Tyree Thompson pitched a masterpiece, Sam Huff and Kole Enright supported him at the plate as the Hickory Crawdads defeated the Delmarva (Md.) Shorebirds 5-1 at L.P. Frans Stadium Tuesday night.
The win was the second straight by Hickory (16-24) to open the four-game series, which continues Wednesday night at 6 p.m. Delmarva (26-17) lost its third straight game and has dropped six of the last eight overall. The Shorebirds now trail first-place Kannapolis by two games in the first-half Northern Division standings.
It was the Tyree Thompson show from the start as the right-hander kept the Shorebirds off balance throughout the game. The New Orleans native allowed just six baserunners over a pro career high of 7.1 innings and struck out three.
Meanwhile, the Crawdads, led by Huff and Enright, supplied the runs Thompson (2-3) needed early. Facing starter D.L. Hall, Austin O’Banion doubled and scored when Huff also doubled off the left field wall. In the fourth, Huff doubled with two outs and Enright swatted his third homer of the season to left-center to make it 3-0.
Franklin Rollin’s speed played a large part for a run in the seventh. He reached on an infield hit, stole second and moved to third on an error from where Tyreque Reed doubled him in.
The right-hander was economical all-night, needing just 65 pitches to get through seven innings. No Shorebirds hitter saw more than four pitches in a plate appearance before the game reached one out in the eighth. That batter, Arlington (Tex.) native Jaylen Ferguson, lined a 3-2 pitch over the fence in left for his first homer in the second game since joining the Shorebirds. After Thompson walked Kirvit Moesquit, the Crawdads brought in reliever Alex Speas, who recorded the final two outs.
Hickory added a run on a bases-loaded walk in the eighth. Speas returned with a dominant ninth, striking out the final two batters of the game for his fourth save of the season.
More on Tyree Thompson:
When the Shorebirds Moesquit hit the second pitch of the game, a middle-in fastball, hard to Reed at first, it looked ominous. As it turned out, it was the last hard-hit ball by the Shorebirds against Thompson until Jean Carrillo lined out to center in the fifth.
Thompson’s fastball started the night topping at 93 mph, but he stayed around 89-91 much of the night and spotted it well. It was the second strong start in a row for the 20-year-old – he allowed one run on four hits and three walks over six innings last week against Rome (Ga.) – which he said has been the result of a mechanical adjustment.
“I’m just tweaking some simple things with my hands, as far as movement,” Thompson said. “It helped me as far as conviction wise and command wise to be able to throw the ball wherever I want.”
That command was with three pitches: the fastball, change and an occasional curve. Thompson broke his first curveball off to strike out Trevor Craport in the second. After a walk and an error put two on in the second, Thompson got Carrillo to bounce a changeup into a force play.
The changeup got a lot of play by Thompson and it was largely responsible for the ten groundball outs recorded.
Overall, Thompson threw 53 strikes out of 82 pitches, starting 17 of the 28 hitters with first-pitch strikes.
“They’re a good hitting team,” said Thompson of the plan of attack. “But once you get ahead early in the count, they’re protecting. My strength is getting ahead of batters and getting them out in four pitches or less.”
A couple of defensive plays aided Thompson’s gem. In the first, Thompson tried to make a backhand stab of a comebacker. The ball deflected to the first-base side of second, where shortstop Cristian Inoa made a quick charge of the play and threw to first for the out. Playing center on Wednesday, Rollin saved a hit in the fifth with a full-out dive and catch to his left.
The defensive plays along with the early runs boosted Thompson’s confidence.
“If I get a run ahead, that’s a plus for me because I know what kind of pitcher I am, and I know my strengths. When I get a run ahead, it makes me compete more, knowing my defense is behind me. I throw strikes and do what I have to do, knowing my defense will make plays.”
The game’s turning point:
D.L. Hall, the Baltimore Orioles No. 4 prospect, had spotty control early, but got into a groove into the third. Gassing around 94-95 with increasing command of the changeup, Hall had retired eight in a row after Huff’s RBI double in the second. He was ready to make it nine with two outs in the fourth and Huff back at the plate.
The Shorebirds went after Huff in the second with three straight secondary pitches, the third of which was a hanging curve that Huff roped off the wall. So in the fourth, Hall came with two straight fastballs that put Huff in an 0-2 hole. A third fastball missed just inside and before Hall went back to two straight changeups. Huff spoiled both.
The final pitch of the AB was a 93 mph just off the plate – too close to take – that Huff not only spoiled, but got enough of the pitch off the end of the bat to bounce the ball past first for a double.
Enright followed with a homer on a 2-0 fastball and that turned out to be the game.
Alex Speas ninth:
The dude was gassing.
After a 4-3 grounder, Speas made Ryan Ripken uncomfortable in the box. A 98 mph heater had the left-handed hitting Ripken stepping towards first on a swing-and-miss. Ripken flicked a second 98 into the stands. Expecting another heater, Speas fooled him with an 89 slider that closed into the hitter’s hands. A half-hearted swing completed the strikeout.
Delmarva has dominated the series this season, winning five of six overall and two of three at L.P. Frans in April. Since the Crawdads-Rangers affiliation began in 2009, Delmarva has won just one season series, that coming in 2015.
About the Crawdads:
A quick road trip at Kannapolis resulted in a 2-1 series loss at Kannapolis, as the final game of the series was suspended Sunday afternoon… Hickory is 10-9 at home this season… After a hot start in May, the Crawdads have come back to earth and are currently at .247/.325/.394 for the month. The team is next to last in the SAL in hits, last in doubles, 11th in runs scored, 12th in total bases and 13th in extra-base hits… The pitching had a good last run through the rotation and as a staff the team had allowed four or fewer runs in six straight before giving up five through five innings in the suspended game. Overall, the Crawdads are 11th in ERA (4.45), 12th in WHIP (1.40) and have walked the second most in the SAL… Defensively, Hickory has committed the fewest errors in the SAL (35 in 38 games). Collectively, Hickory has committed just four since May 9 (nine games).
Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):
CF Bubba Thompson (No. 6): 2018 stats: .257/.333/.486, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 8 K, 3 SB. Last series at Kannapolis: 1-for-10, 3B, 5 K. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL. Joined the team last Wednesday.
RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 7 games (6 starts), 29.2 IP, 25 H, 19 R (18 ER), 2 HR, 5 HB, 20 BB, 41 K, 5.46 ERA, .231 OBA, 1.52 WHIP. Last start 5/19 at Kannapolis: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 HB, 2 BB, 9 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: T-2nd hit batters, 3rd walks allowed.
RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 13 games, 3 saves, 18.2 IP, 14 H, 9 R (7 ER), 1 HR, 19 BB, 34 K, 3.38 ERA, .200 OBA 1.77 WHIP. Last game 5/17 at Kannapolis: 1.2 IP, 2 K, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K. 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 (16.39), T-6th walks.
C-1B Sam Huff (No. 26): 2018 stats: .235/.297/.412, 6 2B, 4 HR, 6 BB, 37 K. Last series vs. Kannapolis: 3-for-6, 2B, K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).
RHP Tyler Phillips (No. 30): 2018 stats: 37 IP, 39 H, 15 R (14 ER), 2 HR, 1 HB, 5 BB, 39 K, 3.41 ERA, .267 OBA, 1.19 WHIP. Last start vs. Rome: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 5 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, N.J. Native of Lumberton N.J. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 4th walks-per-9-inning ratio among starters (1.22).
Others to watch – Hickory:
RHP Tyree Thompson: 2018 stats: 7 games (6 starts) 31.1 IP, 34 H, 25 R (20 ER), 5 HR, 2 HB, 10 BB, 14 K, 5.74 ERA, .272 OBA, 1.40 WHIP. Last start vs. Rome 5/15: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R (1 ER), 1 HR, 3 BB, 4 K. Twenty-sixth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Edna Karr HS, New Orleans.
RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts), 33.2 IP, 45 H, 26 R (26 ER), 7 HR, 1 HB, 7 BB, 44 K, 6.95 ERA .321 OBA, 1.54 WHIP. Last start 5/17 at Kannapolis: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Clemson Univ. A native of Duncan, S.C. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th HR allowed.
