Results tagged ‘ Melvin Novoa ’

Series Preview: Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies at Hickory Crawdads June 6-9

Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies (New York Mets) (23-35, seventh place, South Atlantic League Southern Division)

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (37-22, third place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)

The Crawdads will wrap up the home portion of the season’s first half with four games against the Fireflies.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: 2500 Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Thursday: Columbia at Hickory, 7:00 p.m. Thirsty Thursday, 50th anniversary of Woodstock

Friday: Columbia at Hickory, 7:00 p.m. Llamas de Hickory night, Post-game fireworks, Catawba Science Center Night

Saturday: Columbia at Hickory: 6:30 p.m. Llamas de Hickory night, Conrad Riding a Llama Bobblehead giveaway (first 1,000 fans)

Sunday: Columbia at Hickory, 3:00 p.m. Llamas de Hickory night, Church Bulletin Sunday (bring a church bulletin for a $6 ticket with $4 going back to the respective church), Father’s Day Celebration, Hospitality Night (hospitality/ service industry workers receive a free ticket with ID).

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

Hickory won two of the three games against the Fireflies this season at Columbia back in April.

Over the three-plays seasons since the Fireflies relocation to Columbia in 2016, the Crawdads are 17-11 overall, but are just 7-6 at home. Last year, Hickory held a 4-3 edge in the season series which included a 2-1 series win at L.P. Frans.

 

PROBABLES (Columbia/ Hickory)

Thursday:  RHP Colin Holderman vs. RHP Tim Brennan

Friday: RHP Christian James vs. RHP Yerry Rodriguez

Saturday: RHP Jose Butto vs. RHP Grant Wolfram

Sunday: RHP Simeon Woods Richardson vs. RHP Cole Winn

ABOUT HICKORY

After taking two of three from West Virginia to open the homestand, the Crawdads will close out the home portion of the first half and face elimination from the first-half Northern Division race. Hickory’s elimination number is four. The Crawdads are 18-12 at home this season.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 69 in top-100)

RHP Cole Winn No. 2 (No. 71 in top-100)

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 30

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley (.226/.329/.280) or Melvin Novoa (.256/.330/.372); 1B Curtis Terry (.270/.329/.583); 2B Frainyer Chavez (.228/.311/.247) or Jax Biggers (.174/.269/.217); 3B Sherten Apostel (.237/.306/.412); SS Jonathan Ornelas (.283/.355/.439); LF: Pedro Gonzalez (.263/.312/.474) or Kole Enright (.389/.421/.722; CF: Miguel Aparicio (.263/.320/.442); RF: Jose Almonte (.178/.225/.306)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Miguel Aparicio – Tied for 10th triples (3)

Frainyer Chavez – Tied for 9th caught stealing (5)

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 6th homers (10), tied for 10th triples (3)

Curtis Terry – 1st total bases, tied for 1st doubles (21), tied for 2nd home runs (15), 2nd RBI (46), 3rd slugging pct. (.583), 4th OPS (.912), tied for 8th runs.

Matt Whatley – Tied for 8th walks, tied for 10th stolen bases (13)

 

Individual pitching:

Grant Anderson – Tied for 4th saves (5), tied for 6th wins (5), tied for 6th games pitched (19).

Tim Brennan – Tied for 6th wins (5),

Yerry Rodriguez – 6th ERA (2.20), tied for 6th wins (5), 8th opponent’s batting avg. (.197), 10th WHIP (1.02)

Nick Snyder – Tied for 10th saves (4)

 

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.248 (3rd)/ .314 (7th)/ .420 (1st)/ .734 (3rd).

Other key rankings: 1st home runs, 1st total bases, 2nd hits, 3rd runs, T-3rd triples, 3rd stolen bases, 11th walks

Team Pitching:

Tied for 2nd fewest hit batters, 3rd WHIP (1.18), 3rd fewest runs allowed, 5th ERA (3.40),

WHO’S HOT

Hitting (Last 10 games): Curtis Terry (.333/.400/.778/1.178, 5 HR, 8 RBI); Kole Enright (.389/.421/.722/.1.143); Sherten Apostel (.211/.300/.639/.939 3 2B, 4 HR, 3 BB)

