Results tagged ‘ Jairo Beras ’

The Throw: Beras’ Tools on Display in SAL Playoffs

Before the first game of the opening round series 2015 South Atlantic League playoffs between Hickory and West Virginia, I ran a tweet that said,

“Going to give a prediction that Jairo Beras has a huge series. It’s time he takes the work he’s done in the 2nd half and do big things”

Jairo Beras did indeed do big things throughout the playoffs and his game-saving throw in the seventh inning during the decisive game three of the SAL Championship Series was a key play for the Hickory Crawdads in closing out a three-game sweep of the Asheville Tourists.

Championship-caliber play didn’t seem likely on the second game of the season when the native of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R. continued a behavioral pattern that happened occasionally in 2014 – lack of hustle on pop-ups or groundballs. After getting sent to baseball purgatory for a month – extended spring training in Arizona – a hamstring injury upon his return cost him two more weeks.

Another “lack of hustle” incident occurred in a game on June 29, this time in front of Texas Rangers senior director of player development Mike Daly. Beras was benched for a game.

During an interview I did with Daly after the June 29 game, I asked him about the continued disinterest that Beras seemed to have in his own abilities.

“It’s really up to the player to decide that they’re going to do the things each and every day that’s part of being a professional player…” Daly said in June. “Our job as an organization is to support him and when he doesn’t do the things that he’s supposed to do to correct them and teach him and to make sure he learns from him. Ultimately, it’s up to Jairo to make those changes.”

Beras did indeed make those changes in putting up a 21-game hitting streak in the second half, which included a hustle single that broke up a fledgling prefect-game bid on July 20.

He carried his strong second half into the playoffs with a two-hit game – including a homer – in game one at West Virginia. In the final game of that series, he threw out Power runner Kevin Newman in the first inning of what turned out to be 1-0 win for Hickory.

In the championship series, he reached base four times over the first two games and knocked in three runs, but it is his throw in the final game that had the Crawdads players, coaches and players in awe.

The right field wall at Asheville’s McCormick Field is measured at 297 feet from home plate to the foul pole, 320 in the gap – the approximate distance of a football field.

It is from that distance that right fielder Jairo Beras made what Hickory Crawdads radio voice Jason Patterson called on the air “a throw Beras will tell his children and grandchildren about.”

The play developed with Nunez at first and two outs. Tourists hitter Roberto Ramos hit a low line drive to Beras in right for single. Trying to come up the ball, it skipped past Beras and rolled to the wall. Beras sprinted back to recover from the mistake, gathered the ball, and from the wall, fired an on-target throw that hit catcher Jose Trevino chest high and easily beat the runner by several steps.

“He fired an absolute laser,” said Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale. “I just stood in awe and watched it. It was unbelievable.”

Said pitcher Shane McCain in the locker room, “I’ve never seen a throw like that before.”

Players that go onto the majors seem to have those moments that springboard them toward that level. Those that watched Beras in the 2015 playoffs may have just seen that leap.

SAL championship celebration

Jairo Beras (5) far right, celebrates with his teammates at the conclusion of the Hickory Crawdads sweep of Asheville in the SAL Championship Series (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

SAL Championship celebration photos

I missed the clinching game, but I did get a few pics of the celebration and a snapshot with the SAL trophy.

Welcome to McCormick (Photo by Mark Parker)

Welcome to McCormick (Photo by Mark Parker)

SAL Game three lineup (photo by Mark Parker)

SAL Game three lineup (photo by Mark Parker)

Pedro Payano (center) and Kelvin Vasquez (R) celebrating the SAL title (photo by Mark Parker

Pedro Payano (center) and Kelvin Vasquez (R) celebrating the SAL title (photo by Mark Parker

Scott Williams (L) and Luke Tendler (photo by Mark Parker)

Scott Williams (L) and Luke Tendler (photo by Mark Parker)

Hitting coach Francisco Matos (L) and Eduard Pinto (photo by Mark Parker

Hitting coach Francisco Matos (L) and Eduard Pinto (photo by Mark Parker

(L to R) Eduard Pinto, Juremi Profar, Edwin Garcia, Michael DeLeon (photo by Mark Parker

(L to R) Eduard Pinto, Juremi Profar, Edwin Garcia, Michael DeLeon (photo by Mark Parker

Jose Trevino (L) and Mark Parker (photo by Mark Parker)

Jose Trevino (L) and Mark Parker (photo by Mark Parker)

Clubhouse celebration (photo by Mark Parker)

Clubhouse celebration (photo by Mark Parker)

MGR Corey Ragsdale addressing the players (L to R) Jairo Beras, Austin Pettibone, Nick Gardewine, Pedro Payano, Luke Tendler Edwin Garcia (photo by Mark Parker)

MGR Corey Ragsdale addressing the players (L to R) Jairo Beras, Austin Pettibone, Nick Gardewine, Pedro Payano, Luke Tendler Edwin Garcia (photo by Mark Parker)

(L to R) Collin Wiles, Brett Martin, Shane McCain (photo by Mark Parker)

(L to R) Collin Wiles, Brett Martin, Shane McCain (photo by Mark Parker)

Players back to front: Carlos Arroyo, Yohander Mendez, Ariel Jurado, Kelvin Vasquez, Eduard Pinto, Josh Morgan, Jose Cardona, (unknown), Luis Ortiz (photo by Mark Parker)

Players back to front: Carlos Arroyo, Yohander Mendez, Ariel Jurado, Kelvin Vasquez, Eduard Pinto, Josh Morgan, Jose Cardona, (unknown), Luis Ortiz (photo by Mark Parker)

A pic with the SAL trophy (photo by Mark Parker)

A pic with the SAL trophy (photo by Mark Parker)

SAL Championship Game 1 Story: Asheville at Hickory

Game Story: Asheville Tourists at Hickory Crawdads (Game 1, SAL Championship)

The Hickory Crawdads never trailed in taking the first game of the best-of-five series by a score of 7-2 over the visiting Asheville Tourists Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. Game two of the SAL Championship will take place at Frans with the first pitch at 7 p.m. After a day of Wednesday, the series picks back up Thursday at McCormick Field in Asheville.

