannered. Only one chant of Tebow occurred in the ninth inning.
What really happened?:
For the third straight game, the Crawdads offense got in gear and carried the team to the walk-off win. After scoring just 22 runs over its first 10 home games, Hickory now has 28 over the last three.
Columbia took a 3-0 lead after its first two at-bats. In the first, Andres Gimenez, the New York Mets No. 8 prospect (MLB.com) who was just added to the Fireflies roster, homered in his first stateside at-bat, a towering blast over the 32-foot high billboards in rightfield. Gene Cone added a two-run double in the second.
The Crawdads, who lead the Sally League in homers, added two in the second as Yanio Perez and Preston Scott snacked back-to-back solo blasts to left against starter Harol Gonzalez.
The Fireflies got the two runs back in the fourth. Jay Jabs singled and Desmond Lindsay walked before a passed ball moved both runners up. Ali Sanchez slammed a liner off the back of starting pitcher Argenis Rodriguez. 3B Ti’Quan Forbes scooped the ball up and made the play to first, but Jabs scored on the play. Milton Ramos doubled in Lindsay.
Yanio Perez then continued his assault on Fireflies pitching with a three-run homer to left to tie the game at 5-all. For the season, Perez is now 10-for-20 in six games with a double, four homers, four walks, 8 runs scored and 11 RBIs.
Hickory took the lead in the fifth as Yeyson Yrizarri singled in Eric Jenkins and scored himself on Forbes’ groundout.
The see-saw affair continued in the sixth when Columbia scored three times to take an 8-7 lead. Sanchez singled in two runs before Cone’s grounder brought in Lindsay for the go-ahead run.
The score remained there until the bottom of the ninth when Anderson Tejeda doubled to start the inning. One out later, Yrizarri squeezed in a single through the left side of the infield. Taveras then lofted a blooper just beyond the reach of the shortstop Gimenez, who had retreated to center, to score Tejeda. Matt Blackham then struck out Forbes and Ricky Valencia to end the inning and send the game to the tenth.
A perilous moment occurred in the tenth, when Ramos drove a deep fly to left. Eric Jenkins trotted back to the track, then dropped the ball and allowed Ramos to reach second. However, C.D. Pelham recovered to strike out Cone looking to end the threat.
In the bottom of the tenth against new reliever Joseph Zanghi (0-2), Perez got his third hit of the game with a hard single to left. Scott then lasered a double to the wall in left center to score the winning run.
Pelham (1-0) pitched two-hit ball over three scoreless innings with three strikeouts to keep the Fireflies at bay. Jake Lemoine preceded Pelham’s work with two shutout innings of his own.
Tejeda base savvy:
I have to make note of a couple of brilliant base-running plays by Anderson Tejeda in the game, both occurring on second-to-third plays.
In the third, Yeyson Yrizarri hit a grounder to Ramos at third. Ramos made the diving stop to his left and threw to first on his knees for the out. Watching the play, Tejeda crept off the bag at second and then scrambled to third ahead of the return throw.
After he doubled in the ninth, Yrizarri’s grounder was just out of the reach of Ramos and Gimenez at short. Tejeda, anxious initially, waited until the play developed before making his move to third.
A near disaster in the OF Part 1:
Columbia’s Luis Carpio lined a shot to the gap in right-center field. Perez from right and Taveras from center both tracked the ball with neither calling the other off. The two converged and bumped, but Taveras made the catch and held on. The two had a conversation before returning to their positions. For a brief moment, it looked scary.
A near disaster in the OF Part 2, or Jenkins part 1:
There’s no gentle way to put this. On the play in left in the tenth, Jenkins trotted and pranced to the track and then put the glove up for the nonchalant catch. Except he didn’t make the catch. It didn’t look good.
Jenkins part 2:
In talking with Eric some on Saturday, he talked about some of his adjustments, especially in addressing the strikeouts from 2016. He talked about not following the swing high, but keeping the swing up the middle. An emphasis on working the count is also a part of his approach. For the most part, he’s done well with getting deep into counts and putting the ball in play. Though the average hadn’t shown it, he hadn’t been giving away at bats.
The two steps forward this week is now a step back. First AB was a one-pitch, weak grounder to 1B. The second AB was a one-pitch fly to LF. He reached on an infield hit in the fifth, then was looking on three pitches in the seventh and tried to muscle up a pitch in the ninth and struck out.
Taveras mastery at the plate:
In this homestand, Taveras has seen 102 pitches. He has swung and missed just five. Think about that when considering this is an 18-year-old. Three of those were vs. Braves No. 6 (MLB.com) prospect Ian Anderson.
One of those was tonight in the ninth when he wailed violently at a 1-0 fastball from Matt Blackham with runners on the corner. He settled down, worked the count full, then put the bat to the ball. It wasn’t a full-swing, but he made enough contact to loft the ball into short center for the game-tying RBI single.