RHP Joe Barlow: 2018 stats: 10 games, 16.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R (2 ER), 1 HR, 12 BB (2 IBB), 26 K, 1.08 ERA, .113 BA, 1.08 WHIP. Last game 5/19 at Kannapolis 1.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB (2 IBB). Eleventh-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Salt Lake CC. Attended Riverton (Utah) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd lowest OBA by relievers.
3B Tyler Ratliff: 2018 stats: .237/.313/.339,6 2B, 2 HR, 7 BB, 29 K. Last series at Kannapolis: 2-for-9, 2 2B, RBI, 1 BB, 1 K. Hitting .310/.375/.431 in May. Seventeenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Marshall (WV) Univ. Played at TC Williams High in Alexandria, Va.
OF Franklin Rollin: 2018 stats at Hickory: 6-for-18, 2B, HR, BB, 2 K, 2 SB, 2 CS. Last series at Kannapolis: 4-for-14, 2B, HR, BB, 2 K, SB, CS. Signed an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2013. Native of La Romana, D.R.
About the Shorebirds:
Managed by Buck Britton in his first season with the club. He is the brother of Orioles reliever Zach Britton… Delmarva heads to Hickory after dropping two of three at home to Hagerstown (Md.), the Northern Division’s last place team… What had been a solid pitching staff this season, the Shorebirds got knocked around a bit last week as they gave up seven or more runs in three of the last four games – all losses. The one win was a shutout in game one of a doubleheader on Sunday. The team ERA of 3.26 is still fifth in the SAL and they have five shutouts this season. Delmarva has allowed just 20 homers, but are just five behind Hickory in walks allowed… At the plate, the Shorebirds are near the top of the SAL teams. Collectively, they are second in the SAL in batting avg. (.263) and hits, third in runs, total bases and OPS (.723), fourth in OBP (.329) and homers, and fifth in slugging pct. (.394). They are next to last in strikeouts… Delmarva is first in fielding pct. (.976).
Prospects to watch-Delmarva (rankings by MLB.com):
Prospects to watch-Delmarva:
LHP D.L. Hall (No. 4): 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 19.2 IP, 12 H, 6 R (5 ER), 12 BB, 20 K, 2.29 ERA, .212 OBA, 1.22 WHIP. Last start 5/13 at Columbia: 5 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K. First-round pick (21st overall) of the Orioles in 2017 out of Valdosta (Ga.) High. Signed away from a commitment to Florida St.
RHP Brenan Hanifee (No. 8): 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 38.2 IP, 31 H, 12 R (11 ER), 5 HR, 1 HB, 8 BB, 27 K, 2.56 ERA, .223 OBA, 1.01 WHIP. Last start 5/11 at Lexington: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 7 K. Fourth-round pick of the Orioles in 2016 out of Ashby High in Bridgewater, Va. Signed away from a commitment to East Carolina. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th wins (4), 10th WHIP.
LHP Cameron Bishop (No. 14): 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts), 43 IP, 41 H, 16 R (13 ER), 2 HR, 7 BB, 37 K, 2.72 ERA, .247 OBA, 1.12 WHIP. Twenty-sixth-round pick of Orioles in 2017 out of the Univ. of California-Irvine. Native of Brea, Calif. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 9th innings pitched.
LHP Zac Lowther (No. 15): 2018 stats: 5 games, (5 starts) 25 IP, 11 H, 4 R (4 ER), 2 HR, 1 HB 6 BB, 41 K, 1.44 ERA, .129 OBA, 0.68 WHIP. Last start 5/15 at Columbia: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 HB, 3 BB, 2 K. Second pick in competitive balance round of the Orioles in 2017 out of Xavier. Attended Cuyahoga Heights in Cleveland. Native of Brooklyn Heights Ohio.
RHP Gary Fenter (No. 21): 2018 starts: 7 games (2 starts), 16.1 IP, 23 H, 14 R (14 ER), 1 HR, 2 HB, 7 BB, 19 K, 7.71 ERA, .338 OBA, 1.84 WHIP. Last game 5/19 vs. Hagerstown: 1 IP, 1 H, 2 K. Seventh-round pick of the Orioles in 2015 out of West Memphis (AR) High. Signed away from commitment to Mississippi St.
SS Mason McCoy (No. 25): 2018 stats: .254/.329/.399, 5 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 15 BB, 26 K, 2 CS. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 4-for-10, 2B, 3B, HR, 2 R, 5 RBI, BB, 3 K. Sixth-round pick in 2017 out of Univ. of Iowa. Native of Peoria, Ill. Attended Washington (Ill.) Community HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st triples
RHP Matthew Dietz (No. 26): 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts) 35.2 IP, 30 H, 13 R (13 ER), 1 HR, 19 BB, 41 K, 3.28 ERA, .229 OBA, 1.37 WHIP. Second-round pick of Orioles out of John A. Logan CC (Ill.). SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th wins (4), T-6th walks.
Others to watch-Delmarva:
RHP Tim Naughton: 2018 stats: 1 game, 1.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R (4 ER), 4 BB, 2 K. Made his season debut on 5/20 vs. Hagerstown. Thirty-fourth round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of NC State. Attended Charles B. Aycock HS in Goldsboro.
RHP Cameron Ming: 2018 stats: 1 game, 4.2 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 7 K. Made his season debut on 5/20 vs. Hagerstown. Fourteenth-round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of the University of Arizona. Attended Sandra Day O’Connor HS in Glendale, Ariz.
RF Zack Jarrett: 2018 stats: .290/.362/.510, 6 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 12 BB, 43 K. Last series vs Hagerstown: 3-for-11, HR, 1 K. Twenty-eighth round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of UNC Charlotte. Played his high school ball at Hickory High. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 4th home runs, 6th runs, 6th total bases, T-7th hits, 9th slugging pct.
2B Kirvin Moesquit: 2018 stats: .282/.356/.380, 5 2B, 3 HR, 16 BB, 37 K, 16 SB, 6 CS. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 2-for-9, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 SB, 1 CS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-1st steals, T-4th runs scored (14). Twenty-fourth round pick of the Orioles in 2015 out of Seminole St. College (Fla.). Born in Willemstad, Curacao, attended high school at Highland Christian HS (Pompano Beach, Fla.).
C Ben Breazeale: 2018 stats: .220/.340/.366. 6 2B, 2 HR, 13 BB, 19 K. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 0-for-2. Seventh-round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of Wake Forest. Attended Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) HS.
1B Ryen Ripken: 2018 stats: .283/.325/.336, 3 2B, 1 HR, 7 BB, 12 K. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 1-for-7; Signed free agent deal with Orioles in 2017. Played previously in SAL with Hagerstown (Washington) in 2016. Son of Cal Ripken, Jr.
3B Trevor Craport: 2018 stats: .282/.333/.481, 6 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 9 BB, 19 K. Last series vs. Hagerstown: 3-for-11, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Eleventh-round pick of the Orioles in 2017 out of Georgia Tech. Attended Norcross (Ga.) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-6th RBI, T-9th runs
LF Jaylen Ferguson: 2017 stats with SS-A Aberdeen: .233/.266/.264, 6 2B, 8 BB, 59 K. Made his debut with Delmarva on 5/20 (0-for-2, K). Ninth-round pick of the Orioles in 2015 out of Arlington (Tex.) HS.
Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (13-22, 6th SAL North) at Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (25-14, Tied for 1st North)
The Hickory Crawdads take a short road trip to Kannapolis where they will face the Intimidators for four games at Intimidators Stadium.
If You Plan to Go:
GAME TIMES: Tuesday through Thursday 6:30 p.m.
Thursday – Thirsty Thursday, Mega Money Drop (A helicopter will drop $1,000 after the game).
Friday – Chicken-Fried Friday, Kids Run the Bases
Saturday – Post-Game Fireworks
TICKETS: Advance tickets: Adult General Admission $6.50/ Children $5.50; Adult Reserve $8.50/ Children $7.50. Add $1.50 to each ticket the day of the game.
WHERE IS IT?: From I-85 take Exit 63 (Lane Street). From I-85 South, turn left; I-85 north, turn right. Stadium Drive will be on the right.
PARKING: All parking is $2.
CONCESSIONS: Intimidators Stadium is your no-frills ballpark with traditional burgers, hot dogs, popcorn, BBQ sandwiches, etc.
