Results tagged ‘ Connor McKay ’

#RakersWhoPitch: Bolin’s night on the Mound

After the Hickory Crawdads were involved in so many lengthy extra-inning games last year, the Texas Rangers decided to limit the use of their pitchers in such marathon games. The result of that will be the use of position players on the mound once the game gets to a certain point. Enter Travis Bolin during Thursday night’s 12-inning win over the Kannapolis Intimidators.

Travis Bolin pitching - Lin

Travis Bolin as he prepares to deliver the pitch during Thursday night’s game vs. Kannapolis (Crystal Lin / Hickory Crawdads)

Bolin got an inkling a few days prior to Thursday’s game that he could be used as a pitcher at some point during the season, if the situation called for it. Then, it happened and no one was more surprised that Bolin.

“I came out here (to the bullpen) and threw about 20 pitches,” said Bolin. “Then they called me in. I thought they were joking at first. The last out came and the pitching coach (Jose Jaimes) called me and said, ‘Hey, you’re going in.’ And I was like, ‘Are you guys serious? You guys are actually letting me go out and throw?’ Yeah, I went out there and had a good time.”

A good time, indeed. Bolin pitched, despite the tie game and his scoreless inning was enough to get the win as Hickory scored a run for the 2-1 walk-off victory.

“That is pretty cool,” said Bolin of the decision. “I was just happy about my first strikeout, the first batter. I thought it was pretty cool.”

Bolin said he hadn’t pitched since high school and threw just a few innings then. His brother was a pitcher, and so in watching him, Bolin had some sense of pitching out of the windup, which was fairly seamless.

Travis Bolin windup - Lin

Travis Bolin windup (Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

“I’m pretty accurate when I’m trying to hit my spots,” said Bolin. “I did a pretty good  job of it last night.”

The strikeout came as the inning’s leadoff hitter Zach Remillard swung through a 2-2 fastball. Grant Massey sent then a 2-0 fastball (heck, they were all fastballs) for a 6-3 grounder.

The one wrinkle came on a walk issued to Tyler Sullivan, an at-bat Bolin said he thought the umpire squeezed him on a pitch.

Bolin said, “Man, I painted one right on the corner and he didn’t give it to me. But that’s how it goes with pitching.”

The inning ended with a groundout to second by Joel Booker. Bolin threw all fastballs – topping out at 85, though he said he could gas up to 92, but was told to keep it eased back so as to not hurt his arm – but he was prepared to use a slider if needed.

“Actually, I was going to go to throwing a slider, or a real cut-fastball, but we ended up getting the guy out on the next pitch anyway, so we didn’t have to go to that.”

The response from teammates was described by Bolin as ecstatic and the opportunity may indeed arise again to pitch.

“I asked Spike today, I said ‘Hey, now that that actually happened, is that going to happen again?’ He said, ‘Of course, that was a test. Good job.’ I was like, ‘OK, I’m ready to go.’”

Travis Bolin gets win - Lin

Travis Bolin receives congratulations as the Crawdads close on the win vs. Kannapolis (Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

Crawdads position players pitching:

It rarely happened in the early years of the club’s history, but as major league teams become more cautious about over using pitchers and keeping them in a routine, position players throwing in games is becoming more common.

Over the first 15 seasons, just five position players pitched for Hickory. None did until 1999 and then from 2007 until 2013, but since 2014 it’s happened ten times, five of those in 2016.

Below is an overview of those position players who have climbed the hill.

1999: 1B Carlos Rivera – and a future big leaguer – mopped up in a game during which he gave up a run on two hits in an inning.

2000: 1B/ OF Jason Landreth allowed three hits and walk, all of which scored during his lone inning.

2000: C Jose Hernandez walked the only batter he faced and took the loss.

May 15, 2005: 2B Dan Schwartzbauer. The Crawdads were completing a suspended game from the night before against Lake County (OH), which eventually went to extra innings. After the Captains scored three in the 11th – and with another full nine-inning game to go – Crawdads manager Jeff Branson brought in Schwartzbauer, who struck out the only batter he faced.

Schwartzbauer 2

Dan Schwartzbauer fanned the only player he faced in 2005.