The Crawdads are two wins away for their third SAL title in club history, the first since 2004.

What Happened?:

The Crawdads took the lead in the second inning against Helmis Rodriguez when Edwin Garcia and Jairo Beras led off the inning with back-to-back doubles to the left field corner.

Luke Tendler made it 2-0 when he cranked his first homer of the playoffs, a towering shot to right over the billboards.

That was more than enough for Crawdads starter Pedro Payano, who threw a six-hitter over six innings and struck out eight. The right-hander struck out six straight at one point.

Hickory added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth with the key play coming on a defensive miscue. With one out and runners on first and second, Jairo Beras lifted a fly ball to Wes Rogers in deep center. As Tendler tagged and moved to third, the throw to the infield from Rogers was a high-arching throw. Seeing the throw, manager Corey Ragsdale coaching at third waved Tendler around and he scored without a throw home. Eduard Pinto then ripped a double to center to score Edwin Garcia from first and put the Crawdads up 4-0.

In the eighth, Dylan Moore reached on a three-base error when Max White dropped a routine fly ball in left. Jose Trevino singled up the middle through the drawn-in infield to score Moore and then scored on Tendler’s double to center. After Garcia struck out, Jairo Beras drove a triple to center to bring in Tendler for the final run.

Asheville broke through in the ninth when Shane Hoelscher homered to left-center against Dillon Tate. The homer broke a 21-inning shutout streak by Crawdads pitching.

Four-Pitch Pedro:

Payano, the 20-year-old from San Francisco de Macoris, D.R., continued a strong end-of-the season run for the Crawdads and is making a bid for a top-30 prospect spot. Along with catcher Trevino’s pitch selection, the two did a masterful job of mixing speeds and keeping the Tourists hitters off stride much of the night. Payano offered a fastball sitting 91-93 mph to go with a change, his most effective secondary pitch. He also threw a 12-to-6 curve and an occasional slider.

Payano needed 79 pitches to get through six innings, tossing 55 strikes. Of the 55 strikes, 17 missed bats on four different pitches, 15 of those on secondaries (8 CHs, 4 curves, 3 sliders). Both looking Ks came in the second with fastballs on the corner.

“He’s been a special kid ever since he got here,” said Ragsdale. “To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about him when he got here.  He’s exceeded my expectations and has been a real pickup. He’s fit right in with the rest of the starters that have been really good helped us out. He was very good tonight.”

Hustling Pays off:

I’m sure the players hear the same manager-speak about busting tail and I’m sure it gets old as routine play after routine play is made. On Monday, it paid off twice and was and the two plays were the turning points of the game.

On Jairo Beras’ fly ball in the sixth, Tendler sprinted from second to third in such a manner that when Ragsdale from the third-base coaches’ box saw Rogers make the lollipop throw back to the infield, he decided to take a chance to send Tendler.

“Very surprised, it kind of shocked me a little bit,” said Tendler when asked of his reaction at the time. “That was a big run to give us a three-run lead. It was game-changer for us.”

Ragsdale said that with two outs, it was worth taking a shot to get a third run against Helmis Rodriguez and give an additional cushion to the pen. It also seemed to increase the momentum for his team.

“It seemed maybe they got down a little bit and it seemed to pick our spirits up a little bit,” Ragsdale said. “We were able to go on from there and put another good inning together.”

In the eighth, Moore sprinted from the start as his fly ball sailed into medium left field. When White dropped the ball, Moore was already well past second base and easily slid into third. Trevino then worked a 3-1 count before bouncing a Jerad McCrummen fastball into center.


Heart of the Order at the Heart of Success:

The number 3-6 hitters reached base eight times with six hits – five for extra bases – with five runs scored and six RBI.

Trevino’s leadoff walk started the sixth inning rally and he singled and scored in the eighth.

Tendler homered in the fourth, walked and scored in the sixth, doubled and scored in the eighth.

Garcia doubled and scored in the second, reached on a fielder’s choice and scored in the sixth.

Beras put up an RBI double to left in the second, an RBI triple to center in the eighth and had the key sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Filomeno Performs Well:

Joe Filomeno’s fastball-slider mix overpowered the Tourists during his two innings. He struck out two in the seventh, missing bats for strike three on a slider and a fastball. The lone hit was a leadoff single in the eighth, a grounder up the middle by Josh Fuentes. A double play followed by Yonathan Daza to end the threat.

Tate mixed reviews:

It was a little surprising to see Dillon Tate pitch with a seven-run lead in the ninth. However, because he had warmed up in the eighth, rather than wasting him on Monday – and likely not have him available for Tuesday – the decision was made to use him.

Forrest Wall started the minor rally for the Tourists in the ninth with a broken bat, bloop single to shallow center. From there, Tate seemed to struggle with fastball command. Hoelscher blasted 96 mph middle and slightly up for a homer just to the left of straight-away center.

An error by Juremi Profar at third extended the inning. After striking out Roberto Ramos, LH hitter Max White turned on a fastball in for a single to right.

Tate’s slider ended the night when Josh Fuentes flied out to center.


Defense Saves Tourists Early:

While their defense would let them down late, the Tourists kept the Crawdads at bay early with a couple of nice plays in the field.

With a runner at second with two outs in the first, Tendler smoked a sharp grounder up the middle. SS Luis Jean, playing near the bag to hold the runner Dylan Moore, made a quick pick of a short-hop at the cut of the outfield grass before a strong throw to first completed the out.

In the second with runners at the corner and one out, Ramos handled a one-hopper on the grass from Carlos Arroyo to start a 3-6-3 double play and save a run.

Base running Blunders Costly:

Rogers broke up Payano’s strikeout streak with two outs in the third when he fisted a changeup into shallow left for a hit. He then tried to stretch the play into a double, but was out easily as Eduard Pinto threw a bullet to Moore at second for the tag.

One inning later, Wall and Hoelscher each singled to start the fourth inning. With cleanup hitter Dom Nunez at the plate, Wall took off for third and was cut down easily on Trevino’s throw. The bigger blunder happened when Hoelscher stayed at first on the play. After Nunez struck out, the mistake was magnified when Ramos steered a slow bouncing single through the hole at second – a hit that with two outs would’ve likely scored Hoelscher.