In the fifth, he yanked an 0-2 off-speed pitch to RF for a single. Two innings later, it was an 0-2 fastball off the plate that he served to left.
Looking back through my mind’s eye, I remember how good Jurickson Profar was as an 18-year-old here. More walks than Ks, he would spoil two-strike pitches to the point of driving opposing pitchers batty. At 17 and early 18, Nomar Mazara, though he fanned a good bit, would battle and battle with two strikes. For me, at least for now, Taveras is right up there as far as strike-zone judgment.
Perez zeroed in:
After the two homers, he saw only curveballs during a full-count walk in the fifth. In the eighth, he crushed a change which wondered over the plate that Gimenez made a leaping catch of. The single in the tenth, also a fastball, was smoked to left.
Baserunning rally killers:
Both teams made curious decisions on the bases that stunted run-scoring innings. In the fourth, Columbia scored two and took a 5-2 lead with seemingly more on the way. With one out and Cone at the plate, Ramos wondered off the bag at second as Cone bunted through a pitch. Alex Kowalczyk saw the play and calmly threw to second for the pickoff. Cone then struck out to end the inning.
Hickory took a 7-5 lead with two in the fifth and had runners at the corners with two outs. With the count 2-2 to Preston Scott, Perez took off from first. When the throw from the catcher Sanchez went to second, Taveras scrambled for home. Luis Carpio cut off the throw at second and easily gunned down Taveras at the plate.
The walk-off win is the second of the season for the Crawdads and the first over the Mets Low-A affiliate since a 17-inning win over Savannah on 5/9/15, when Jose Cardona lined a homer into the leftfield corner. The day after, manager Jose Leger, who had argued Cardona’s homer was foul, was ejected during the home-plate meeting.
The Hickory Crawdads played just nine innings, but picked up two wins over the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies on Friday. The first was awarded Friday morning when the South Atlantic League office declared Hickory the winner of a suspended game Thursday night. The umpires suspended the game in the bottom of the eighth due to fog with the Crawdads leading 8-7.
The second win came when Hickory picked up six runs in the first and used that to again defeat the Fireflies 11-7.
Hickory (8-14) improved to 2-3 during the current homestand, which continues Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. Columbia (12-11) has lost three of four and five of its last seven games.
What happened on Thursday?:
Two expected stories converged at L.P. Frans Stadium on Thursday, but Mother Nature decided to make her presence felt and she played the ultimate role in the game’s outcome.
Former University of Florida and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow came to L.P. Frans Stadium and many of the 4,225 in attendance were there to see the football-turned-baseball player.
The Crawdads had their own story in the form of Duke University product and Rangers third-round pick Michael Matuella. A potential first-overall pick in the 2015 draft before suffering problems and then undergoing Tommy John surgery, the 6-6 right-hander made only his second pro appearance on Thursday. And he didn’t disappoint.
A persistent rainstorm delayed the start 97 minutes before the teams finally took the field.
After play resumed, Matuella used a fastball staying in the 94-96 mph range to work around a one-out double and fan the side. He struck out two more in the second – including a 94 mph pitch on the outside corner to catch Tebow looking – but Columbia touched him for a run. Reed Gamache led off the inning with a double to the wall. Two outs later, Desmond Lindsay’s broken-bat blooper went far enough to clear the infield and bring in Gamache.
Matuella threw 46 pitches, thirty for strikes before he was pulled after two innings.
The Crawdads took the lead for good in the third with six runs. Kevin Scott double to left and advanced to third on Yeyson Yrizarri’s single to left. Anderson Tejeda lofted a fly ball to center that Gene Cone tracked down and then lost. Scott scored and Tejeda reached on the error. Eric Jenkins walked to load the bases and they remained loaded after Franklin Rollin bounced to third, which turned into a force play at home. Ti’Quan Forbes saved the rally when he steered a bouncer past the bag at first for a two-run double. One out later, Yanio Perez lined a two-run single to center to complete the scoring.
Two Fireflies errors allowed Hickory to add two runs in the fifth. Rollin reached on an error and Forbes doubled him to third. With two outs in the inning, Perez bounced a single to short. Taveras scored on the play and Forbes rumbled home after Michael Paez’s throw got away at first.
Down 8-1, Columbia took a chunk out of its deficit in the sixth. Dash Winningham and Milton Ramos singled to lead off the inning. After Tebow popped to third, Jose Medina topped a bouncer to Anderson Tejeda at short. Tejeda fielded the ball and threw to third, but Forbes dropped the ball, allowing the runners to advance.
Sal Mendez walked Lindsay before Ali Sanchez singled in two more.
Mendez, who replaced Matuella in the third, pitched into the eighth before running out of gas. With fog drifted onto the field, Mendez hit Tebow with a pitch and Medina lined a single to center. After Matt Ball replaced Mendez, Lindsay clubbed a three-run homer to center that Leody Taveras never saw, nor responded to.