Pitching (last 30 days): Abdiel Mendoza (7 games, 1.29 ERA, 21 IP, 14 H, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 HB, 5 BB, 20 K, 0.90 WHIP, .203 OBA); Yerry Rodriguez (5 starts, 28 IP, 16 H, 8 ER, 2.57 ERA, 12 BB, 39 K, 1.00 WHIP, .163 OBA); Kelvin Rodriguez (6 games, 1.23 ERA, 14.2 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 HB, 5 BB, 16 K, 1.02 WHIP, .204 OBA)

 

ABOUT COLUMBIA:

The Fireflies take a quick road trip up to Hickory four for games before returning home for the final seven games of the first half. Columbia won both games of a shortened series against Rome (Ga.) and claimed wins in three of the last four. The Fireflies are 10-18 on the road. Though they are in last place, Columbia is still officially alive for the first-half Southern Division title, but the elimination number is three.

Manager: Pedro Lopez (2nd season)

Prospects – Columbia (rankings by MLB.com):

SS Ronny Mauricio – No. 2

3B Mark Vientos – No. 3

2B Shervyen Newton – No. 4

RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson – No. 6

LHP Thomas Szapicki – No. 8

RHP Christian James – No. 24

Possible Lineups: C: Juan Uriarte (.203/.246/.305) or Hayden Senger (.184/.301/.263); 1B: Chase Chambers (.274/.331/.398); 2B: Shervyer Newton (.205/.281/.311); 3B: Mark Vientos (.249/.297/.386); SS: Ronny Mauricio (.284/.327/.355); LF: Wagner Lagrange (.263/.318/.401); CF: Hansel Moreno (.283/.368/.500); RF: Gerson Molina (.217/.330/.373)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Ronny Mauricio – Tied for 6th hits, tied for 6th caught stealing

Brian Sharp – 7th strikeouts

Individual pitching:

Jose Butto – 1st losses (7)

Simeon Woods Richardson – Tied for 2nd losses (6)

Willy Taveras – Tied for 2nd home runs allowed (10), tied for 6th losses (5), tied for 7th innings

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS): .220 (last) / .289 (last)/ .323 (13th)/ .612 (13th).

Other key rankings: Tied for 11th home runs (29), 13th runs scored, 13th total bases, last hits, last doubles, last walks, last strikeouts, last steals (20)

Team pitching: 2nd fewest walks, 4th runs allowed, 5th hits allowed, 8th WHIP (1.27), 10th ERA (3.98), 13th Ks.

WHO’S HOT

Hitting (Last 10 games): Shervyen Newton (.343/.410/.514/.925, 2B, 3B, HR, 4 BB); Hansel Moreno (.250/.308/.500/.808, 2 HR, 5 RBI)

 

Late Rally for Crawdads Douse Fireflies

The Hickory Crawdads rallied with two runs in the bottom of the ninth Thursday night to defeat the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies 4-3 in the first of a four-game, weekend series in the South Atlantic League.

The Crawdads (38-22) won their second straight and are now 3-1 during the final homestand of the first half. Despite the win, the first-half, Northern Division title hopes continued to fade as Delmarva (Md.) took a 3-2 win in extra innings over in-state rival Hagerstown. Hickory remains 7.5 games out with ten to play and the elimination number dropped to three.

Ronny Mauricio, who plagued Hickory throughout the night, capped a 3-for-4 night with his second home run of the season in the eighth to put the Fireflies up 3-2.

Facing reliever Jose Moreno (2-2), the Crawdads got even when Sherten Apostel hit a high, arching shot just over the fence in right for his eighth of the season to tie the game. Moreno then hit Pedro Gonzalez with a pitch before Matt Whatley joined Gonzalez on the bases with a single.

Melvin Novoa was given the task to advance the runners on a bunt, but fell into a 1-2 hole, with the second pitch hitting his hand on the bat as he tried to avoid a pitch up and in. Novoa hit the next pitch down the line and off the wall in the left-field corner for a double that scored Gonzalez to end the game.

Pitching by both sides dominated much of the game, although Columbia had a quick spurt at the start. Mauricio pulled a 1-2 pitch into the right-field corner for a double and went to third when Pedro Gonzalez bobbled the play. Hansel Moreno cashed in the unearned run with a sacrifice fly to left.

From there, Crawdads starter Tim Brennan retired the next 13 in a row. The right-hander allowed struck out six and allowed five hits over 6.2 innings.

Columbia starter Thomas Szapucki worked around a bases-loaded jam in the first. Kole Enright singled before Miguel Aparicio and Apostel each walked. A quick mound visit settled Szapucki, who then struck out Gonzalez and induced Whatley to hit into a double play.