Game Story: SAL Playoff Game 3 West Virginia at Hickory September 12

Game Story: West Virginia Power at Hickory Crawdads (Game 3, SAL Playoffs)

The Hickory Crawdads scored a run in the fourth and made it stand up among a strong pitching and defensive effort to claim a 1-0 win over the West Virginia Power in the decisive game of the South Atlantic League series.

The Crawdads will move onto a best-of-five SAL Championship Series against the Asheville Tourists starting Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. Hickory will host games one and two on Monday and Tuesday. After a day off, the series will shift to Asheville’s McCormick Park from games three through five starting Thursday.

What Happened?:

The lone run of the game came in the fourth inning when Dylan Moore led off with a double, moved to third on a Jose Trevino groundout and scored on Luke Tendler’s sacrifice fly.

The Crawdads used three pitchers to shut down the SAL’s top-hitting team on six hits and three walks. Collin Wiles pitched the first six innings. He issued all three walks and four of the six hits and struck out four. Luis Ortiz struck out four of the six batters he faced. Scott Williams struck out the first two hitters before Elvis Escobar and Connor Joe singled. The game ended when Taylor Gushue lined to Moore at second.

Defensive Brilliance:

With Wiles struggling early, the defense held the Power off the scoreboard. Kevin Newman led off the game with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Kevin Kramer then lined a single to right. Power manager Brian Esposito made an aggressive move to send Newman to the plate. Jairo Beras fielded the ball and fired a throw directly to catcher Jose Trevino, who slapped a quick tag onto Newman sliding into the plate.

In the second, Jerrick Suiter singled and also moved to second on another sac bunt. A grounder to short by Joe kept Suiter at second.  Shortstop Edwin Garcia’s diving stop robbed Gushue of a hit on a sharp grounder and ended the inning.

The next inning Newman again walked before Pablo Reyes sent a long fly ball to left center. Jose Cardona raced over from center and then made a running, lunging catch on the track, moving Newman, who was on the way to third at the time of the catch, back to first.

“I told the guys before the game, ‘if we pick it up and throw it like we need to, we have a chance to win the game,’ said Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale. “They went above and beyond and they made some unbelievable plays and that won us the ballgame.”

Wiles said the defensive plays were a reflection of what the team has done this season.

“The confidence coming into the game was high on our defense,” said Wiles. “You’ve seen it all year. Our defense has made spectacular plays all year. There was no let down. If anything, they took it to the next level and that’s a credit to them.”

The final defensive gem of the game came when Moore snared Gushue’s hard liner at second.


Wiles Pitches Around Trouble:

Wiles had problems finding a feel for his secondary pitches the first few innings. However, he had good fastball placement around the strike zone and kept the Power hitters from squaring them up.

Kramer’s single in the first appeared to be on a slider that caught a lot of the plate. Gushue’s hard grounder to Garcia was a high change. The worst pitch of the night was a hanging curve that turned into Reyes’ liner that was run down by Cardona.

“My style is to put the ball in play and let the defense work,” Wiles said. “I tested them quite a few times and they answered every single time. To bounce back down a game to winning like that throwing a shutout, a team shutout in the third, unbelievable, I couldn’t be prouder of my team right now.”

Wiles found the ability to use all his pitches in the fourth in his lone perfect inning of the night. A cut-fastball struck out Reyes to end a minor jam in the fifth and the final out of for Wiles was a strikeout of Escobar on a fastball.

Battling 0-2 counts the difference:

SAL pitcher of the year Yeudy Garcia was the equal of anyone on the mound Saturday as he struck out seven, walked one, and allowed four hits. The inability to finish off Moore and Tendler after getting ahead 0-2 was a difference in the game.

In his at bat, Moore laid off back-to-back sliders just off the outside corner, then got a belt-high, 95 mph pitched that he ripped to the wall. Likewise, Tendler laid off an 0-2 change, spoiled another before sending a third-straight change that was up out to deep left for the sac fly.

“We knew that we were going to have to fight and claw for everything we got,” said Ragsdale. “They battled their tails off. We didn’t get a ton of hits, but they were up their fighting. That kid’s the SAL pitcher of the year for a reason. I’m super proud of the way the guys game out and battled. You knew it was going to be tough to get anymore. We were going to get their best stuff just like they were going to get our best stuff. We were able to make it stick.”

Ortiz Unhittable:

West Virginia was out of sync the entire two innings that Luis Ortiz was on the mound and it started on the first pitch. Sitting on a first-pitch fastball, Joe swung badly at a slider that was off the plate away. Gushue flew out to right and then after swinging through a slider, the right-handed Tyler Filliben watched a 98 mph fastball catch the outside corner at the knees.

Ortiz went on to strike out the side in the eighth two swinging on sliders and the final one another called third strike on a fastball at the knees.

The two innings that Ortiz threw was arguably the most-dominant two innings of the season, including five missed bats on sliders in the two innings.

“Wiles set the tone right away,” Ortiz said.  Him getting deep into the game and messing with the hitters and having them on hold. He made it easier for me just to let it go and do what I have to do.

Williams Pitches Rare Back-to-Back Outing:

Scott Williams worked around two two-out hits and got a break on the liner hit to Moore for the final out of the game. He worked mostly off his 95-97 mph fastballs in getting two strikeouts in the inning.

Having pitched two innings in Friday night’s win, it was thought that he would not be available on back-to-back nights. However, the wheels were put in motion on Saturday and Williams was brought in to seal the series.

“Oscar and Rags told me that I might have a possibility of doing it,” said Williams. “So, we had to convince the pitching coordinator (Danny Clark) to let me do it. He gave me the heads up and I was pumped to get an opportunity to come back out.”

Kudos to Trevino:

Wiles was effusive in his praise of catcher Jose Trevino’s work in the series and felt he had as much to do with the shutout as anyone.