At that point, Crawdads manager Spike Owen got the umpires to stop play until the fog cleared 21 minutes later. When play again resumed, Jake Lemoine replaced Ball and Sanchez greeted him with a single. Sanchez moved to second on a wild pitch, but Lemoine stemmed the rally, the final out on a strikeout of Michael Paez.
Preston Scott reached on an infield hit before the umpires again halted play. After 20 more minutes, the umpires suspended play.
The next morning, the South Atlantic League office awarded the Crawdads the win. In an email sent to the teams, league president Eric Krupa stated:
“Last night’s game in Hickory was suspended in the bottom of the 8th inning due to fog with Hickory leading 8-7.
“Fog is a weather event, not a darkness event.
“Therefore, according to the Official Baseball Rule 7.02 (b)(4)(A), this game is an official/ regulation game with Hickory being declared the winner.”
“That was crazy,” said Crawdads manager Spike Owen. “That fog rolled in and the umpires thought we could suspend it because of darkness, because fog is not in the rule book… It’s a win and obviously we’ll take it.”
What Happened Friday?:
The Crawdads bats picked up where they left off Thursday with a six-run first inning, aided by a key defensive miscue.
With one out, Rollin got a broken-bat single to leftfield, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Leody Taveras’ single to right. The key play of the inning came when a potential inning-ending double play blew up as the throw by Ramos at third short-hopped the bag at second and allowed both runners to advance. Ricky Valencia and Perez each had RBI singles before Yrizarri cleared the bases with a homer to left-center.
Tebow singled ahead of Lindsay’s second homer in two days to cut the Fireflies deficit to 6-2. They got another run back in the third on Winningham’s RBI single.
Perez’s two-run blast in the third pushed Hickory ahead 8-3.
An errant pickoff by Hickory’s Kaleb Fontenot led to Ramos’ RBI single in the fourth. However, Columbia repaid the favor in the bottom of the inning when pitcher Blake Taylor’s throw to third on a sacrifice attempt sailed into left field and allowed two runs to score.
The Crawdads eventually made it 11-4 before Paez’s two run homer in the seventh and Ramos’ RBI triple accounted for the final runs.
Crawdads bats dry out and charge up:
As a group Hickory scored 22 runs over 10 home games entering the season. The Crawdads have scored 19 the last two nights.
“It’s good to see the bats come alive and scoring some runs.” said Owen after Friday’s game. “We needed every one of them last night and tonight. It got a little closer than we wanted it to.”
In talking around the cage with hitting coach Kenny Hook, he mentioned the long layoff, due to the past week’s rainstorms, set some of the hitters back because of the inability to get onto the field. Owen agreed with that assessment.
“We went five consecutive days without doing anything on the field,” said Owen. “We did get some ground balls a couple of days ago, but with all the rain and the weather, it’s been tough at home. That’s really where you get your extra work in, not only hitting wise, but on the field, as well, with fundamental stuff. We just haven’t been able to do it because of the weather.”
One of the frustrations of the team has been the inability of hitters to take advantage of counts and situations when the hitters have the advantage. That has improved in recent days.
“We’ve had a lot better at bats the last couple of nights,” said Owen. “That’s all we’re looking for is quality at bats. They’re young and they’re chasing hits, which you can’t do in this game. You’ve just got to put a good at bat together and hit a ball hard somewhere. It’s young and they’re looking at averages and things, which is human nature and part of the game. But, they’ll get it.”
Columbia Fireflies (New York Mets) (12-9, 3rd SAL Southern Division) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (6-14, 7th SAL Northern)
The Hickory Crawdads continue a weeklong homestand with a four-game series against the Columbia Fireflies at L.P. Frans Stadium in South Atlantic League action.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Thursday-Friday at 7:00 p.m., Saturday at 6:00 p.m., Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
Promotions: Thursday – “Thirsty Thursday”, NFL Draft Party
Friday – Post-game fireworks, Dynamic Duo Night
Saturday – Ladies Night, featuring Luke Pell from The Bachelorette, Replica Jersey giveaway to first 1,000 through the gate.
Sunday – Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring church bulletin for $6 ticket. The Crawdads will donate $4 back to respective church.)
TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section. Games Thursday through Saturday are sold out.
Where is it?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.
PARKING: All parking is $3.
CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf
Probables (Columbia / Hickory):
Thursday: RHP Colin Holderman vs. RHP Michael Matuella
Friday: LHP Blake Taylor vs. RHP Edgar Arredondo
Saturday: RHP Jordan Humphries vs. RHP Argenis Rodriguez
Sunday: RHP Gabriel Llanes vs Demarcus Evans
Recent Series History:
The Crawdads took two of three at Columbia during the opening week of the season. In the only series played last year, the Fireflies held a 2-1 advantage.