PROBABLES (Hickory/ Kannapolis)
Thursday: RHP Alex Eubanks vs. LHP John Parke
Friday: RHP AJ Alexy vs. LHP Parker Rigler
Saturday: RHP Jean Casanova vs. TBA
Sunday: RHP Reid Anderson vs. RHP Lincoln Henzman
Recent Series History:
Kannapolis swept earned its first sweep of the Crawdads of any kind since at least 2004. Hickory won the season series in 2017 12-10, which included a 7-5 edge at Intimidators Stadium. Since the start of the Crawdads affiliation with the Rangers in 2009, Hickory is 96-66 against Kannapolis, 51-35 at Intimidators Stadium. The Intimidators last won a season series vs. Hickory in 2010 (7-9).
About the Crawdads:
The Crawdads split a four-game series at home against Rome (Ga.) and went 4-3 during their recent homestand…The offense at times continues to struggle at scoring runs. Though it is at .256/.332/.381 with runners on base, Hickory is third-to-last in runs scored as the Crawdads have trouble starting rallies early. Leading off an inning, the Crawdads have a .223/.290/.394 mark. Also 22 of the team’s 29 homers have been solo shots. Oddly, Hickory is last in doubles. In the middle of the pack of the SAL statistically, the slash line of .226/.294/.343 on the road has been a big part of why they are 3-13… Though better in recent days – Hickory allowed four or fewer runs in four of the last six contests – the staff ERA (4.86) during May is 12th out of 14 teams in the SAL. Overall, the Crawdads have give up the second most walks in the SAL and are 12th in WHIP (1.42).
Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):
CF Bubba Thompson (No. 6): 2018 stats: 8-for-25, 3 2B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 SB. Last series vs.Rome: 4-for-16, 2 2B, R, 2 RBI. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL. Joined the team last Wednesday. Had at least one hit in five of the six games he played, two or more hits in three of them.
RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 7 games (6 starts), 24 IP, 23 H, 19 R (18 ER), 2 HR, 4 HB, 18 BB, 32 K, 6.75 ERA, .256 OBA, 1.71 WHIP. Last start 5/11 vs. Columbia: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 HB, 7 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: 3rd walks allowed, T-4th hit batters.
RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 12 games, 3 saves, 17 IP, 12 H, 8 R (6 ER), 1 HR, 16 BB, 30 K, 3.18 ERA, .190 OBA 1.65 WHIP. Last game 5/14 vs. Rome: 1 IP, 2 K. Second-round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA). SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd Ks-per-9 innings among relievers (15.88), T-8th walks.
C-1B Sam Huff (No. 26): 2018 stats: .219/.286/.396, 5 2B, 4 HR, 6 BB, 36 K. Last series vs. Rome: 2-for-9, 1 BB, 5 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).
Others to watch – Hickory:
RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 28.2 IP, 39 H, 24 R (24 ER), 6 HR, 5 BB, 36 K, 7.53 ERA .328 OBA, 1.53 WHIP. Last start 5/19 vs. Columbia: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 8 K. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Clemson Univ. A native of Duncan, S.C. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th HR allowed, 8th earned runs allowed.
RHP Jean Casanova: 2018 stats: 7 games (4 starts), 23.2 IP, 23 H, 12 R (9 ER), 5 HR, 1 HB, 9 BB, 15 K, 3.42 ERA, .247 OBA, 1.35 WHIP. Last start 5/12 vs. Rome: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 4 K. Thirty-fifth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Waukegan (Ill.) HS. Born in the Dominican Republic. Has allowed at least one HR in all four of his starts. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-10th home runs allowed.
RHP Reid Anderson: 2018 stats: 7 games (6 starts), 31.2 IP, 30 H, 14 R (13 ER), 2 HB, 10 BB, 32 K, 3.69 ERA, .250 OBA, 1.26 WHIP. Last start 5/13 vs. Rome: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 HB, 2 BB, 4 K. Seventeenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville (Pa.) Univ. Attended New Egypt (N.J.) HS.
RHP Joe Barlow: 2018 stats: 9 games, 15 IP, 10 BB, 26 K, 0.60 ERA, .095 BA, 1.08 WHIP. Last game: 5/15 vs. Rome 2 IP, 1 H, 5 K. Eleventh-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Salt Lake CC. Attended Riverton (Utah) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd lowest OBA by relievers (5-for-42, .127). 4th SAL among relievers Ks per 9 IP ratio (16.39).
UT Ryan Dorow: 2018 stats: .300/.383/.471, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 BB, 31 K. Last series vs. Rome: 5-for-11, 1 SB, 4 K. Thirtieth-round pick in 2017 out of Adrian (Mich.). Attended South Haven (Mich.) HS. Has started to see more playing time, rotating around the infield. Played in four straight and five of the last six games.
OF Franklin Rollin: 2018 stats at Down East: .209/.277/.279, HR, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 SB, 2 CS. Played in just 16 games at Down East, sent to Hickory on Monday and will slide into a fourth outfield role at Hickory. Signed an international free agent contract with the Rangers in 2013. Native of La Romana, D.R.
RHP Tyler Ferguson: 2017 stats at Hickory and Down East: 36 games, 1 save, 47.2 IP, 48 H, 40 R (35 ER), 9 HR, 13 HB, 26 BB, 57 K, 6.61 ERA, .254 OBA, 1.55 WHIP. Sixth-round pick by the Rangers in 2015 out of Vanderbilt Univ. Attended Clovis (Calif.) West HS. Started the season on the disabled list, assigned to Hickory last Saturday.
RHP Derek Heffel: 2017 stats at AZL Rangers: 11 games (6 starts), 44.1 IP, 40 H, 16 R (14 ER), 1 HR, 14 BB, 50 K, 2.84 ERA, .242 OBA, 1.22 WHIP. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Madison Area (Wisc.) Technical College. Attend St. Catherine’s HS in Racine, Wisc. Started season at Extended Spring, assigned to Hickory last Saturday.
About the Intimidators:
Kannapolis is managed by Justin Jirschele in his second season with the team (93-82). The Intimidators won the SAL North first-half title and went on to the playoffs before losing in the championship series to Greenville (S.C.)…The Intimidators have the SAL’s best mark in May at 11-3 after winning five of seven during the recent road trip to Asheville and Greenville (S.C.)…Kannapolis far outpaces the rest of the SAL with a .285 batting avg. (Delmarva is second at .267). It also leads in OBP (.351), runs scored, hits, RBI, total bases, and OPS (.774). The Intimidators are second in doubles and slugging pct. (.423)…The team’s pitching has also been solid with a staff ERA of 2.97… Kannapolis has been nearly unbeatable at home in 2018, going 15-3. The Intimidators have yet to lose back-to-back home games this season.
Prospects to watch-Kannapolis (rankings by MLB.com):
CF Luis Gonzalez (No. 18): 2018 stats: .328/.389/.547, 8 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 14 BB, 33 K, 3 SB. Last series at Asheville: 7-for-20, 4 2B, 3 HR, 5 R, 6 RBI, 3 K. Third-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Univ. of New Mexico. Born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Attended high school at Catalina Foothills in Tucson, Ariz. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd batting avg., T-3rd total bases, 4th OPS (.936), 4th hits, 5th slugging pct., 6th OBP, T-8th home runs
C Evan Skoug (No. 22): 2018 stats: .204/.325/.398, 6 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 19 BB, 36 K. Last series at Asheville: 2-for-11, 2B, 3 R, RBI, 3 BB, 3 K. Seventh-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Texas Christian Univ. Native of Libertyville, Ill. Big 12 Co-player of the year in 2017. First-team All-American). Has thrown out 6-of-15 base stealers in 2018. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-6th walks
RHP Tyler Johnson (No. 25): 2018 stats: 13 games, 15.2 IP, 12 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 HR, 2 HB, 8 BB, 30 K, 2.30 ERA, .211 OBA, 1.28 WHIP, 6 saves. Last series at Asheville: 2 games, 2 IP, 1 H, 3 K, 2 saves. Fifth-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of South Carolina. Native of Midlothian, Va. and attended Trinity Episcopal HS there. Pitched for USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st Ks-per 9-inning ratio among relievers (17.23), T-2nd saves, T-5th games.