Wiles said, “The consensus between me, Ortiz and Williams is Jose Trevino behind the plate. He told me before the series that he’s got a plan, just stick with him. It worked in game one; we just didn’t get the win. You see a man battle his butt off the last two games and basically willing us to win, willing us to make the right pitch at the right time, all the credit goes to him.”

SAL Playoffs Game 2 Preview: West Virginia at Hickory

South Atlantic League Playoff Series

Game 2: West Virginia Power (87-52, 1-0 series lead) at Hickory Crawdads (81-57, 0-1)

Site/ Time: L.P. Frans Stadium, Hickory, N.C.

Game 1 Recap: The Power struck for three runs in the fifth inning and went on the capture a 4-2 home win. After Crawdads pitcher Yohander Mendez allowed two baserunners over 4.1 innings, a double by Chase Simpson and Taylor Gushue tied the game at 2. West Virginia added an unearned run in the inning, which scored on a wild pitch by Joe Filomeno on a dropped third-strike after fanning Michael Suchy with two outs. The Power tacked on the fourth run in the seventh on an error by 1B Carlos Arroyo. The Crawdads put seven baserunners on over the first five innings, but managed only a solo homer by Jairo Beras and an RBI groundout by Arroyo. The trio of Austin Coley Sam Street and Nick Neumann retied the final 13 Crawdads of the game.

Probables: WV: Stephen Tarpley (LH, 11-4, 2.48) vs. HKY: Ariel Jurado (RH, 12-1 2.48)

Lineup: WV: Kevin Newman-6, Pablo Reyes-4, Kevin Kramer-D, Michael Suchy-9, Jerrick Suiter-7, Elvis Escobar-8, Chase Simpson-5, Taylor Gushue-2, Connor Joe-3.

HKY: Eric Jenkins-7, Dylan Moore-4, Jose Trevino-2, Luke Tendler-D, Edwin Garcia-6, Jairo Beras-6, Juremi Profar-5, Carlos Arroyo-3, Jose Cardona-8.

Tarpley vs. Hickory: The lefty from Los Angeles made two starts against Hickory this season with mixed results. Back on June 21 in West Virginia, Tarpley allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with one walk and six strikeouts. Jose Trevino singled in a run in the first, a run that was unearned due to a passed ball. The Power took a 4-1 lead in that game before the Crawdads picked up a run in the fourth on Jose Cardona’s single. Tripp Martin’s double chased him in the sixth and the Crawdads eventually rallied later in the game for a 10-5 win.

Tarpley dominated the Crawdads in a start at L.P. Frans on August 15 when he shut down the Crawdads on three hits over eight shutout innings. The Crawdads lineup had difficulty solving a three-pitch mix as Tarpley recorded 16 groundball outs and threw 93 pitches (63 strikes).

In his last start at Kannapolis, Tarpley allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits and struck out three. He was named to Baseball America’s Low-A All-Star Team.

He features a low-90s fastball with some run into right-handed hitters. He can keep hitters off-stride with a slider and change.


Jurado vs. West Virginia: The right-hander from Aguadulce, Panama outdueled SAL pitcher of the year Yeudys Garcia in a 3-1 win back on May 19. In that start, Jurado allowed one unearned run on four hits and struck out three. The Power stranded runners in scoring position both in the first and second before tallying their only run of the game when Tyler Filliben singled and went to third on a throwing error. He scored on a sacrifice fly.

Jurado is coming off his worst performance of the season after giving up five runs (two unearned) on seven hits over three innings for his only loss of the season. Like Tarpley, he was named to Baseball America’s Low-A All-Star Team.

He features a hard sinker at 94 that runs to the back foot of right-handed hitters and also changes speeds well. Jurado can run a slider glove side and has had some success with a developing curveball.

Power hitters vs. Hickory: In game one, Pablo Reyes and Kevin Kramer (one walk) each doubled and were the lone Power hitters with two hits as the Crawdads held them to only six hits. Chase Simpson and Tyler Gushue homered.

Among active players, Elvis Escobar has the highest batting avg. vs. Hickory during the regular season at .355 (11-for-31). Jerrick Suiter went 6-for-18 (.333) and Kevin Newman went .286 (4-for-14).  Connor Joe hit only .200, but picked up eight walks in six games. All-star OF Michael Suchy had a team-high five RBI on four extra-base hits.

Crawdads hitters vs. West Virginia: In game one, Hickory piled up seven hits with Jairo Beras getting two. Eric Jenkins and Jose Trevino both doubled with Dylan Moore, Edwin Garcia and Juremi Profar singling.

Among active players during the regular season, Carlos Arroyo is the lone player hitting above .250 against West Virginia. Arroyo is 6-for-15 (.400) with a triple, a homer and two RBI. Beras and Garcia are at the .250 mark with Beras cranking a pair of homers to go with the one in game one. He leads the team with five RBI and Jose Trevino has four.

What to watch for: The Crawdads will have to figure out a way to solve Tarpley’s ability to change speeds and make him get pitches up… On the mound, if Jurado can put up his usual five innings-plus the Crawdads will have Tate and Ortiz available to bridge the gap to close Scott Williams (10 saves)… The Power like to play small ball (90 sac bunts) which could put pressure on an infield that has not played much together. 1B Carlos Arroyo had never played first as a pro until last weekend – a three-game career at the position – and Dylan Moore has six games with Hickory at second… Eric Jenkins at the top of the order and Jose Cardona at the bottom could give the Crawdads the chance to put some speed to use. Hickory was next to last in steals this season (Cardona had 30 of the 95), so the new toy of Jenkins speed could be a wrinkle that the Power has to contend with. As Hickory searches for offense against Tarpley, Jenkins ability to bunt to get on base – and get to second – could be key. Power catcher Tyler Gushue is next to last in the SAL in caught stealing (26.6%). Gushue led the SAL with 24 passed balls.

Game Story: Hickory at West Virginia Game 1 SAL Playoffs

The West Virginia Power rallied with three runs in the fifth inning and went on to a 4-2 win over the Hickory Crawdads Wednesday night at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W. Va. With the win, the Power took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three South Atlantic League series.

The series shifts to Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium with the Crawdads needing to win game two on Friday night to force game three on Saturday.