About the Crawdads:
The Crawdads are struggling to find any sort of groove to kickstart their season and they hope the Fireflies will provide that start. Hickory’s only series win in 2017 was at Columbia April 10-12. Since then, the Crawdads are 3-10. Overall, the Crawdads have lost four straight after a three-game sweep by Rome (Ga.) this week. At home, the Crawdads are 2-8 and have scored a total of 22 runs … At the plate, the Crawdads lineup continues to be all-or-nothing. They are tied for the SAL-lead with 19 homers and have the most Ks in the league. They are third in slugging (.385), but 11th in batting (.230) … A good series vs. Rome brought the Crawdads team ERA below five, but the 4.91 ERA is still last in the league. The team has surrendered the most hits, runs, earned runs, the second most walks and the team WHIP of 1.61 is easily the worst in the SAL. However, the Crawdads allowed just nine runs in three games against the first-place Braves and have shown signs of progress in the starting rotation as of late.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 51 MLB.com top-100 prospects): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Went 0-5 for to close out the Rome series, but did have a pair of walks in Wednesday’s game. Continues to show a discerning eye at the plate for his age (18) with nine walks. Has struck out 22.4 percent of the time (20 Ks in 89 plate appearances), which is not out of the norm at this level for a player so young. Shows good speed out of the box and covering ground in center, but has been timid to use it on the bases. Has only two steals (both on 4/22) in five attempts.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Has a higher walk ratio than Taveras (14.3% to 10.1), but is striking out a ton. His 27 Ks is one behind a trio of leaders in the stat and is at an unsustainable ratio of 43%. Thus far, Tejeda has struck out at least once in all 15 games in which he has played. Defensively, Tejeda has rebounded from a slow start. Committed two errors in the first game of the season and just two more since.
OF Eric Jenkins (No. 14 MLB.com, No.26 Baseball America). Second-round pick in 2015 out of West Columbus High (Cerro Gordo, N.C.). Made his first appearance after coming to Hickory this week from extended-spring training. Has a double and two walks over seven plate appearances. Jenkins will have to cut down on the Ks after piling up 154 in 2016. An elite base stealer, Jenkins was third in all the minors with 51 last year. Took in several deep counts during the Rome series, reaching twice after being down 0-2.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. In the midst of a mini four-game hitting streak (6-for-14, with 2 walks), Perez collected his second homer of the season on Tuesday when he drove a ball in on the hands out to right field. Tends to collect strikeouts in bunches. Of the 19 games he has played, Perez has six multi-strikeout games and 10 other games with none.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. After a 1-for-39 funk (.065) Yrizarri has begun to show signs of life at the plate. He has reached base in five of the last seven games and is 8-for-28 in those games. Is battling to lay off breaking balls low and away. Went three straight games without a whiff, but K’d twice in Wednesday’s game.
RHP Michael Matuella (No. 19 Baseball America, No. 20 MLB.com). Third-round pick in 2015 out of Duke Univ. Was on the path of becoming a first-overall pick in 2015 before back troubles and then Tommy John surgery derailed that promise. He pitched in only three injuries last summer at short-season Spokane before further elbow tenderness caused the Rangers to shut him down. Will be extremely limited in order for him to gain his stamina and to simply get him through low-A ball healthy.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. After just nine walks all last season, Almonte has five already in 15 games. Was 1-for-13 before sitting out of Wednesday’s contest.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Of his four relief outings so far, three of those were scoreless for the 6-4 right hander. His one blowup outing (5 ER over 1.2 IP) has his 2017 ERA at 7.50 with his OBA at .304. Control will be his make or break. Has walked just three of 31 hitters, but has hit four more. Conversely, he has fanned 10 to date over six innings.
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Second-round pick 2014 out of Columbia (MS) High. Might be due for a day off after he went 0-for-10 during the Rome series with six Ks. Has started to chase breaking balls of the plate. He is still tied for first with five homers, but has not gone deep since April 17.
SP Matt Ball: Obtained in a trade with the White Sox in 2016. Posted a 1.60 ERA in 50.2 IP with Hickory after the trade by the Rangers. Throws a heavy sinker that gets ground balls and thus, relies on his defense to make plays. Had nearly two-and-a-half groundball outs for every fly out with Hickory.
About the Fireflies:
Managed by Jose Leger in his third season (163-135) with the Mets Low-A affiliate. (The Fireflies were based at Savannah, Ga. prior to 2016… Columbia took two of three against Asheville, but were 3-4 overall during the just concluded homestand… Offense has been the struggle for the Fireflies as they were shut out three times during the last homestand and scored a total of 15 runs. Columbia’s .221 batting average is 13th in the 14-team league. The Fireflies provide little power with just six homers as a team and are tied for the fewest extra-base hits in the SAL. However, it is a patient team. Their 86 walks are the most in the SAL and they often use those to manufacture runs. Columbia is third in steals and sixth in runs scored… The Fireflies do bring an impressive group of arms to Hickory. Six of the 12 wins are by shutouts and overall, the 2.56 ERA is third in the SAL. They have surrendered the fewest walks and lead the SAL with a 1.03 WHIP. Only five homers have been hit vs. Fireflies pitching. The pitching staff is backed by a league-best defensive unit that has given up just 15 errors and has thrown out 45.8 percent of base stealers, second in the SAL.