RHP Lincoln Henzman (No. 26): 2018 stats: 8 games (8 starts), 43.2 IP, 43 H, 20 R (12 ER), 5 BB, 36 K, 2.47 ERA, .249 OBA, 1.10 WHIP. Last start 5/14 at Asheville: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K. Fourth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of Louisville. Native of Lexington, Ky. and attended Lexington Christian Academy. First-team All-American and NCBWA Stopper of the Year in 2017. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st innings pitched, 3rd fewest walks per 9 innings among starters (1.03), T-10th hits allowed.
1B Justin Yurchak (No. 28): 2018 stats: .254/.372/.303, 6 2B, 23 BB, 123 K. Last series at Asheville: 6-for-14, 2 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI, 1 K. Twelfth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Binghamton (N.Y.) Univ. Attended Shenendehowa HS in his native Clifton Park, N.Y. Played at Wake Forest his freshman season. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-3rd walks.
Others to watch-Kannapolis:
LHP John Parke: 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts), 36 IP, 28 H, 10 R (9 ER), 1 HR, 3 HB, 6 BB, 31 K, 2.25 ERA, .214 OBA, 0.94 WHIP. Last start 5/11 at Greenville (SC): 1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB. 21st round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of South Carolina. Attended Greenville (SC) High. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-2nd wins (4), 8th WHIP.
LHP Parker Rigler: 2018 stats: 7 games (7 starts), 33.2 IP, 26 H, 15 R (12 ER), 1 HR, 18 BB, 31 K, 3.21 ERA, .208 OBA, 1.31 WHIP. Last start 5/12 at Asheville: 4 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 5 K. Thirty-first-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Kansas State. Attended Edmond (Okla.) Memorial HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-3rd walks
2B Tate Blackman: 2018 stats: .305/.381/.430, 4 2B, 4 HR, 14 BB, 41 K, 1 SB, 3 CS. Last series at Asheville: 4-for-11 2 R, 2 BB, 3 K. Thirteenth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Ole Miss. Attended Lake Brantley HS (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) SAL Top-10 Rankings: 9th batting avg., 9th OBP, T-8th hits, T-9th total bases
SS Laz Rivera: 2018 stats: .365/.408/.511, 8 2B, 4 HR, 4 BB, 21 K, 4 SB, 3 CS. Last series at Asheville: 5-for-14, 2B, 2 HR, 4 R, 5 RBI, 2 K. Twenty-eighth round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of the Univ. of Tampa. Played at Univ. of Miami and Chipola CC (Fla.) before going to Tampa. Played at Columbus High in Miami. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st batting avg., 1st hits, T-3rd total bases, 4th runs scored, 5th OBP, 5th OPS (.919), 8th slugging pct.
LF Craig Dedelow: 2018 stats: .270/.285/.453, 13 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 32 K. Last series at Asheville: 6-for-15, 3 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 K. Ninth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out Indiana Univ. Attended Munster (Ind.) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st at-bats, 1st doubles, 6th hits, T-8th RBI.
3B Anthony Villa: 2018 stats: .364/.419/.494, 10 2B, 8 BB, 24 K. Last series at Asheville: 6-for-13, 2B, 4 R, 2 RBI, BB, 3 K. Nineteenth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of St. Mary’s (CA) College. Attended San Ramon Valley HS (Danville CA). SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-3rd doubles. T-3rd triples, T-8th total bases.
Tyler Ratliff lined a single into left to bring in pinch runner Franklin Rollin and sent the Hickory Crawdads to a 2-1 win over the Rome (Ga.) Braves Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
With the win, Hickory (13-21) has won two of three during the current series and it will try for the series win Tuesday morning starting at 10:30 a.m. Rome (22-15) dropped into second place, a game behind Augusta (Ga.) in the South Atlantic League Southern Division.
Facing Braves reliever Brandon White (0-2), the Crawdads started the ninth with a booming double off the wall in center field by Tyreque Reed. Austin O’Banion’s grounder to first moved Reed to third from where Rollin took over. Reed wasted little time for the walk-off winner by lining an 0-1 pitch from the side-arming White into left.
Pitching dominated Monday’s contest as a pair of No. 30 prospects – Rome’s Huascar Ynoa and Hickory’s Tyler Phillips – started the game.
Ynoa held the Crawdads hitless through five innings with the help of center fielder Drew Waters. The Braves No. 18 prospect made an on-the-run, leaping catch of a liner at the wall off the bat of Bubba Thompson in the first. Near the same spot, Waters – who also had two of the Braves seven hits – made an even better grab on a ball hit by Ratliff in the fourth when he scaled and reached over the wall to bring back a home run. Otherwise, Ynoa’s night was uneventful, as he struck out six and walked three. The lone hit against Ynoa was a home run by Justin Jacobs in the sixth.
Tyler Phillips matched zeroes on the scoreboard with five shutout innings. The Crawdads right hander allowed five hits and a walk with four strikeouts. He, too, got defensive help as Hickory turned two double plays behind him. The lone trouble for Phillips came in the fourth when William Contreras and Kurt Hoekstra each singled with two outs to put runners and first and third. Phillips got out of the inning by striking out Jean Carlos Encarnacion.
New reliever Derek Heffel entered the game for Hickory in the sixth. He allowed just two base runners over three innings and struck out three. However, the first base runner was a leadoff home run by Hoekstra to start the seventh and tie the game.
Alex Speas (1-0) dominated the Braves in the ninth with fastballs registering 96-98 mph. The right hander retired the side and struck out two.
Greenville (S.C.) scored five runs over the middle innings to support the start of Jhonathan Diaz as the Drive defeated Hickory 5-3 at L.P. Frans Stadium Thursday night in front of 1,725 fans.
The Drive (37-23) took the three-game series by winning the final two games and now lead the South Atlantic League’s first-half Southern Division standings by three games over the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies with ten games to play.
Hickory drops to 23-37 in the first half and are three games behind sixth-place Delmarva (Md.) in its bid to avoid the first last-place finish in a half-season since 2008, when the team was affiliated with the Pirates. The Crawdads are also trying to avoid the worst half-season record by a Rangers affiliated club. The 2009 second-half team finished 30-40.
Both lefties – Hickory starter Sal Mendez and Diaz – held the hitters at bay for the most part through the first three innings. The lone flaw by Diaz over the first five innings occurred in the third, when Jose Almonte golfed what appeared to be a low fastball over the fence. The solo blast was his fourth of the season and it gave the Crawdads their only lead.
That was short lived as Greenville returned fire in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead. Ryan Scott doubled hard to left and scored one out later on Rolandi Baldwin’s double to center. After Tucker Tubbs popped out, Tyler Spoon ripped a liner to right for a single. Almonte charged the ball and threw a one-hop bullet home that handcuffed the catcher Ricky Valencia and allowed Baldwin to score. (More on this play later)
In the fifth, Steven Reveles and Chris Madera both singled and later scored when Scott lifted a single past the drawn-in infield (Also more on this play later)
The Drive tacked on their final run in the sixth against Luke Lanphere. Spoon doubled to left, advanced to third on a grounder and scored on Reveles’s ground single up the middle through another drawn-in infield.
Meanwhile, Diaz faced one over the minimum through five innings, the lone blemish being Almonte’s homer and a single by Franklin Rollin in the first that was erased on a double play. The 20-year-old Venezuelan, making just his third stateside start, struck out eight through five innings.
However, the Crawdads finally got to him in the sixth with three straight hits. Yeyson Yrizarri singled to left and moved to third on Anderson Tejeda’s opposite-field double. Rollin singled in Yrizarri and in the process chased Diaz. Pat Goetze faced Leody Taveras, who bounced into a fielder’s choice to third. Reveles charged the play hard in order to get the force at second, but his throw sailed high and allowed Rollin to reach and Tejeda to score. But with runners at first and second, Yanio Perez hit into an infield fly and Forbes hit into a fielder’s choice. The inning ended when a double-steal attempt blew up and Rollin was caught stealing at home.
The Crawdads mounted an uprising in the eighth against Hildemaro Requena. With two outs, Taveras and Perez slapped back-to-back singles to place runners at the corners. However, Requena fanned Ti’Quan Forbes to end the threat.
Requena worked around a walk in the ninth by striking out the side to earn his third save of the season.