Colin Holderman took over in the third and Hickory put up single runs the next two innings. Enright and Aparicio singled to place runners on the corners before Apostel’s sacrifice fly brought in Enright.

The Crawdads manufactured a run to take a 2-1 lead and it started with a walk to Whatley. The Crawdads catcher stole his 14th base of the season before moving to third on a wild pitch. Jose Almonte’s single put the Crawdads ahead.

Columbia got even in the sixth with Mauricio against playing a role. With one out, he split the gap in left-center for a double and scored on Hansel Moreno’s single.

Brennan ran into trouble in the seventh, as Columbia threatened to take the lead. After two outs, Brian Sharp and Hayden Senger each singled, which ended Brennan’s night.

Kelvin Gonzalez was brought in, and after three straight balls to Taylor Lane, a grounder to third put down the threat.

Other than Mauricio’s homer, Kelvin Gonzalez held the Fireflies to just a walk and struck out two over 2.1 innings for the win (2-0).

Series Preview: West Virginia Power at Hickory Crawdads June 3-5

The Crawdads open the final homestand of the first half with a three-game series against the Power.

West Virginia Power (Seattle Mariners) 28-28, fourth place, South Atlantic League Northern Division

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) 35-21, third place, South Atlantic League Northern Division

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: 2500 Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Monday: West Virginia at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Make-a-Difference Monday (Donate multi-pack of toilet paper, paper towels or water bottles and receive a free ticket)

Tuesday: West Virginia at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Dollar Dog Tuesday ($1 hot dogs, dogs admitted for $1

Wednesday: West Virginia at Hickory: 10:30 a.m.

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

This is the first series between Hickory and West Virginia with the Power as the Seattle Mariners affiliate. Last year while as a Pirates affiliate, the Power out up a 15-7 mark against Hickory, 8-5 at L.P. Frans.

 

PROBABLES (West Virginia/ Hickory)

Monday:  RHP Deivy Florido vs. RHP Ronny Henriquez

Tuesday: RHP Clay Chandler vs. RHP Cole Winn

Wednesday: RHP Ryne Inman vs. RHP Tyree Thompson

 

ABOUT HICKORY

The Crawdads return home after losing their first road series of the season at Kannapolis. The Intimidators won 3 of 5 with the final two coming on walk-offs. The losses dropped the Crawdads elimination number for the first half to seven, as the trail Delmarva (Md.) by 7.5 games with 14 to play. Hickory is 16-11 at home this season.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 70 in top-100)

RHP Cole Winn No. 2 (No. 72 in top-100)

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 30

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley (.224/.333/.282) or Melvin Novoa (.264/.333/.375); 1B Curtis Terry (.270/.329/.580); 2B Frainyer Chavez (.246/.338/.270) or Jax Biggers (.231/.333/.308); 3B Sherten Apostel (.242/.314/.396); SS Jonathan Ornelas (.284/.357/.438); LF: Pedro Gonzalez (.270/.321/.494); CF: Miguel Aparicio (.264/.323/.453); RF: Jose Almonte (.171/.215/.276)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Miguel Aparicio – Tied for 10th triples (3)

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 6th homers (10), 9th slugging pct. (.494), tied for 10th triples (3)

Curtis Terry – 2nd home runs (14), 2nd RBI (44), tied for 2nd doubles (20), tied for 2nd total bases, 4th slugging pct. (.580), 4th OPS (.909), tied for 9th runs,

Matt Whatley – Tied for 6th walks, tied for 8th stolen bases (13)

 

Individual pitching:

Grant Anderson – Tied for 5th wins (5), tied for 6th games pitched (18), tied for 8th saves (4), tied for 10th losses (4)

Tim Brennan – 5th WHIP (0.99), tied for 5th wins (5),

Yerry Rodriguez – 4th ERA (2.20), tied for 5th wins (5), tied for 7th strikeouts (63), 8th WHIP (1.02)

Nick Snyder – Tied for 8th saves (4)

 

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.249 (4th)/ .317 (7th)/ .419 (2nd)/ .736 (3rd).

Other key rankings: 1st home runs, 1st total bases, 3rd runs, 3rd hits, T-3rd triples, 3rd stolen bases, 11th doubles

Team Pitching:

2nd fewest hit batters, 4th ERA (3.46), 4th WHIP (1.19), 3rd fewest runs allowed, 4th fewest hits allowed.