Prospects to watch –Columbia:
CF Desmond Lindsey (No. 4 Baseball America, No. 5 MLB.com). Second-round pick 2015 out of Out-of-Door Academy, Sarasota, FL. Struggled with hamstring issues, missing much of his high school senior season. He again suffered the same injury and was limited to 37 games during the 2016 season at two short-season stops. Currently at .143/.286/.186. Seeing a lot of pitches, but it could be perhaps that he’s not seeing the ball with discernment. Has 23 Ks – at least one in 16 of the 17 games he’s played in – and 11 BBs in 70 plate appearances.
2B/SS Luis Carpio (No. 15 MLB.com, 20 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Caracas, Venezuela. Missed much of 2016 after surgery for a torn labrum. Came back late in the 2016 season, but was exclusively a DH. Has played mostly 2B this season. In the midst of a 2-for-25 skid with six Ks, he was 5-for-9 against the Crawdads in early April with two steals.
C Ali Sanchez (No. 20 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Carora, Venezuela. At this point, Sanchez is defensively ahead of the offensive side of his game. Is currently third in the SAL in nabbing base stealers. Entered this season with 24 passed balls in just 111 games, but has just one so far this year and has yet to commit an error. At the plate, however, he is 6-for-47 with just two walks.
3B/ SS Milton Ramos (No. 22 MLB.com) Third-round pick in 2014 out of Heritage High School (Plantation, FL). In his second season with the Fireflies, he has found full-season leagues tough to solve. After posting a .220/.292/.273 slash in 2016, it’s even worse this season as he is at .179/.233/.179 at the start of this season (10-for-56). Ramos did have a four-game hitting streak from April 18-21, but that has fizzled to an 0-for-10 his last three games. He does put the ball in play (12 Ks in 60 PAs), but with little authority. Defensively, he’s yet to commit an error.
3B Blake Tiberi (No. 29 MLB.com) Third-round pick in 2016 out of Louisville. Missed two weeks with an undisclosed injury, returning 4/24/ Currently 3-for-18 with a double.
Others to watch – Columbia:
LF Tim Tebow: Signed as a free agent in 2016 out of the SEC Network. Went 9-for-20 during the recent homestand with three doubles and a triple – his total for the season. Had two homers in his first three games, but has not homered since. Hickory held him to 1-for-10 with four Ks and a double play at Columbia
2B/SS Michael Paez: 4th round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Played for the Chanticleers during the team’s run to the 2016 College World Series title. Has two of the team’s six homers this season, including a solo shot during Wednesday’s win.
RHP Colin Holderman: 9th round pick out of Heartland CC (IL). Threw six shutout innings with 11 Ks against Hickory on April 10. Has lasted just seven total innings over his last two starts with four total whiffs.
RHP Jordan Humphries: 18th round pick out of Crystal River High (FL). Currently 2nd in the SAL with 34 Ks, 4th in WHIP (0.71), and 10th in the SAL with a 1.42 ERA. Fanned 12 over 6.2 innings in his last start on Monday.
Notes: The Crawdads are assured its worst April since before 2002. As a Rangers affiliate, the worst April start was a 11-12 mark in 2014. They went 10-11 in 2009. As a Pirates affiliate, the worst mark was a 10-13 record in 2006… Hickory is also on pace to break its own SAL record for strikeouts in a season, which was set by the 2013 squad with 1,403. The current pace would take them to 1,421… RHP Emerson Martinez was promoted to High-A Down East. OF Travis Bollin and IF Brallan Perez were both sent to Rangers extended spring… Top-30 prospect RHP Harol Gonzalez was placed on the disabled list by the Fireflies.
Tim Tebow is easily the biggest larger-than-life figure to come to Hickory as an athlete in at least a decade. When South Caldwell product Madison Bumgarner pitched for Augusta (Ga.) against Hickory in April 2008, the Crawdads drew a crowd of 4,805 for a Thursday night game. As I type this, already three of the four games for the series to begin today are sold out, with the Sunday game having only a couple of hundred tickets left. Without having records prior to 2005 to back it up, I’m guessing it’ll be the most-attended four-game series at L.P. Frans Stadium since the 1990s.
There is quite the fervor with Tebow. When I attended the game on April 10 at Columbia, S.C. Tebow jerseys were everywhere. When he came to bat in the seventh with runners on, the chant of “Te-bow, Te-bow” reverberated throughout Spirit Communication Park. It was a fascinating scene to watch rabid SEC fans in Columbia that hate everything non-Gamecocks, especially the vitriol they have for things University of Florida football, celebrate Tebow.