Examples of why errors and earned runs do not tell the whole story:
My friend Scott Lucas, who sends out a Rangers minor league report daily during the season, does a primer at the beginning of the season. In it, he explains that while ERA does reflect some of how a pitcher is doing, there are things that happen during a game that have more of an effect on earned runs (on none) than what meets the eye. Heck, an official scorer’s demeanor might get in the way of a judgment call at times. (Though I’m not one of those… I don’t think.) Earned runs, or the lack of them, do not always tell the fan the whole story.
Hickory was charged with three errors on the night and none officially had anything to do with the scoring. A glance at the box will tell a person the Crawdads played poorly defensively – and they did – then you look at the pitching line for Mendez and you’ll think, “well, they played poorly, but they didn’t affect Mendez’s earned run total.” While the errors didn’t affect earned runs, misplays that are not charged as errors did.
The first error came opening batter of the game, when Yrizarri’s high throw allowed Chris Madera to reach. Madera was erased on a double play hit into by Santiago Espinal, so no biggie.
The second error was the play that handcuffed Valencia at the plate. The runner, Baldwin, should have been out by 10 feet, as Almonte’s throw was on the money. But, you don’t assume the runner would be out or safe on such a play. There’s usually a benefit of the doubt given to the runner with the hitter getting the RBI. So, what was the error for? Allowing the runner, who had stopped at first, to advance to second. In short, the second run of the fourth shouldn’t have scored, but it did and it ups Mendez’s ERA total.
In the fifth with runners at first and second and none out, Espinal hit a sharp grounder to Perez at first. Perez made the fielding play cleanly, but a hesitation cost him a chance to throw to second for a simple force out, though a double play would’ve been tough. Perez did record an out at first, but his misstep took away a chance at a double play later to end the inning. So, with a runner at second and third and one out, Crawdads manager Spike Owen had to have the infield play in to try and keep the runner at third on a ground ball rather than at normal depth to try and turning an inning-ending double play. It cost them an out and a second run in the inning as Scott’s base hit was a routine pop up just beyond the second baseman’s position ad it fell in for a two-run single. It’s not a play an official scorer can award an error on, but the right kind of out saves a run. Regardless, it cost Mendez an earned run.
One inning later, Taveras and Almonte converge at RCF to retrieve a single that fell in. The runner stopped, but moved up when the two outfielders couldn’t decide on who would make the play. The ball bounced between them and so I gave the error to the player that should’ve taken charge, the CF Taveras – even though neither of them touched it.
Mendez deserves better, but….
The defense did cost him two runs, but Mendez didn’t help his cause by elevating his pitches. Throwing a well-spotted 89-91 mph fastball, he accompanied that with a changeup that dipped well, especially to left-handed hitters early. His effective mix of speeds worked well as he missed several bats with the change. He pounded the strike zone for first-pitch strikes (17 of 24 hitters). Add to that four broken bats, 10 groundball outs and two Ks and it was good night…. Except in the fourth and fifth he left a lot of pitches up that were spanked. It looked like Valencia kept reminding Mendez to stay out in front rather than fly open on delivery.
I like him more than most. He’s not going to wow you with “stuff”, but to me, there’s a lot there with that changeup that tantalizes hitters to swing… and miss. He has to keep his pitches down, as there’s not enough otherwise to keep him from getting mauled on the mound.
The Greenville (S.C.) Drive rallied with two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth to defeat the Hickory Crawdads in front of 3,625 fans, many of whom spent the 10:30 a.m. matinee in line at the lemonade stand at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for the Drive (35-23) snaps both their three-game losing streak and the Crawdads (23-36) three-game winning streak. Pending today’s other action in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division, the Drive is guaranteed at least a three-game lead with 11 games to play in the first-half title chase. Columbia (S.C.) already defeated Lexington (Ky.) today and is three back. Rome (Ga.) will play at in-state rival Augusta this evening. The Braves started the day 2 ½ games behind the first-place Drive.
The loss assured the Crawdads first sub-.500 record for a half-season since the second-half of the 2009 season. Hickory is now simply trying to avoid its first last-place finish since their affiliation with the Pirates ended in 2008. They entered the day two games behind sixth-place Delmarva (Md.). The Crawdads worst half-season record as a Rangers affiliate came in the 2009 second half with they finished 30-40.
The Greenville started the game with a single by Chris Madera and a walk issued by Edgar Arredondo (2-3) to Santiago Espinal. One out later, Tyler Hill doubled to left to score Madera.
Hickory pounced back with two of its own in the bottom of the first against Darwinzon Hernandez. With two outs and the bases empty, Yanio Perez singled and then walks to Ti’Quan Forbes and Alex Kowalczyk loaded the bases. Carlos Garay hit a broken-bat, jam-shot blooper into shallow center to score both Perez and Forbes.
That turned out to be almost the last of the Crawdads offense as Robby Sexton replaced Hernandez in the second and was nearly unhittable in earning his first pro win (1-5). The lefty, a 14th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2016 out of Wright State, retired the first 11 and 18 of the 20 hitters he faced.
Greenville vaulted ahead 3-2 in the fifth with two runs that came after the Crawdads missed a chance for the third out. Mitchell Gunsolus doubled and one out later moved to third on Arredondo’s wild pitch. Madera joined him on the bases when he was hit by a pitch. The key play of the inning occurred when Espinal flew out to shallow right. Jose Almonte made the catch and while Gunsolus held at third, Madera, for some unknown reason, tagged up from first and tried to advance to second. 1B Yanio Perez cut the ball off, but his throw to second to cut down Madera was high and the runner slid in safely. Ryan Scott singled in both runners to give the Drive a lead they would never relinquish.
Greenville used a two-out rally for a run in the sixth. Reliever Christian Torres loaded the bases by sandwiching walks to Gunsolus and Madera around a single by Carlos Tovar. Espinal hit a liner that was initially caught when SS Yeyson Yrizarri made a leaping grab. However, the ball tumbled out as he fell to the ground and that scored Gunsolus.
Franklin Rollin hit his third homer of the season in the eighth off closer Stephen Nogosek (11th save). However, Madera returned serve with his third homer of the season to start the ninth and accounted for the final score.
A missed opportunity for the final out in the fifth aside, the game came down to the ability of the pitchers to throw strikes. When Hernandez couldn’t throw strikes in the first (32 pitches, 16 strikes), the Drive moved quickly to shuffle in Sexton and he was brilliant. He mixed in a few breaking balls to miss bats – especially to Jose Almonte and Alex Kowalczyk – but it appeared he stayed with a fastball that was 88-90 according to the pitch trackers with a few changeups mixed in. Sexton (65 pitches, 46 strikes) moved the ball around well, hit spots and the Crawdads never really made solid contact against him.
Arredondo’s fastball was in the 90-92 range with iffy command and he had difficulty getting any of his secondary pitches (change, curve, slider) over the plate. He finished with just 57 strikes out of 87 pitches through 4 2/3 innings.
Christian Torres walks (32 pitches, 19 strikes) cost him a run in the sixth, though he used his change effectively in getting out of Arredondo’s jam in the fifth.
Early-run woes continue:
The first-inning run by Greenville was the 30th time in 59 games that an opponent has performed that feat. Further, Hickory has kept the opposition off the scoreboard over the first three innings just nine times.
Center field prospects take the day off:
Hickory’s Leody Taveras – the Texas Rangers No. 1 prospect – had his second straight off day on Wednesday. He had missed only one game this season prior to this week and on the heels of a 1-for-18 weekend at Delmarva (Md.) a chance to rest and regroup could be what is needed for now.
Greenville’s Lorenzo Cedrola – the Boston Red Sox No. 15 prospect – sat out on the heels of getting pulled from Tuesday’s game for not running out a groundball.
Tuesday – Dollar Dog Tuesday: Bring pet to the game for $1 each. Dog show each Tuesday night. $1 hot dogs, $2 craft pints and Pepsi products.
Wednesday – Business Card Special: Show your business card at the Ticket Office for a $5 ticket.
TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.