What Happened?:

Hickory took a two-run lead after four innings. Jairo Beras slapped an opposite field homer in the second and Carlos Arroyo’s RBI grounder doubled the lead.

However, after Yohander Mendez dominated the Power the first four innings, a sloppy fifth inning was the turning point of the game. With one out, Chase Simpson doubled to left and Taylor Gushue powered a two-run homer to left. The inning continued when Tyler Filliben reached on a throwing error by shortstop Edwin Garcia. Mendez induced Kevin Newman to bounce into a comebacker. But, the potential, inning-ending double play fell apart the Mendez was slow to the bag at second and the Crawdads recorded only one out. Pablo Reyes singled to chase Mendez before reliever Joe Filomeno walked Kevin Kramer to load the bases. Filomeno struck out Michael Suchy, but the third-strike slider bounced away and allowed Suchy to reach and Newman to score the go-ahead run.

After posting seven hits over the first five innings, the Crawdads went into a funk at the plate following the Power’s rally. Three West Virginia pitchers retired the final 13 batters of the game.

The Power added an unearned in the seventh for the final tally of the game.

The Good:

Yohander Mendez plowed through the first four innings with only one hit allowed and struck out five.

Joe Filomeno struck out five over 2 1/3 innings and allowed just the one unearned run in the seventh.

Jeffrey Springs pitched a perfect eighth inning with one strikeout.

Jairo Beras was the lone Crawdads hitter with two hits and doubled in the fourth.

The Not-so-Good:

Missed Opportunities at the plate: The Crawdads put seven runners on over the first five innings and managed just a solo homer and an Arroyo’s RBI groundout after loading the bases with one out. Eric Jenkins doubled with one out in the third, but did not advance further. Jose Trevino doubled with two outs in the fifth and was stranded as Luke Tendler’s drive fell at the warning track.

Missed opportunities in the field: A short-hopped throw to first by Garcia opened the door to the go-ahead run in the fifth. Yet, it was Mendez’s hesitation on a throw to second on what was described on radio as a routine double play ball that proved to be the key. In the seventh, 1B Carlos Arroyo’s throw went behind Filomeno covering first and allowed Pablo Reyes to score from second with two outs.

The Opponents:

Tyler Gushue hit his sixth homer overall this season. Two of those have come against Hickory.

Pablo Reyes and Kevin Kramer each had two hits with a double each. Reyes doubled and scored an insurance run in the seventh. Kramer’s walk in the fifth loaded the bases for Suchy.

Austin Coley walked the tightrope during much of his six innings, but the right hander, who won 16 games during the regular season, minimized the damage during the crucial fourth inning.

Sam Street and Nick Neumann combined for three perfect innings with three strikeouts.

Hickory / West Virginia SAL Playoff & Game 1 Preview

South Atlantic League Playoff Series

Game 1: Hickory Crawdads (81-57) at West Virginia Power (87-52)

Site/ Time: Appalachian Power Park, Charleston, West Virginia

Crawdads Playoff History:  The Crawdads will make their tenth playoff appearance in 23 seasons since joining the South Atlantic League in 1993. It is the first appearance since 2011. This will be the third trip to the playoffs during the seven seasons the Crawdads have been affiliated with the Texas Rangers.

Hickory has won two SAL championships, both coming during the affiliation of the club with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2002 and 2004.  The Crawdads have not won a series since claiming the title in 2004, nor have they won a playoff home game since the clincher of that series.

Power Playoff History: West Virginia has made seven playoffs appearances since staring South Atlantic League play in 1987. The lone SAL title came in 1990 as the Charleston Wheelers – a Reds affiliate – swept the Savannah Cardinals in three straight. This is the fourth playoff appearance under the name of the West Virginia Power (beginning in 2005), the second as a Pirates affiliate (2013), which began in 2009.

Hickory/ West Virginia Playoff History: The Crawdads defeated the Charleston Alley Cats (Blue Jays) in two straight in the first round of the 2004 playoffs. The clincher of the 2004 sweep was the final game played at Watt Powell Park in Charleston.  West Virginia (Brewers) took a 2-1 first-round series win in 2007.

How Hickory Got Here: The Crawdads led the first-half Northern Division chase wire-to-wire, eventually finishing with a 44-24 mark, 7 ½ games ahead of second-place West Virginia.

How West Virginia Got Here: The Power bullied the SAL in the second half and finished 50-20. It was the first time a SAL club had 50 half-season wins since Augusta turned the trick in 2007. West Virginia finished ten games ahead of second-place Delmarva in the second half and 13 games ahead of fourth-place Hickory.

Game 1 Pitching matchup: Hickory-Yohander Mendez (LH, 3-3, 2.44) vs. West Virginia- Austin Coley (RH, 16-6, 3.66)

Hickory Pitching:

Mendez: After pitching in a piggyback arrangement with Ariel Jurado much of the season, Mendez split off on his own late in the season. After allowing more than two runs just once in his first 19 outings, the lefty gave up four in five innings to Greensboro on August 23 and five to Delmarva in 3.1 innings on September 1 to close out the regular season. He gave up one homer in each of those outings, the only long balls he allowed this season. Mendez finished the season with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. SAL hitters batted .230 against Mendez in 2015. His struck out 74 and walked 15 in 66.1 innings. Against West Virginia in 2015, Mendez allowed one unearned run on three hits, two walks and struck out seven in eight innings (two appearances, one start).

Relievers: Scott Williams likely will get the first look for a save situation. The right-hander picked up ten saves in the second half and built a 40-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31.1 innings in the second half. In three outings vs. the Power in 2015, Williams allowed one run – a homer to Michael Suchy on June 19, on three hits and struck out two over four innings… Joe Filomeno gave up two runs to the Power late in a game on August 16… Shane McCain was roughed up in an outing vs. West Virginia on August 15 (2.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K…Having not pitched since September 2, it would not be unusual to see 2015 first-rounder Dillon Tate get an inning in the middle of the game.  Manager Corey Ragsdale indicated that Tate and Luis Ortiz would be available for action in the series… Adam Dian (5 saves) threw an inning on Monday’s win. He has pitched out of the pen on one day’s rest just once.