Love him or hate him, there’s been nothing like him to come to the South Atlantic League and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for fans to see a transcendent athlete that for most they have only seen on a TV screen.
The expectation from some is that Tebow will rise quickly to the New York Mets. That’s not how baseball works. It’s called a grind for a reason. Sure, there is the occasional homer, but there is also the baserunning blunder – he overran second and was caught in a rundown in the game I saw.
The big story is Tim Tebow being in the league and is one of the biggest figures to come to the South Atlantic League since at least Bryce Harper played with Hagerstown. First of all, what was your reaction and what was your team’s reaction would you found out you were going to have Tebow on the roster this year?
Leger: To me, as a manager, it’s a challenge, because we’re speaking of an athlete that has had some success in a different sport and now coming to playing baseball, and being a little new to him, due to the fact that he was away from the game for such a long time.
So, I say a challenge because it’s my job to try and get him better and try to get him to the next level. I know that just as it is a challenge for us to get all the players better. For me with him it was going to be, okay, I’ve got to get him better, but I’ve also got to make sure that he knows the little things about the game that he probably hasn’t gone through in the past couple of years: game situations, base running, how to approach different leads, his rhythm at the plate, his throwing, the everyday grind and opposed to when you’re in football you play once or twice a week. I knew it was going to be a challenge.
The reaction of the fans and the city and the other players has been great. I know the other players get a lot out of him due to a guy having such a good career in a sport like football and being a leader in another sport, and bringing that leadership with him, and for them to see his work habits. Guys can see that and were looking forward to this. The city was actually looking forward to seeing him playing baseball. The excitement we had this past week has been awesome. It’s been a great experience.
He’s had a career where he’s had pressure – a big time SEC quarterback at Florida, winning the Heisman Trophy, going into the NFL. Is there a different kind of pressure for him coming into this at 29 and playing a different sport, or is he – in the time you’ve been around him – been impervious to that?
Leger: I don’t think there’s pressure at all. He’s enjoying what he’s doing. He’s taking it day by day. He’s working very hard and he’s already seeing progress and we are seeing progress. So, it’s going to be a journey and he’s enjoying it. He’s going day by day to see what happens. He’s trying to control the things within his control, within his reach.
I think he’s not worried about it. There’s no pressure at all. He’s done a lot already, showing that he can hit a little bit – he’s hit two home runs in this past series. He’s getting better defensively and I think the sky’s the limit on him getting the best out of his ability.
Is he in a situation where he can help your guys with pressure – with the pressure of playing in a full 140-game season? For a lot of these guys, it’s their first full season and the bus rides and all that comes with that. Do you see him having a role in dealing with that pressure?
Leger: Yes, he could be “that guy” that the guys look up to, just because he’s leads by example and the things he does. Right now, as we speak, he’s in the cage hitting with our hitting coach. He was here early shagging balls on the field while three other players were getting extra work. So that tells me, he didn’t need to be there, but he wanted to be out there catching extra fly balls. And now he’s taking extra swings in the cage.
Yeah, he knows he’s got some catching up to do, but he’s doing his best and the guys see this. So, the guys see that this guy is working hard and say, “Who am I not to work hard?” So, he leads by example and he always says the right things to the guys. Every now and then when he talks to the guys, you don’t even notice it, but he’s getting everybody’s ear on how to go about their business and how to be a professional.
A lot of guys, this is their first 140-game season and they’re getting on that bus ride to Lakewood, N.J. and Delmarva (Md.) and all of those places that you guys have to go this year. Is he more prepared for that sort of grind than maybe the average 19 or 20-year old that’s starting out in a full season?
Leger: What can I say, I don’t know. We shall see how he’s going to respond to that. I know the guys see his body and his built – he’s very strong. So, I don’t think there’s a concern about his body holding up and being able to go through the bus rides and then wake up the next day and go and /play baseball. It is a challenge for everybody. It’s hard for me as a manager and I don’t play.
I know it’s going to be a little tough for some of these young kids as well, and the travel and all that. It’s a game of adjustments and we’re going to be ready for that. I know that Tim’s got to go through the travels and it’s some of the grind that you’ve got to go through when you’re in the minor leagues.
What’s the biggest thing at this point that Tebow will have to go through? You mentioned it -a little bit, as far as the intricacies that he’s had to deal with, that you don’t deal with as a high school player. Give me some examples of what he’ll have to pick up at this level.
Leger: I think his base running and getting more reps in the outfield. If you think about when he played in high school, it was aluminum bats and the ball coming off the bat and it’s a different read, because you kind of go off the sound. The same thing you do in baseball with wooden bat and I think he’s still getting used to it.
I think the more reps he gets in the outfield and base running and knowing when to run and when not to run, and all this. The more he plays at this level, the better he’s going to feel. The more reps he gets, the better he’s going to get.