June 28, 2007: 2B Jose J. De Los Santos. In the night cap of a doubleheader against Kannapolis, the Crawdads had blown a 5-2 lead and ran out of available arms to pitch in extra innings. De Los Santos was brought in and gave up six runs to take the loss in an 11-5 defeat.

May 23, 2013: LF Nick Vickerson. In one of the wildest games in Crawdads history – both managers were ejected and a walk-off homer was reversed – the Kannapolis Intimidators scored four runs in the top of the 12th to take the lead. Vickerson got Justin Jirschele – the current Intimidators manager – to hit into a fielder’s choice. The Crawdads went on to score five in the bottom of the inning for a 7-6 win.

June 25, 2014: IF Janluis Castro. In mop-up duty vs. Kannapolis, Castro retired all four batters he faced, fanning two.

July 8, 2014: IF Janluis Castro. Became the first Crawdads position player to pitch twice as he entered a game during a blowout loss to the Lexington Legends. Gave up two hits, but struck out two during a scoreless ninth inning.

Janluis Castro

Normally an infielder, Janluis Castro pitched in three times in 2014, including back-to-back games. (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

July 9, 2014: 2B Janluis Casto. The Legends scored three in the top of the 14th and rather than waste a pitcher, Castro moved over from second and strike out the only batter he faced. For the season, Castro allowed two hits and struck out five of the ten hitters he faced.

August 8, 2015: C Jonathan Meyer. Became the first position player to pitch on the road since 2000. Gave up a walk-off, three-run homer at Lakewood in the 18th inning for the loss.

May 15, 2016: 1B Dylan Moore. Back-to-back errors on what should’ve been inning-ending double play balls played a big role in seven unearned runs during a 9-2 loss to the Rome Braves in 19 innings.

Dylan Moore pitching

Dylan Moore vs. Rome (Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

June 6, 2016: OF Josh Altman. The utilityman worked around two hits in the 13th inning during a game with Greensboro. However, two errors were costly in the 14th as Hickory dropped a 6-5 loss to the Grasshoppers.

Josh Altmann pitching - Lin

Josh Altmann holds a runner on while pitching during an extra-inning game vs. Greensboro (Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

July 15, 2016. C Chuck Moorman. The starting catcher entered the game during a blowout loss to West Virginia and retired both batters he faced with one strikeout.

Chuck Moorman pitching

Normally a catch, Chuck Moorman catches the view from the mound (Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

July 24, 2016. OF Connor McKay. A 15-3 blowout at Lakewood precipitated the use of McKay in the ninth, who retired all three batters he faced.

July 30, 2016. OF Connor McKay. After the Crawdads gave up four runs in the top of the 10th against Hagerstown, McKay was brought in and he retired the lone batter he faced.

Connor McKay pitching - Lin

Connor McKay pitched twice for the Crawdads in 2016 (Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

Game Story July 12: Lakewood Cools Hot Crawdads Bats

The Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws built a five-run lead, then fended off a late charge in claiming a 6-4 win over the Hickory Crawdads Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory.

The win by the BlueClaws (39-49 overall, 10-9 second half) – their fifth in six games – was the first in four meetings with the Crawdads (47-42, 9-10) this season. Hickory entered the game on the heels of a 5-2 road trip, but continued its woes at home, dropping to 19-22 at Frans this season.

Behind starter Matt Ball, the Crawdads eked out a 1-0 lead through five innings. The lone run came when Josh Altmann ripped a sharp, one-hop grounder past second baseman Josh Tobias to score Eduard Pinto. Ball allowed four hits and three walks over five shutout innings and struck out five.

Lakewood countered with a strong start by Seranthony Dominguez (1-1), who allowed just the one run on five hits and struck out three.

The BlueClaws took the lead for good against reliever Blake Bass (3-2) in the sixth. Josh Tobias singled to left and moved to third on Damek Tomscha’s double. Wilson Garcia’s grounder to second scored Tobias before Jose Pujols singled in Tomscha to take a 2-1 lead.

Dominguez and reliever Sutter McLoughlin held the Crawdads lineup in check, retiring 13 in a row from the fourth through the eighth.

Lakewood blew the game open in the ninth against John Werner. With one out, Cornelius Randolph doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch. Deivi Grullon then cracked a two-run homer to left to open the lead to 4-1. Tobias later singled in two more for Lakewood’s final runs.