West Virginia pitching:

Coley: The 23-year-old right-hander made all 27 starts this season and seemed to finish strong as he allowed one earned run in each of his last four starts (26 innings). Coley has showed good command with 111 Ks to just 25 walks in 147.2 innings. A fly ball pitcher, – He holds a 0.88 GO/AO ratio – Coley is susceptible to the long ball, having allowed a SAL-high 18 this season. The Crawdads touched him up for three in a loss back on August 14. Hickory has had perhaps the best luck against the 16-game winner tagging him for 20 hits over 11 innings in two starts. Among Crawdads hitters, Carlos Arroyo is 4-for-6 this season with a homer and Luke Tendler has doubled and homered in four plate appearances. Jairo Beras went 2-for-2 with a double.

Relievers: Nick Neumann is the Power close with 17 saves in 19 chances. He threw two perfect innings against Hickory this season, both coming in the first half… Other key relievers will likely include Sam Street, Jared Lakind and Julio Vivas. Of the trio, only Lakind (1 IP) has faced Hickory this year.

Hickory lineup:

Late season injuries to Josh Morgan and Michael De Leon put the Crawdads into a mix-and-match mode on the infield. Catcher Jose Trevino and third baseman Juremi Profar are the two likely certainties around the diamond. Ragsdale indicated that Edwin Garcia will likely play short and newcomer Dylan Moore will place second. Carlos Arroyo, who played second most of the season, was stationed at first the final two games of the season and handled the position without a problem. With his output against Coley (4-for-6) this season, and his success against the Power this season Arroyo may get the first look with Chuck Moorman and Jonathan Meyer available off the bench. Arroyo is the lone active Crawdads player to hit over .300 (6-for-15) against the Power in 2015.

In the outfield, the arrival of 2015 second-round Eric Jenkins gives Ragsdale a different wrinkle in the lineup with his speed. He went 7-for-18 during his five-game audition last week and he may well have earned some at bats in the series. The likely lineup will be Luke Tendler in left, Jose Cardona in center and Jairo Beras in right. Tendler ended his season fourth in the SAL in RBI and total bases. Beras had a pair of homers and five RBI during a mid-June series in Charleston. However, he went 0-for-7 against the Power in August. Eduard Pinto may get a look at first on in the DH slot.

Power lineup:

The Power had only 18 position players on their roster this season with eight players taking the field for 99 or more games (Hickory has three in the expected lineup, though Pinto has 98 games). The team finished the season at the top of the SAL with a .269 batting average and a .347 on-base percentage. It’s a team that will play classic National League small-ball (90 sacrifices) to scratch out runs for what has been a shutdown pitching staff. They are very patient at the plate. West Virginia leads the SAL in walks and has the second fewest strikeouts this season.

Behind the plate will likely be Taylor Gushue with Connor Joe – the Pirates No. 29 prospect ( at first. Pablo Reyes and 2015 first-round pick Kevin Newman will play second and short respectively. Rounding out the infield at third will likely be Tyler Filliben, who has filled in for the injured Jordan Luplow.

A talented group is stationed in the outfield with SAL all-star Michael Suchy starting in right. Suchy, the fifth-round pick of the Pirates in 2014, finished the season second in the SAL in runs scored and in RBI.

A combination of Tito Polo, Elvis Escobar and Jerrick Suiter split up left and center, with Suiter getting many of the DH starts.  Suiter and Esocbar finished fifth and eighth in the SAL in batting avg. with Escobar third in hits.

Against the Crawdads, Escobar hit .355 (11-for-31) to lead the team among active players. The injured Luplow had two of the five homers struck against Hickory and he is tied with Suchy with five RBI.

Other things to know: This is likely to be a pitching-and-defense series. Hickory and West Virginia finished tied with the fewest errors committed in the SAL and went 1-2 in WHIP. The Crawdads finished second in ERA (3.19) with the Power fourth at 3.38…  Defending bunts had been a downfall for the Crawdads prior to their injuries and against a team that likes small ball, the revamped defensive alignment – especially with the likelihood of inexperience at first – could be a point worth watching… Both teams expect to win when they score first. The Crawdads went 54-14 when scoring first – tops in the SAL – and West Virginia was 59-16, which was second… Hickory has held up well under pressure as it was 71-4 when leading or tied after seven innings. In one-run games, the Crawdads are 27-16 with the Power at 19-22.

New life brings new life to career: An interview with Jairo Beras

If there was anyone that truly needed a strong second half, it was Jairo Beras. Signed three seasons ago for a reported $4.5 million bonus, Beras has been slow to put things together. He missed a year due to a suspension for falsifying his age. After 17 games in the Arizona Summer League in 2013, Beras came to Hickory for 2014 where he was overmatched in the first half (.201/.269/.251). Injuries to the Crawdads outfielders at the time likely staved off a mid-season demotion, as the Dominican native put together a big second half (.276/.336/.419) during which he hit 18 of his 25 extra-base hits.

It was hoped that would be the springboard for a big 2015 season. However, the failure to run out a pop up on the second game of the season put him in the doghouse from the start. He played in one game from April 10 through May 8. A hamstring injury also hampered him and then another incident in June when Beras didn’t run out a play – with director of player development Mike Daly in attendance – brought things to a head.

Soon after the second lack-of-hustle incident, I asked Daly about Beras’ development to which he responded that despite the Rangers were still excited about where Beras was in that development. My follow-up question wondered when Beras would be excited about his own development.

Daly responded, “You hope so, yes. I would fully expect that to happen. When that happens, I’m not sure that anybody knows. It’s really up to the player to decide that they’re going to do the things each and every day that’s part of being a professional player. I think it’s really up to Jairo. Our job as an organization is to support him and when he doesn’t do the things that he’s supposed to do to correct them and teach him and to make sure he learns from him. Ultimately, it’s up to Jairo to make those changes.”

Beras, 20, has since had a life-changing experience when he saw his daughter Angie come into the world. The new father – beaming with pride as he talks of her – seems to have new life in himself the past two months. In the second half, Beras has a slash of .308/.349/.467, with 22 extra-base hits in 61 games. The highlight included a 21-game hitting streak, the Crawdads second-highest streak.