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 (Kannapolis / Hickory):
Monday: LHP Bernando Flores vs. RHP Kyle Cody
Tuesday: TBA vs. RHP Michael Matuella
Wednesday: RHP Jimmy Lambert vs. RHP Edgar Arredondo
Recent Series History:
So far in 2017, the teams have split the 12 previous games played, including a 2-2 series at L.P. Frans in April. Hickory has not lost a home series to the Intimidators since 2014 and are 42-28 there since 2009. The Crawdads won three of five at Kannapolis earlier in May.
About the Crawdads:
Hickory opened the homestand by losing three of four and dropped to 9-16 at Frans this season. The Crawdads enter the series losers of 7 out of 8 and 8 of 10… Hickory is often playing catch-up and often in a big way. The Crawdads have been outscored 139-88 over the first three innings. Opponents have scored in the first inning 24 times, while the Crawdads have 25 total runs in the first inning. In 43 games, opposition has scored at least one run in the first three innings… Pitching continues to make its effects felt on a disappointing first half. Hickory is last in the SAL in ERA (5.45), WHIP (1.54), hits allowed, runs allowed, earned runs allowed and are next to last in walks allowed. For the season, Hickory has given up seven or more runs 21 times in 50 games, 15 of those during the last 29… The Crawdads continues to slug their way into runs. They are second in the SAL in homers with 42, but are eighth out of 14 teams in runs scored. They are fourth in slugging (.391), but 10th in on-base pct. (.313). They are next to last in walks accepted, but third in total bases.
Prospects to watch- Hickory:
CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 MLB.com and Baseball America, No. 43 Baseball America top-100 prospects, No. 51 MLB.com top-100): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. Has missed one game this season, leads SAL in at-bats, 10th in hits. After sitting out a game during the midst of four-straight games without a hit, Taveras has a hit in five of the last six. He’s also starting to get his patience back with a walk in each of the last two games. After ten walks in April, he has just five in May.
SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7 MLB.com, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Tied for third in Ks (59). Both his K-rate and walk-rate have declined in May compared to April. Went 4-for-13 in his last three games with a run scored in each. Has two strikeouts in three of the last four games.
LF Miguel Aparicio (No. 14 Baseball America, No. 29 MLB.com). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of San Carlos, Venezuela. Hitting just .194/.286/.290 since joining the Crawdads on May 10. Has 14 Ks in 70 plate appearances.
2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. Sat out the final two games of the series with Asheville. Has hits in 17 of the last 20 games, which boosted his average from .155 on May 4 to its current .245.
RHP Michael Matuella (No. 19 Baseball America, No. 20 MLB.com). Third-round pick in 2015 out of Duke Univ. After a rough start, Matuella is coming off two straight strong outings with just one hit and a walk over his last six innings and 8 Ks. He will be limited to 60 to 70 pitches.
RF Jose Almonte (No. 28 MLB.com): Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Hit a pair of homers over the weekend, but K’d 8 times in 16 ABs. Now with 42 Ks in 15 plate appearances this season (28%).
RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America, No. 30 MLB.com): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. After a hiccup in mid-May, Ferguson has two scoreless outings with three Ks over 3 innings and one hit allowed. Control is his key. He has walked or hit 12 of the 58 batters he has faced, but has fanned 24.
Others to watch – Hickory:
3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Second-round pick in 2014 out of Columbia High (MS). Played in all 50 games, second in ABs in the SAL. Has posted a .333/.373/.500 slash vs. Kannapolis in 12 games. Hit a three-run homer vs. Asheville on Saturday, his first since mid-April. Has reached base in 12 straight games and is 12-for-41 in that stretch with four walks and two hit batters. Approach of late has been to take pitches up the middle and away.
C Ricky Valencia: Signed as an international free agent in 2011 out of Valencia, Venezuela. Is 10-for-28 with six RBI in 8 games vs. Kannapolis in 2017
C Alex Kowalczyk: 12th-round pick in 2016 out of Pittsburgh. Had three hits on Sunday and is 5-for-13 with two homers in his last three games. He is the leading Crawdads hitter in May, posting a .431/.484/.690 slash in May.
OF Franklin Rollin: Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of La Romana, D.R. Is 15-for-36 with two homers and 9 RBI in 8 games vs. Kannapolis.
RHP Kaleb Fontenot: 21st-round pick in 2016 out of McNeese St. Currently third in SAL among relievers in Ks per 9 innings (13.50). Has 11 Ks in his last 7 innings over two outings.
About the Intimidators:
Managed by Justin Jirschele in his first season with the Intimidators… Kannapolis split a four-game series at Greensboro and are coming to Hickory after striking out 20 hitters in Sunday’s game. The Intimidators are in fourth place, but sit just 3.5 games behind first-place Hagerstown (Md.). Kannapolis will have a chance over the next 17 games to put itself squarely in the division chase. After the Crawdads series, Kannapolis plays four games vs. third place Greensboro, then travels to second-place Lakewood (NJ) for three and sixth-place Delmarva (Md.). The run is capped with a three-game home series vs. Hagerstown… At the plate, Kannapolis is hitting .279 in May, which is second in the SAL. The Intimidators have scored eight or more runs in five of the last ten games. Overall, Kannapolis is third in the league in batting (.264) and OPS (.719)… On the hill, Kannapolis relies on strong starting pitching to eat up innings and get the game to its bullpen. The Intimidators are 18-8 when scoring first and an SAL-best 19-5 when scoring last. When leading after five innings Kannapolis is 20-3… Statistically, both teams should be able to use the running game to generate offense as Hickory and Kannapolis are at the bottom of the SAL in nabbing baserunners trying to steal. However, his is not the Intimidators game. They have just 21 steals in 36 attempts, both SAL lows. Joel Booker has ten of those… Defensively, Kannapolis is third from the bottom in fielding pct.
Prospects to watch – Kannapolis:
LF Jameson Fisher (No. 14 Baseball America, 16 mlb.com): Fourth-round pick out of SE Louisiana. As a redshirt-junior in 2016, led NCAA D-I in on-base pct. and was second in batting average. Tied for 9th in SAL with 12 doubles. Saw a 12-game hitting streak end on Saturday (19-for-47), he still owns a 14-game on-base streak. Has posted a .338/.422/.606 slash in May.
LHP Bernardo Flores (No. 19 mlb.com, 23 Baseball America): Seventh-round pick out of Southern California. Struggled in college, has mid-to-upper 90s fastball. Allowed one run on four hits over six innings in his last start. Has split his two decisions vs. Hickory, gave up four runs on eight hits over 4 innings vs. Hickory on 5/18.
RF Micker Adolfo (No. 21 mlb.com, 24 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent in 2013. Tied for 3rd in the SAL with 14 doubles. Had a 16-game hitting streak (24-for-66) earlier this month. Currently in the midst of a 4-for-22 stretch.
P Victor Diaz (No. 23 mlb.com, No. 26 Baseball America): Traded to the White Sox from Boston in the Chris Sale trade. The Dominican native made his season’s first appearance on May 26. Has retired all nine batters he faced in two outings with six Ks. With an upper-90s fastball, his stay in Kannapolis could be brief.
Others to watch – Kannapolis:
CF Joel Booker: 22nd round pick out of Iowa. Attended Polk County High in Columbus, NC. Quietly putting together a nice season as the Intimidator leadoff hitter. Currently second in the SAL in hits and runs scored, sixth in batting avg. (.318) and tenth in total bases.
RHP Mike Morrison: 27th round pick out of Coastal Carolina. Pitched for last year’s College World Series champions. Has allowed the fewest baserunners per 9 IP (3.96) among SAL relievers and is second in saves (8). He has yet to allow a run in 25 innings with 34 Ks to just 11 baserunners. He has given up four hits this season; Hickory has three of them.
RHP Jimmy Lambert: Fifth round pick in 2016 out of Fresno St. Is third in the SAL in innings pitched and has a 1.13 walk-per-nine-inning ratio, the best among starters in the SAL. Relies on defense to make plays, has allowed 57 hits in 55.2 innings. He is 2-1 vs. Hickory with a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings.
C Seby Zavala: 12th-round pick in 2015 out of San Diego St. Tied for second in the SAL with 10 homers and eighth in slugging (.520). Once a top-15 prospect with the White Sox, he’s struggled to make contact. Four of his HRs are against Hickory.
RHP Kyle Kybat: Non-drafted free agent out of Nebraska. Allowed 6.18 baserunners per 9 innings, third among SAL relievers, 0.65 BB per 9 innings 5th among relievers. Has a 0.59 ERA over 30.2 innings. Given up two earned runs, one of those surrendered to Hickory.