Hickory’s lineup reawakened in the bottom of the ninth to make it a game. Pinto singled and scored on Dylan Moore’s double to left-center. After McLoughlin walked Altmann, Zach Morris entered the game to face Yeyson Yrizarri. Moore and Altmann worked a double steal and then both scored on Yriarri’s single up the middle. Morris then settled down to strike out Chuck Moorman and got the final out of the game when Ricky Valencia lined out to Carlos Duran in the left-centerfield gap.

 

Hot sticks stymied:

The Crawdads entered the game after scoring six or more runs over the past five games, and it appeared they would another to the list after a strong first inning. However, Dominguez settled down and overwhelmed the lineup with a lively, cutting fastball that stayed in the 95-97 mph range. The pitch was especially effective in running into the hands of left-handed hitters, elliciting weak contact. Early on, Dominguez was unable to throw the slider for strikes and dumped the pitch pretty much after the second inning, although he got Chuck Moorman to chase two of them to end the fourth.

Sutter McLoughlin had an effective changeup (83-84) to compliment a 93-94 mph fastball. The ball seemed to jump from the righty after a slow windup and delivery.

 

Pinto continues to smolder:

One day after winning the South Atlantic League’s hitter of the week award (.567/.581/.833) Hickory’s Eduard Pinto continued to hit the ball hard and picked up two hits on the night to extend his hitting streak to nine. In seven of those games, he has two or more hits. Pinto was one of the few hitters to solve the fastball of Dominguez, getting the bat out early to pull it into right for a single in the first.. A  liner to short in the third turned into a double play in the third. Another line out came in the sixth, this one to right. He saw just one offspeed pitch on the night, a changeup which he lined for a single to center in the ninth to start the Crawdads final rally.

Opportunity knocked but thrice:

Hickory missed chances to open up its early lead and it proved to be costly in the game’s ultimate result. On Altmann’s RBI single in the first, Dylan Moore rounded the bag aggressively at third, but manager Steve Mintz decided to hold him at the last moment. Moore slipped and fell trying to stop, then was tagged out trying to retreat to third.

In the second, Hickory led off with an infield hit by Yeyson Yrizarri, who used a grounder and a balk to move to third. With two outs, Connor McKay built a 3-0 count, but eventually struck out.

Eric Jenkins doubled and Frandy De La Rosa walked to start the third. Pinto’s liner to short turned into a double play that erased Jenkins. The play nearly became a triple play, but De La Rosa was able to scamper back to first.

Prevent defense actually works:

Only a no-doubles defense kept pinch-hitter Ricky Valencia from keeping the ninth inning alive, as his hard liner into the LCF gap was taken by Duran, who was playing near the track in center.

Failing to take Ball home:

Matt Ball held steady command in the early going for Hickory. It looked like he held mostly to a (94-96) / slider diet. The slider did much of the dirty work for him, ringing up four Ks, all swinging. A 94 mph was called for a third strike to finish off Zach Coppola in the third.

Ball’s fastball control began to fade in the fourth as he walked a pair of hitters. But after a mound visit, a fastball from Ball broke the bat of Jose Pujols and turned the ensuing weak grounder into a double play.

In the fifth, Lakewood put two on with two outs, the second a walk by Ball of Coppola. However, Duran undercut a hanging slider and weakly flew out to left.

No balm for relief:

Bass had a rough sixth inning, but it didn’t compare to the tough night for Werner in the ninth. Lakewood hitters jumped Bass’ fastball early in the count to start the rally, however, it was a broken bat single by Pujols on a slider that put Lakewood ahead. Bass eventually recorded the final two outs of the inning to keep the Crawdads in the game.

In the ninth, it was Werner’s slider that the BlueClaws attacked effectively, when it crossed the plate. Grullon hammered a hanger for an insurance, two-run homer. Randolph and Emmanuel Marrero also hit the pitch hard for base knocks.

But with all the problems with the slider, it was the demeanor for Werner that was evident. Werner argued that the homer by Grullon was foul – it appeared fair from the press box. A few slight kicks to the rubber and just general body language issues after a walk eventually brought manager Steve Mintz to the mound for a rare non-pitching change visit.

The homer was the sixth allowed by Werner, all of them coming since June 19 (seven appearance, 11.2 innings) when Yermin Mercedes took him deep in the ninth inning of a loss to Delmarva (Md.).