Numbers aside, Beras has shown the ability to grow as a player. Better pitch recognition and the ability to shoot pitches to right have cut his strikeouts from 29 in 93 at bats in the first half to 58 in 227 over the second half. That included just 15 over the length of the streak.

But there is also urgency to his play. One example came on July 20 versus Augusta when he broke up a fledgling perfect game by Sam Coonrad by just beating out a chopper to the mound in the fifth. Last week in a game vs. Charleston, it was hustle into the right field corner to hold a hitter to a single.

“I think what’s led to that is just the way that he comes to the park ready to go every day,” said Crawdads manger Corey Ragsdale recently. “I think he got tired of struggling as bad as he was and he decided that it was time to focus on what he needs to do. He’s come to the park and he’s been more prepared and focused. He’s been ready to play. I think the results are a direct effect of the fact that he has put more into it and he’s getting more out of it.”

He’s shown quick hands on inside fastballs, but he is now better able to handle outside pitches by serving them to right, or lay off altogether. Beras still has some filling out to do with his 6-foot-6 frame that will help take many of the singles to night he is collecting now will become gap hits.

I recently had an interview with Beras about his season. Through the translation of Edwin Garcia, here is that conversation.

Jairo Beras has a posted 22 XBHs in 61 games during the second half (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

Jairo Beras has a posted 22 XBHs in 61 games during the second half (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

Jairo, first of all there’s been a lot of ups and downs this season. How have you felt about this season so far with everything?

Beras: I feel a lot better. I feel like I’m making adjustments and working hard in the cage and I feel a lot better at the plate.

You had a little girl this summer. Does having a daughter give you a better mentality about playing the game?

Beras: I’m happy. Now I know that I’m not playing just for me, but I’m playing for my family. I always think about them.

Take me through the first half of the year. I know you had some injuries and that you got in trouble for not running out some ground balls. What was the first half like for you?

Beras: I felt a little bit lazy because I couldn’t go hard because I had a problem with my hamstring. After I came back from Arizona, I played a lot better because I can give one-hundred percent every time I go onto the field. That’s why I’m playing better now.

You had the big second-half last year where you put some things together. Were you disappointed with how this year started? If so, how?

Beras: No, I didn’t feel good when I’m up and down. Right now I feel really good.

You came here last year after being out a year because of the suspension. How hard was it to get back into baseball shape and play every day?

Beras: It wasn’t too hard because I was in the Dominican seeing a couple of pitches. I was always hitting and working out. But when I got here, it wasn’t easy because the pitchers command the pitches better. That’s why I had to make the adjustment.

How hard was it to sit out the year?

Beras: It was really hard not to play when I knew I could play. But I was always working so I could be ready to play when I came back.

The second half, I could tell that you could see pitches better. What helped you especially to see breaking pitches better?

Beras: I know that I have quick hands, so I am able to see the ball into the hands and take pitches.

As far as the recent hitting streak, when did you start picking up that you had something special going 10 games, 15 games, etc?

Beras: I didn’t know until someone told me. I didn’t even think about it.

When did you find out about it?

Beras: About a week before the streak ended. Someone from the Dominican called me.

What’s the next thing in your development you have to work on?

Beras: I want to keep working on my defense and play hard.

When you get to the major league, what is that going to mean to you?

Beras: I will feel so very happy and show everybody, who is Jairo Beras.

What do you want them to know about you?

Beras: I want them to know that I’m a really good player and that I’m a good person off the field, too.

What do you know now about the game at 20-years-old that you wish you knew when you signed with the Rangers?

Beras: The game is more mental that just about the physical. Before, I was just thinking just to play hard. Now I’m thinking about when I get into the box and about the hitting situation and that sort of stuff.

When you are done with this season, what does a good year look like for you?

Beras: The first thing I will say is thank you to God for keeping everybody safe. The second thing is that I really want to win a championship. I’m not too worried about numbers; I just want to help the team win the championship.

Game Story: Rome at Hickory September 5

The Rome (Ga.) Braves muscled two home runs to account for all their runs in a 5-1 win over the Hickory Crawdads Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

With the win, the visiting Braves (58-80 overall, 27-41 second half) kept pace with the Lexington (Ky.) Legends for the battle to stay out of the cellar in the overall standings in the Southern Division. Rome is looking to avoid a second-straight, last-place finish, which would also be the fifth such finish in eight seasons.

Hickory dropped to 79-57 overall, 35-33 in the second half. The Crawdads are looking to the final two games of the series to pick up their 80th win for the second straight season. Hickory last had back-to-back 80 win seasons from 2002 to 2004.

What Happened?

The Braves scored all the runs it would need in the fourth when Tanner Murphy cranked a three-run shot (7) in the fourth. Matt Tellor added the other two runs in the sixth with a blast to right, his fifth of the season.

The Crawdads scored their only run of the game in the sixth with Edwin Garcia tripled and scored on Jose Trevino’s grounder to third.

Trevor Belicek picked up the win (1-0) for Rome with Austin Pettibone talking the loss (3-7).

The Good:

Jeffrey Springs: The Texas Rangers 30th-round pick this past June out of Appalachian State struck out three over two perfect innings of relief. In what was his first home game, the left-hander showed a biting curve that missed six bats, along with a 90-91 mph fastball.

Chris Dula: Gave up two hits during his lone inning of the game in the seven, but arguably had his best stuff of the season. He started the inning by striking out Erison Mendez with the final pitch of the at-bat being a 97-mph fastball that was low and away to the right-hander. He gave up back-to-back hits – the first an infield hit by Stephen Gaylor to short before Luis Valenzeula smacked a high slider for a single. Dula got out of the inning with a 95-mph sinker that Jordan Edgerton beat into an around-the-horn double play.

Eric Jenkins:  Went 3-for-4 for and showed the promise he has to be a legitimate leadoff hitter. He started the first with a bunt up the third-base line that gave Edgerton no chance to make a play. In the fifth, the left-handed hitter turned on fastball for a sharp, ground-ball single to right. In the eighth, it was a slider the Jenkins nailed hard to right. Jenkins has reached base five times in nine trips over the two games he’s played the series. He’s shown for now the ability to catch up to fastballs but stay back on secondary pitches.