2B Mitch Roman: 12th round pick in 2016 out of Wright St. Tied for seventh in the SAL in hits. Slash line of .242/.279/.293 in May.
A pair of homers, including one that capped a three-run inning in the sixth, helped the Hickory Crawdads to a come-from-behind 6-4 win over the Asheville Tourists Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win for the Crawdads (19-30) snapped a six-game skid and set them up for a chance to split the series after the Tourists (20-27) took the first two of the four-game set Thursday and Friday. First pitch of Sunday’s finale is scheduled for 3 p.m.
For just the 18th time in 49 games, and the first time since their last win on May 20, the Crawdads scored first. With two outs and the bases empty, Leody Taveras singled to left and reached second when 3B Travis Snyder’s throw to second for the force sailed over Max George’s glove as he covered the bag. Facing Brandon Gold, Ti’Quan Forbes then launched a three-run blast, a high-arching shot that kissed the batter’s eye in center. The homer was Forbes’s sixth of the season, but the first since April 17.
However, the Tourists rebounded quickly against Crawdads starter Matt Ball with two runs each in the second and third innings. In the second, Manny Melendez, Carlos Herrera and Joel Diaz all singled, with Diaz’s hit scoring Melendez. Ball then struck out Robbie Perkins, but a run scored when Diaz took off for second on a double-steal attempt. Herrera scored on the play as Diaz got caught in a run down between first and second.
In the third, Vince Fernandez singled and scored when Jose Gomez hit a sinking liner that Taveras closed in on and attempted to make a diving catch. The ball fell in and scooted past Taveras to the track, turning the play into an RBI triple. Gomez then scored easily on Willie Abreu’s double to the RCF track.
The Tourists had a chance to tack on more runs in the fourth when Ball walked the bases loaded after two outs. However, Ball settled down and struck out Gomez to end the inning.
Hickory held the deficit to 4-3 until the sixth when it scored the decisive runs. Anderson Tejeda singled and then scored all the way from first when Gold fielded Franklin Rollin’s swinging bunt and threw it down the right-field line. Rollin went to third on the play and scored when Valencia lofted a deep fly just over the fence in right for his second homer of the season.
After Ball got out of the bases-loaded jam in the fourth, he and C.D. Pelham allowed just one baserunner until Pelham walked Abreu to start the eighth. With the tying run at the plate, Pelham struck out Melendez and Herrera. Jake Lemoine was then summoned to face Diaz, who swung at the first pitch and hit into a force play.
Asheville threatened in the ninth after Perkins reached on an error by Forbes and Lemoine walked Fernandez with two outs. However, Gomez ended the game when his soft liner was snagged in the hole at second by the leaping Blaine Prescott.
Forbes getting the money swing back; at least, I think he is:
I sent out a tweet Friday night that it appeared Forbes was getting close.
The first pitch fastball from Gold was a no-doubter to center. Forbes did try to pull a couple of pitches away and both turned into grounders to short. However in the eighth, he sent the same pitch up the middle for a hard-hit single. He’s still plenty quick enough on the fastball, but secondary pitches away have given him trouble. It appears that he is trying to use his hands more on those pitches – that is when he recognizes them.
It’s only natural during a losing streak to see players try to do something to put the team on their backs. For the most part, he 18-year-old Taveras has been immune from that, but over the first few games of the homestand, it looks like he is trying to do too much.
Though he doubled on Thursday – with the help of a deflection off the 1B’s glove – he seemed impatient on his final three ABs with just three pitches for each one, all strikes with four swing-and-misses – an unusual amount for him.
On Friday, Abreu stole second and moved to third on the overthrow by the catcher. Taveras backed the play up correctly, but even with no real chance for the out at third, he threw it anyway. The ball landed on the protective screen behind the third-base dugout. Add to that a K and a couple of weak grounders – two pitches on each of those ABs – and you have a kid that is trying to do too much. Eight Ks in 7 games (through Friday) was not like him.
Tonight, his dive into center was ill-advised – perhaps he didn’t read it well as it was hit directly to him – and what should’ve been a single to set up first and second with one out turned into a run with another at third.
Taveras is very good at ambushing fastballs, or working long counts to get a pitch he can do something with. The single in the first tonight was classic-Taveras. Hitting left-handed, he served an 0-1 fastball away into left. Later in the eighth, we saw him work the count and earn a walk. That serves him well when he doesn’t get those first-pitch fastballs.
The rally that almost wasn’t:
After the Crawdads had four – four! – runners thrown out on the bases Friday night in a one-run loss, including pinch-runner Franklin Rollin, who was inserted as the tying run in the seventh and then proceeded to get picked off, a near disastrous start to the sixth almost occurred. If it had, I think manager Spike Owen would’ve had a coronary on the field.
Anderson Tejeda opened the inning with a lined single to right. As Tejeda rounded the base at first, a throw from Willie Abreu in right was already on the way behind him and nearly picked him off as he scampered back to first.
Was this closing day?:
The first few innings had the feel of the final day of the season, as the hitters went hacking. Gold needed just 51 pitches to get through the fifth inning and the Tourists hitters went hacking against Ball. Of the seven hits allowed by Ball over the first three innings, five of those were on the first or second pitch as the hitters saw a flat fastball.
Gold went on to record a complete game, despite the loss, needing just 93 pitches. He did a good job of pounding the strike zone (71 strikes) and getting the Crawdads to swing at his pitches early for weak contact. In fact, just six of the 34 Crawdads saw five or more pitches.
A smooth CD:
Like fine music, this C.D. (Pelham) was smooth and kept the Tourists in a relaxed state. As Gold did, the 6-6, 235 lb. lefty got outs quickly (39 pitches, 26 strikes over three innings) then finished them off with either a change or a slider. The slider was especially good to lefties as three of the four Ks came courtesy of that pitch. Given the rough treatment Pelham got at Lexington (KY) on Wednesday (2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER), the bounce back was badly needed.
Tuesday afternoon’s game was a reversal of the script that occurred much of the home stand.
The Hickory Crawdads opened up a big league early in support of strong starting pitching by Kyle Cody and cruised to a 6-1 win over the Grasshoppers in front of 3,025 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win gave the Crawdads (15-23) the final two contests and forged a split of the four-game series and closed out a 3-4 home stand. While teams generally are unhappy with that kind of homestand, given the angst of the club after a woeful stretch of pitching, 3-4 gives the Crawdads a sense of “whew” as they head out for an eight-game trip to Kannapolis and Lexington, KY.
For Greensboro (21-17), losses the last two days dropped it from second to fourth place in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division chase. The Grasshoppers now sit two games back of first-place Hagerstown (Md.)
Hickory scored two in the first and four in the second off starter Jordan Holloway, who started his morning by hitting Franklin Rollin on the calf. A hit-and-run brought fruit as Miguel Aparicio bounced a single through the right side that moved Rollin to third. Leody Taveras’s grounder to first scored Rollin and later Alex Kowalczyk singled in Aparicio to make it 2-0.
The Crawdads batted around in the second to build a 6-0 cushion. Jose Almonte steered a single to left and one out later went to third when Anderson Tejeda doubled into the RF corner. Rollin and Aparicio both walked, which scored Almonte. The assault continued against reliever Marcus Crescentini as Yanio Perez singled in two and Kowalczyk added his second RBI hit of the game.
That was more than enough for Crawdads starter Kyle Cody, who pitched brilliantly Tuesday afternoon. The 6-7, 245 lbs. right-hander from the University of Kentucky pitched four-hit ball over seven shutout innings and struck out a pro-career high ten. After Greensboro singled in each of the first and second innings, Cody held the Grasshoppers hitless until they put up two in loading the bases with two outs in the seventh. Cody kept the fledgling shutout in tact by getting Corey Byrd to tap back to the mound.
Crawdads reliever Tyler Ferguson struck out the side around a walk in the eighth but ran into trouble in the ninth. With one out, Boo Vazquez doubled off the fence in left and advanced to third on Jarett Rindfleisch’s single. A fielder’s choice by Mason Davis got the runner from third home, but Rindfleisch reached second on a throwing error by 1B Perez. Corey Bird singled to load the bases, but then Ferguson struck out Aaron Knapp and got Justin Twine to fly to center to end the game.