The guy is smart and he gets it. He knows that it’s a matter of paying attention and just going through it and doing drills and all that. Hopefully, at the end, he understands, “this is how I’ve got to run the bases. This is what I need to do defensively.” Once he puts it all together, I think it’s just going to be going to the next level and start doing the same thing.
One of the things that kills a lot of people at this level is they can hit fastballs, but then struggle once they face pitchers that can spin the baseball a little bit. How has he adjusting to that, so far?
Leger: He’s done well. He’s seeing the breaking ball. He’s taken some good breaking balls in the dirt for balls and he hasn’t swung. His strike-zone vision has been actually pretty good. I think it’s, like I said, just a matter of repetition for him.
For all the guys, you and the Mets have goals where you’d like to see this player at A, B and C at the end of the year. What are the goals for Tebow by the time he’s going home from wherever in September?
Leger: We don’t have like stats or numbers set for him in order to move to the next level. We’re kind of paying attention to the little details like, talking the proper path in the outfield, knowing where to throw the ball in different situations – when to throw to second or when to throw to the plate to keep the double play in order – running the bases, all these little details. Once you see that, okay, he can go up. You check boxes. Okay, so, he’s doing this right, he’s doing this right.
On top of that, his at bats, the consistency of his at bats at the plate. The more consistency we see with the strike zone, the better chance he has. Once he accomplishes all that, I think they’re going to move him to the next level. I don’t know if it’s sooner or later. He might be here with me the whole time or he might be gone the next month. It’s not my call. My job is to try to get him better. But, I think that’s what they’re looking at. They’re looking at him getting better in those areas and hopefully getting him promoted soon.
There has been football players that have come in – guys that were good two-sport athletes that decided to play baseball and not football coming out of high school – and they struggled with putting the athletic ability to baseball ability. What’s the thing Tebow will have to figure out as far as putting that baseball ability with the athleticism?
Leger: I’ve had players like this. Last year, I had a player Ivan Wilson, who was good at football and baseball. You see him practice and he was impressive, but he never translated to the game and he decided to retire. I had another player in Bradley Marquez for two years at Kingsport (Tenn.) and it was the same thing. Sometimes, the ability doesn’t translate to the sport, but you’ll never find out until you throw him into the fire to see what he’s got. So far, he’s proven that he can play. I think that time is going to dictate that.
Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (1-3) at Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies (New York Mets) (4-0)
The Hickory Crawdads complete the second leg of their two-city, weeklong road trip at Columbia’s Spirit Communication Park to open the 2017 South Atlantic League season.
If you plan to go:
GAME TIMES: Games Monday through Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
BROADCAST: MILBtv.com or through Gameday Audio links on milb.com.
TICKETS: Ticket prices range from $5 for an outfield berm seat to $14 for a “Scout Seat”.
Where is it?:
From Hickory, take Hwy 321 South to Gastonia, then I-85 North towards Charlotte. Take exit 30 to the I-485 outer loop, then I-77 South toward Columbia. Take I-77 to 277 South to Columbia. Take the Farrow Road/SC-555 exit. Turn left onto Farrow Road/SC-555. Continue onto Colonial Drive. Turn left onto Gregg Street. Turn right onto Freed Street. The ballpark is located on the left side of the street.
PARKING: Parking in the general lots is $3 and located along Colonial Dr. as well as Gregg St. Take the complimentary trolley shuttle to the stadium. ADA permit parking is available by the stadium property.
CONCESSIONS: Spirit Communications Park has four permanent stands and 25 specialty carts. The team’s website does not list food offerings.
Probables (Hickory/ Columbia):
Monday: RHP Argenis Rodriguez vs. RHP Colin Holderman
Tuesday RHP Tyler Phillips or RHP Demarcus Evans vs. LHP Blake Taylor
Wednesday: RHP Jonathan Hernandez vs. RHP Harol Gonzalez
Recent Series History:
The Fireflies took two of three at Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium during the only series the teams played in 2016. This is the first trip by the Crawdads to Spirit Communication Park, which opened last year. The Columbia franchise was previously stationed in Savannah, Ga. and known as the Sand Gnats. This will be Hickory’s first trip to the Mets low-A affiliate since 2014. Since 2009, the first year of the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation, the Sand Gnats/ Fireflies hold a 14-13 lead in games played at their home ballparks. Overall, Hickory holds a 29-27 advantage during the same time period.
About the Crawdads:
Hickory is coming off a 1-3 series loss at Greensboro in which the pitching staff struggled with control. The crew walked 12 in an opening-night loss to the Grasshoppers, eight the second night, and finished with 30 in the series. The Crawdads lead the South Atlantic League with ten HRs.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America): Had hits in all four games (6-for-16) with 5 runs scored and two homers at Greensboro. He had one dinger all last season.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 8 MLB.com, 16 Baseball America): Hit a mammoth homer (441’) opening night, but went 3-for-16 in the series at Greensboro with 7 Ks. Showed encouraging signs of discipline, as he worked four walks in four games. He had 18 in 66 games last year.