WHO’S HOT

Hitting (Last 10 games): Curtis Terry (.351/.429/.757/.1.185, 5 HR, 9 RBI); Pedro Gonzalez (.371/.405/.686/.1.091, 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI); Miguel Aparicio (.293/.326/.756/.1.082, 2 3B, 5 HR, 12 RBI, 2 BB); Matt Whatley (.417/.462/.528/.989, 4 2B, 6 RBI, 3 BB); Sherten Apostel (.281/.378/.563/.941 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 BB)

Pitching (last month): Tyree Thompson (4 starts, 18.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, .197 OBA, 14 K); Yerry Rodriguez (5 starts, 28 IP, 16 H, 8 ER, 2.57 ERA, 12 BB, 39 K, 1.00 WHIP, .163 OBA)

 

ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA:

The Power are in the middle of a two-city stop through North Carolina and come to Hickory after taking 3 of 5 from Asheville. They are 6-3 after losing six in a row in mid-May. West Virginia is 11-17 on the road and just 5-12 against Northern Division opponents.

Manager: Dave Berg (1st season)

Prospects – West Virginia (rankings by MLB.com):

OF Keegan McGovern – No. 28

Possible Lineups: C: Jake Anchia (,218/.288/.398) or Dean Nevarez (.203/.289/.473); 1B: Onil Pena (.239/.345/.420); 2B: Cesar Izturis, Jr. (.204/.246/.212) or Joseph Rosa (.273/.387/.370) 3B: Bobby Honeyman (.226/.281/.312); SS: Cesar Izturis, Jr. or Joseph Rosa LF: Ryan Ramiz (.217/.340/.319); CF: Charlie McConnell (.205/.275/.333); RF: Johnny Slater (.138/.265/.276)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Ryan Ramiz – Tied for 3rd walks

Individual pitching:

Dayeison Arias – Tied for 6th games pitched (18)

Damon Casetta-Stubbs – Tied for 9th earned runs allowed, tied for 10th losses (4)

Clay Chandler – Tied for 5th wins (5), 7th hits allowed

Ryne Inman – Tied for 5th wins (5), tied for 8th strikeouts (63), tied for 10th losses (4)

Steven Moyers – 3rd earned runs allowed, 5th runs allowed, tied for 8th strikeouts (63), tied for 10th losses (4)

Benjamin Onyshko – Tied for 2nd home runs allowed

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS): .230 (10th) / .317 (8th)/ .368 (7th)/ .685 (7th).

Other key rankings: fewest caught stealing, tied for 4th home runs, 8th runs scored, 10th hits, 11th triples, 12th stolen bases

Team pitching: 3rd hits allowed, 3rd earned runs allowed, 3rd hit batters, 4th runs allowed, 10th WHIP (1.30), 12th ERA (4.35)

WHO’S HOT

Hitting (Last 10 games): J.R. Davis (385/.467/.577/1.044, 2 2B, HR, 3 BB); Ryan Ramiz (.273/.448/.500/.948, 2 2B, HR, 7 BB); Onil Perez (.286/.389/.536/.925, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 5 BB

Pitching (last month): Dayeison Arias (7 games, 11 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 14 K, 0.55 WHIP.111 OBA).

Series Preview: Hickory Crawdads at Kannapolis May 30-June 2

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (33-18-7, 3rd Northern Division)

Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (22-29, 6th Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads continue take a quick road trip to Kannapolis to face the Intimidators in a five-game series at Intimidators Stadium.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: From Hickory, take Hwy 321 South to Gastonia, then I-85 North to Exit 63 (Lane Street). Turn left. Ballpark is on the right.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Thursday: 6:00 p.m. (Doubleheader) Thirsty Thursday

Friday: 7:00 p.m. Piedmont Boll Weevils Throwback Night, Boll Weevils Lunchbox Giveaway (first 1,000 fans)

Saturday: 7:00 p.m. Postgame Fireworks (Beatles Theme)

Sunday: 3:00 p.m. Kids Run the Bases

TICKETS: Prices in advance range from $7 for general admission to $9 for reserve, $2 less for children. Add $2 on gameday.

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

Hickory is 4-3 against Kannapolis, which includes a split of a four-game series at Intimidators Stadium earlier this month. Last year, the Crawdads went 14-9 against Kannapolis in 2018, but the Intimidators defended their home turf by winning six of 9 there.