Jairo Beras: Continued a strong second half (308/.349/.467) with two hits and a walk. He laid off a couple of close breaking pitches to get the base-on-balls in the second. A slider in was rapped hard for a double to left in the fourth, as was an inside fastball in the sixth. The lone out came in the eighth when he lined a fastball to second.

Dylan Moore: Singled in the third and walked in the fifth to go with a hit in his Crawdad debut on Friday.

The Not-So-Good:

Eric Jenkins: As talented a hitter as he’s shown in two games, several aspects of his game need work, especially in the outfield. After misreading two fly balls on Thursday, he nearly played a fly to left into a hit in the second. Braxton Davidson hit a soft liner that sent Jenkins back a couple of steps before he reversed course to make a running catch in shallow left. He cost the Crawdads a run on the eighth when he stayed at third during a 1-6-3 double play. His athletic talent is there, but how well can he pick up some of the technical side of the game?

Baserunning: Jenkins gaffe aside, the Crawdads had a couple of other blunders on the base paths. Manager Corey Ragsdale was overly aggressive in sending Beras on Moore’s third-inning single. Right fielder Braxton Davidson’s throw easily beat Moore to the plate, as he was tagged by the catcher Murphy before he got to the batter’s box… Beras was caught stealing in the sixth as he broke for second with pitcher Trevor Belicek still in the stretch.  Belicek calmly stepped off the rubber and threw to second for the easy out.

Austin Pettibone: Had a decent outing, save the two homers. Stayed almost exclusively with a fastball (90-91) and slider with a rare change tossed in.  He need only 24 pitches to get through three innings and with any luck would’ve been out of the fourth with little trouble. With two outs and a runner at first, Pettibone’s 0-2 slider was chopped slowly up the line by Luke Dykstra, who beat out the play at third. He then battled Murphy for eight pitches before Murphy turned a 91-mph pitch into a liner the cleared the fence in the leftfield corner. Murphy was able to pick up both fastball and slider, but never saw a change. In the sixth, Tellor whipped a flat slider of the wall in right-center .

Game Story: Rome at Hickory September 4

The Hickory Crawdads scored two runs in both the third and fourth innings and took a rain-shortened 5-0 win over the Rome (Ga.) Braves Friday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

With the win, the Crawdads (79-56 overall, 35-32 second half) assured themselves a tenth-straight half-season of .500 or higher baseball. Hickory is also one win away from a second-straight, 80-win season. It would be the first time the team achieved back-to-back 80-plus wins in a season since the team did it three straight times from 2002 to 2004.

The shutout was the tenth of the season, the sixth time the team has posted double-digit shutouts in a season. Four of the six seasons have come during the six years of the affiliation with the Texas Rangers. Hickory has posted at least eight shutouts in all seven seasons of the affiliation. The team posted only five such seasons the previous 16 seasons.

The loss dropped Rome (57-80, 26-41) into a virtual tie for last place in the Southern Division. The Braves are seeking to avoid a second-straight last place finish, which would be the fifth time in eight seasons Rome has done so.

What Happened:

After a scoreless first, the Braves missed an opportunity to open the scoring in the second. Facing Shane McCain, Jordan Edgerton lined a double off the wall in left-center. One out later, Luke Dykstra walked and Tanner Murphy was hit by a pitch to load the bases. However, McCain got Joseph Daris to ground to third to end the inning.

Hickory jumped ahead in the bottom of the inning. Jose Trevino bounced a single up the middle and Luke Tendler walked. Jairo Beras then reached out and bounced a Sean Furney fastball through the hole at second to score Trevino. Jose Cardona’s grounder to second scored Tendler from third for a 2-0 lead.

In the third, Carlos Arroyo began the inning with a single. After Furney’s wild pitch pushed Arroyo to second, Jurickson Profar lined a double off the wall in left-center to make it 3-0 after Arroyo scored. One out later, Trevino doubled off the wall in left to score Profar.

Rome’s last chance to score came in the fourth when it put two on after two were out. However, Murphy fouled out to first to curtail the threat.

A thunderstorm that approached from beyond centerfield throughout the game finally reached the stadium in the fifth. The Braves quickly went down in order quickly with the final out coming on a grounder by Omar Obregon to short as a heavy rain began to fall. The game was called 43 minutes later.

The Good:

Luis Ortiz: Threw a 14-pitch first inning to retire the side. His fastball sat at 95-97 with a mid 80s slider and one change. He needed nine pitches before finally striking out the left-handed Omar Obregon on a slider.

Jose Trevino: Had a hand in both rallies. Just missed a homer in the second on a high change, then worked the count full before sending a 3-2 fastball up the middle for a single. One inning later he took an 0-2 change off the wall in left.

Jairo Beras: Continues to improve with the ability to handle pitches away. His single in the second was on a fastball low and away that he was able to bounce through the right side for a single.

Jurickson Profar: Ended a six-pitch at-bat in the third by driving a change that was up and away off the wall in left-center.

Dylan Moore: Picked up his first hit with Hickory as the right-handed hitter picked off a slider up and lined it to right.

Shane McCain: Didn’t have his best stuff as he left several sliders up – one that Jordan Edgerton nearly cleared the fence in left – and had iffy fastball control. However, he was able to run fastballs in to both Daris and Murphy to keep the shutout in tact.

The Opponent:

Sean Furney: Fastball sat 90-92, but had nothing secondary that were able to throw off the hitters. Hickory was able to pick off changeups and sliders that were left up .

Tanner Murphy: Was a bit slow in blocking both wild pitches by Furney.

Fifth inning: Seemed odd that with rain approaching that it was the Braves hitters that were quick to get off the field. Daris swung through two fastballs before flying out to right. Stephen Gaylor essentially served a first-pitch bunt back to the box before Obregon’s grounder to short ended the inning and, as it turned out, the game. McCain needed only eight pitchers to close out the inning.