OF Yanio Perez (No. 15 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) Had a four-hit game at Greensboro on Saturday and went 6-for-17 in the series. Started at 1B opening night, then shifted to right the remainder of the series.
RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17 Baseball America, 18 MLB.com): Hernandez struggled in his first start on opening night, as he allowed nine of 16 batters to reach base. Control was his downfall as he threw just 33 strikes out of 65 pitches. He can rack up strikeouts at times (three in two innings last Thursday), but Hernandez relies on a sinker to get groundballs.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Singled opening night, had a homer the next game, then suffered through an 0-for-6 on Saturday. Just three Ks over 14 PAs, so he is making contact. Has handled the move to second base well in the early going, turning a couple of double plays and making plays with ease.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 MLB.com): Opened the season in RF, then shifted to LF the next two games. Had a 1-for-11 weekend and sat out Sunday’s game.
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Did not pitch over the weekend. The big righty (6-4, 225) had a dominant tenure with Spokane (1.78 ERA, 46 Ks/ 10 BBs 30.1 IP), then struggled to find his command after he joined Hickory for the final month of 2016 (10 Ks/ 18 BBs 13.1 IP). Brings an overpowering fastball/ slider, but the Vanderbilt product’s goal is simple to start the season: find the plate.
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Homered in each of the first three games of the series, Forbes went 6-for-11 over the three games he played before sitting out Sunday’s game.
RHP Jake Lemoine: The 2015 fourth-round draftee made his pro debut on Thursday night at Greensboro. Looked rough early, the Univ. of Houston product settled in nicely in his second inning and racked up a pair of Ks, including a 91 mph on the corner for a called third-strike.
1B Preston Scott: Reached base in seven of 13 plate appearances over the weekend, including a pair of homers and a double to account for the three hits. The two homers came in Saturday’s game during which he also stole two bases and reached on a hit and a walk.
About the Fireflies:
Managed by Jose Leger in his third season with the Mets’ low-A affiliate. The Fireflies are coming off a four-game sweep of the Augusta (Ga.) as they outscored the GreenJackets 36-12. Two of the wins came on shutouts. During the sweep, the team put up a .313/.446/.458 slash and worked a SAL-high 32 walks. They also stole 12 bases, the most in the SAL.
Prospects to watch – Columbia:
CF Desmond Lindsey (No. 4 Baseball America, 6 MLB.com). The 2015 second-round pick of the Mets struggled with hamstring issues, missing much of his high school senior season. He again suffered the same injury and was limited to 37 games during the 2016 season at two short-season stops. Showed good plate discipline with 25 walks to 31 Ks in 2016, sporting a .433 OBP. Played 3B in high school, moved to the OF to showcase his speed.
2B/SS Luis Carpio (No. 16 MLB.com, 20 Baseball America) Missed much of 2016 after surgery for a torn labrum. Came back late in the 2016 season, but was exclusively a DH. Went 5-for-16 during the opening-season series vs. Augusta
C Ali Sanchez (No. 21 MLB.com, 27 Baseball America) At this point, Sanchez is defensively ahead of the offensive side of his game. Has thrown out 92 of 191 base stealers (48%), though he has 24 passed balls in just 111 games. Struggled to a .535 OPS at short-season Brooklyn in 2016, started this season 4-for-12 over three games.
RHP Harol Gonzalez (No. 28 Baseball America) Led the New York-Penn League with a 2.01 ERA and 88 Ks over 85 innings. Struggled in his opening-night start vs. Augusta, giving up five runs on six hits while walking and striking out three over 3.2 IP. Leaned heavily on fly ball outs until a huge shift in 2016. Posted GO/AO of 0.79 in 2014 and 0.86 in 2015. Went to 1.58 last year.
3B Blake Tiberi (No. 29 MLB.com) Went 3-for-11 over the weekend, shows a patient eye at the plate with 25 walks to just 34 K over 207 ABs. Has not shown much pop for the position, slugging just .319 for his young career.
Others to watch – Columbia:
LF Tim Tebow: The former Heisman Trophy winner slugged a homer in his first official pro AB on Thursday and added a three-run shot on Sunday. Has just three hits total and struck out five times in 14 PAs.
C Anthony Dimino: Played at North Mecklenburg in Charlotte before spending his college career at Belmont Abbey. Went 5-for-6 with a 2B and two walks in the recent series.
IF Michael Paez: Played for the Coastal Carolina during the team’s run to the 2016 College World Series title.
1B: Dash Winningham: Returned to Columbia for a second season, went 7-for-19 over the weekend.
Note of Interest: Hickory last played in Columbia during its 2004 South Atlantic League title run. The Crawdads won games one and two against the Capital City Bombers before completing the sweep at Hickory. Capital City then transferred to Greenville and is now known as the Greenville Drive.