Success for the Hickory Crawdads this season has usually been courtesy of the team’s big bats. It was true again Sunday afternoon as Hickory swatted four home runs in defeating the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws 10-3 in front of 1,528 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win gave Hickory (16-7) a split in the four-game series, which helped it avoid their first losing series of the season, as well as back-to-back losses for the first time. It also gave the Crawdads a winning homestand at 4-3 this week. They will take off Monday before starting a seven-game road trip the next day at Greenville (S.C.).
Hickory also used the victory to pick up ground on first-place Delmarva (Md.) in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division standings. The Shorebirds (17-4) dropped a 3-0 game to Augusta (Ga.) and have lost two straight, which has shrinked their lead over Hickory to two games.
Lakewood (8-16) wrapped up its road trip at 4-3 and now return home to face West Virginia on Tuesday.
The Crawdads pounded out 11 hits on Sunday with four of them leaving the park. Hickory now has double-digit hits in five games overall this season, two of those coming in the series and four of the five total against Lakewood pitching.
With the four home runs, Hickory now has 33 for the season, which is six more than Greensboro. The Crawdads also lead the SAL with a .429 slugging pct.
The barrage started in the first against Lakewood starter Francisco Morales (0-2). After the first two hitters fanned, Curtis Terry drilled a 96 miles-per-hour fastball to right for his sixth home run of the season. Three pitches later, Sam Huff walloped a 97 mph pitch well out to left for his 11th of the season. Huff is not tied with Round Rock’s Yordan Alvarez and Reno’s Kevin Cron for the minor league lead.
In the third, Matt Whatley added a two-run shot – his first of the season – to left.
An error on a force play opened the gate for Hickory to add two more in the fourth. The first run scored when Frainyer Chavez successfully laid down and beat out a squeeze bunt that scored Pedro Gonzalez from third. On the play, Miguel Aparcio advanced from first to third, which proved beneficial for the Crawdads after Chris Seise brought him in with a fly ball to center to make it 6-0.
Tim Brennan held Lakewood scoreless through four innings, but ran into trouble with two outs in the fifth. With Malvin Matos on first, Cole Stobbe joined him with a single. Jonathan Guzman singled in Matos before back-to-back misplays on the infield set up the second run. Ben Pelletier grounded to third but the throw went to second, where Guzman beat third baseman Sherten Apostel’s throw, to load the bases. Rafael Marchan hit a routine grounder to second, but the first baseman Terry slipped while covering the bases and that brought in two more runs.
Grant Anderson was brought in and he ended the rally by getting Abrahan Gutierrez to hit the first pitch and fly out to right.
Gonzalez got the two runs back with his seventh home run of the season, a two -run shot to left. The outfielder is now second in the SAL in homers.
The Crawdads rounded out the scoring in the sixth on Terry’s RBI double, and he later scored when first baseman Matt Kroon dropped a throw on the relay home following Gonzalez’s single.
Hickory’s bullpen allowed just three walks over 4.1 shutout innings. After getting the final out in the fifth, Anderson (3-1) worked around a walk in the sixth.
Hever Bueno pitched two scoreless innings with two walks allowed. Dylan Bice struck out two of the three in the ninth to close out the win.