Put-Away-Pitches Put Holloway Away:
Greensboro pitcher Jordan Holloway has had control issues much of his pro career (20 BB, 3 HBPs in 36.1 innings for this season after today), but his stuff (MLB.com has his fastball and curve at a 60 grade on the 20-80 scale) has been enough to put in the mid-teens range as a Marlins prospect. His control did indeed waiver as se walked three today and hit a batter during his 1.2-inning stint, but his inability to put away hitters ultimately did him in.
I didn’t see “every” pitch, but I don’t recall seeing many curveballs by Holloway, and the ones I did see didn’t have much bite. Otherwise, he stayed fastball/ change, but nothing that was commanded well.
To Hickory’s credit, the lineup did a good of spoiling his pitches and making him work. In the first, Taveras fell behind 1-2 before working the count full and rolling over the seventh pitch for a grounder to the right side that scored a run.
During the Tejeda at bat in the second, Holloway got ahead 0-2 and then left a fastball up that Tejeda smoked into right. Rollin fell behind 1-2 and then walked. Aparicio fell behind 0-2 and he, too, walked.
Perez victimized the reliever Crescetini, but taking a low breaking ball up the middle for a two-run single.
With the count 0-2 or 1-2 in the second inning, the Crawdads went 2-for-3 with two walks and four RBI.
A 6-7 player from Kentucky rebounds, and it’s not basketball:
After his last outing (2.2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), Kyle Cody was in charge from the start. Many of his Ks came on the slider to right-handed hitters and he was able to paint the arm-side corner with his fastball for punch outs. I talked with pitching coach Jose Jaimes about Cody’s start and to the differences from last week to today.
“I’m pretty excited about Kyle. Last time was not him. Today, he came out and had the right attitude. The main thing today was that he was able to throw that slider for a strike early in the count and put guys away with it, and then also locating his fastball, for the most part.”
Cody’s work in the seventh was especially impressive given the odd circumstances the bases were loaded. Colby Lusignan struck out to start the inning, but reached on a wild pitch. The second hit of the inning happened with first base wasn’t covered on a bouncer to second. Jaimes said the ability for Cody to keep his composure was a big step.
“The last inning, he had the strikeout, but we couldn’t make the out at first. I do know that the main thing is that he stayed focused. Even with two outs when something behind him happened, he didn’t lose command of his pitches.”
I’m starting to get asked about Yanio Perez and if he is going to be promoted soon. At .354/.430/.600 over 37 games, he is certainly making a loud statement that he is ready for a challenge. However, as with his Cuban countryman last year Andy Ibanez, there are other parts of his game to work on, namely defense.
I made that response to a tweet question this afternoon and soon after a couple of plays showed up that made me look like a prophet. With two outs in the seventh, Mason Davis bounced a ball to the right side of the infield. Perez made two quick steps to the ball, then let it go to Blaine Prescott at second. Looked like a routine play, except Perez didn’t retreat to the bag at first. Davis reached without a throw.
In the ninth, a throw by Perez to start a routine 3-6 force play (I don’t think it would’ve been a double play) sailed into left center.
However, like Ibanez last year, and possibly even more so with Perez, who is two years younger than Ibanez, the Rangers could be content to just let him get used to the country and the American way of playing the game and just letting him be for a bit and having him dominate.
Had the Crawdads lineup not put together 12 hits, Saturday night’s 14-2 loss to the Greensboro Grasshoppers might be one of the uglier losses in my own memory here.
Eleven walks, three hit batters, a wild pitch, an error on a throw to first following a strikeout, two passed balls all added up to every bit of that 14-2 defeat.
To the Grasshoppers credit, the lineup was patient and took advantage of the opportunities given them. Greensboro went 10-for-28 RISP and still stranded 14 for the game.
It started so innocently. Crawdads starter Demarcus Evans needed just ten pitches to get through the first. Good, lively fastball and three F-8’s later we’re thinking, here we go. Then it happened…
Hit batter, walk, walk, K, then a walk to .134 hitter Luis Pintor sent manager Spike Owen to the mound with a matter-of-fact walk to remove Evans. Reid Anderson entered and gave up a two-run single to Corey Bird (4-for-5) and a run-scoring double to Aaron Knapp (3-for-5, 5 RBI).
In the third, with one out, Colby Lusignan and Eric Gutierrez singled. Anderson K’d Boo Vazquez, but a passed ball on strike three scored Lusignan from third. Then, hit batter, Pintor’s RBI single, Bird RBI single and Knapp’s three-run homer made it 10-0 after three.
Grasshoppers starter Dylan Lee then just had to throw strikes and he did. Through seven scoreless innings, he scattered seven hits and struck out two.
Ismel Lopez was next up for Hickory and Greensboro got him for single runs in the fifth and sixth. Pintor walked and scored on a bases-loaded walk to Lusignan. In the sixth, Knapp’s sacrifice fly brought in Jarett Rindfleisch.
An unearned run made it 13-0 in the seventh. James Nelson earned the golden sombrero, but got all the way to second when catcher Alex Kowalczyk’s throw to first to complete a strikeout went into right. Vazquez eventually singled him in.
Finally in the ninth against CD Pelham, Vazquez and Rindfleisch hit back-to-back doubles.
The Crawdads got their runs in the ninth as Ti’Quan Forbes and Yeyson Yrizarri each had RBI singles.
Our internet combined with Gameday’s brain fart late in the game skewed pitch counts from the sixth inning on. By my count, I had the Crawdads combining for 234 pitches with 125 going for strikes. Just 28 first-pitch strikes to 55 hitters.
Evans threw just 19 strikes out of 42 pitches to get five outs.
What may be:
Getting the feeling that there will be some changes made and it could be a wakeup call for some guys. Tonight was the quarter-mark of the season and we now see what the reality is. Guys are not throwing strikes or commanding pitches in the strike zone. With manager Spike Owen having to go to the pen in the first through third innings too often, guys in the bullpen are shouldering a ton of work. The rotation and pitching roster may look different when the Crawdads go to Kannapolis on Thursday.
Tough night for Kowalczyk:
Whether it was the strain of trying to will pitchers into, or catching nearly every day for a week after sitting out until last week, Kowalczyk had a tough night. Two passed balls in the third, several other pitches that were simply dropped and then the error in the seventh on a routine throw to first. He had a ground single in the fourth, but otherwise K’d twice and bounced to second.
Leody busts it:
After a tough night Friday (2 Ks and a GIDP), Taveras was his young self again Saturday. After a Willie Mays, cap-fall-of-the head running catch in the first, he lined an 0-1 pitch hard off the mound, which bounced high into centerfield. He grounded to short and third in his next two ABs, but both times he sprinted hard to first and made both routine plays close. Taveras got rewarded for that hustle in the ninth when he beat out an infield hit to third.
Yay for Yay-Yay:
Yeyson Yrizarri had the best AB I can recall seeing in the third. (This was with the team down 10-0). A 9-pitch adventure, during which he spoiled five different 1-2 pitches, turned into a hard-hit single to left on a hanging curve. An infield hit in the fifth, a double into the LF corner in the eighth and an RBI single in the ninth and he winds up with a four-hit night. Add in a leaping catch of a liner to save two runs in the fifth and that’s a pretty good night for a guy during a game when he, and others, could’ve mailed it in.
Anderson at second:
Anderson Tejeda looks pretty comfortable at second and I think I could get used to seeing him there. Made two difficult plays look easy as he charged in on both and made the quick, across the body throw to first on the run.
Yanio is Yanio:
Three hits, two of them smoked, and I think he’s getting ready to go to Columbia, S.C. with Taveras for the SAL all-star game.
Rollin is rollin’
Franklin Rollin went 1-for-5, but could’ve easily had three more hits. Lined hard to first twice and to short to end the game. Just one of those nights.
As a matter of fact:
Several hitters torched the ball but found gloves. Along with Rollin’s smashes, Ti’Quan Forbes smoked a liner to third in the seventh that nearly doubled off Perez at third. Rollin’s smash to first did double off Yrizarri in the third. Almonte had a hard hit liner to center in the fifth. Hickory had 12 hits, but could’ve had more.