PROBABLES (Hickory/ Kannapolis)

Thursday: RHP Grant Wolfram and RHP Tyree Thompson vs. LHP Taylor Varnell and RHP Jonathan Stiever

Friday: RHP Tim Brennan vs. RHP Davis Martin

Saturday: RHP Yerry Rodriguez vs. RHP Yohan Dominguez

Sunday: RHP Hans Crouse vs. RHP Kade McClure

 

ABOUT HICKORY

The Crawdads finished off a 5-3 homestand Tuesday with a 4-3 win over Greensboro to wrap up a 3-1 series win over the Grasshoppers. Hickory has racked up wins on the road with a 17-7 mark overall. However, the Intimidators are one of two teams to play the Crawdads evenly at their home ballpark. The Crawdads enter the series seven games behind first-place Delmarva (Md.) in the first-half Northern Division race.

 

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 70 in top-100)

RHP Cole Winn No. 2 (No. 72 in the top-100)

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 30

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley (.222/.333/.278) or Melvin Novoa (.270/.333/.381); 1B Curtis Terry (.269/.327/.577); 2B Tyler Depreta-Johnson (.232/.348/.250) 3B Sherten Apostel (.236/.304/.370); SS Frainyer Chavez (.241/.325/.262); LF Jonathan Ornelas (.286/.354/.429); CF: Miguel Aparicio (.264/.322/.442); RF: Pedro Gonzalez (.262/.315/.476)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Frainyer Chavez – Tied for 9th caught stealing (4)

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 6th homers (9),

Curtis Terry – 1st doubles (20), 4th homers (12), 4th RBI (40), 4th total bases, 4th slugging pct. (.577), 6th OPS (.904)

Matt Whatley – Tied for 7th walks, tied for 8th stolen bases (13)

Individual pitching:

Grant Anderson – Tied for 5th wins (5), tied for 7th games pitched (17), tied for 7th saves (4)

Tim Brennan – Tied for 9th wins (4), 10th WHIP (1.01)

Scott Engler – Tied for 7th saves (4)

Yerry Rodriguez – Tied for 5th wins (5), 10th ERA (2.51)

 

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.249 (3rd)/ .315 (7th)/ .416 (2nd)/ .731 (2nd).

Other key rankings: Tied for 1st stolen bases, tied for 1st total bases, 2nd home runs, 2nd runs, 3rd hits, 12th doubles, 12th walks.

Team Pitching:

2nd fewest hit batters, 2nd fewest hit batters, 3rd runs allowed, 4th ERA (3.46), 4th WHIP (1.20)

WHO’S HOT

Hitting (Last 10 team games): Curtis Terry (.353/.385/.765/.1.149, 2 2B, 4 HRs, 9 RBI); Miguel Aparicio (.325/.386/.725/1.111, 2 triples, 4 HRs, 10 RBI, 2 walks, 2 steals, 10 RBI, 2 SB); Pedro Gonzalez (.361/.395/.556/.950, 1 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 4 K, 2 SB); Matt Whatley (.387/.424/.484 .908, 2 2B, 2 BB, 7 K, SB)

Pitching (May): Scott Engler (8 games, 1.89 ERA, .143 OBA, 9 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 30 K);

Yerry Rodriguez (4 starts, 3.27 ERA, .170 OBA, 22 IP, 14 H, 10 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 27 22).

 

ABOUT KANNAPOLIS:

The Intimidators won the final two games of their eight-game roadtrip to forge a split at Lakewood (N.J.) and close out a 3-5 swing through Maryland and New Jersey. Kannapolis has the worst home record in the South Atlantic League at 8-16.

Manager: Ryan Newman (1st season)

Prospects – Kannapolis (rankings by MLB.com):

RHP Jonathan Stiever No. 27

Possible Lineups: C: Gunnar Troutwine (.274/.371/.369) or Jhoandro Alfaro (.132/.250/.237); 1B: Amado Nunez .180/.253/.263) or Corey Zangari (.143/.288/.238); 2B: Ramon Beltre (.217/.261/.355); 3B: Johan Cruz (.275/.350/.450); SS: Lenyn Sosa (.227/.255/.348); LF: Romy Gonzalez (.257/.336/.381) or Travis Moniot (.162/.279/.189); CF: Ian Dawkins (.338/.401/.458); RF: Logan Sowers (.140/.189/.220)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Ramon Beltre – Tied for 1st triples (5)

Luis Curbelo – 1st strikeouts

Ian Dawkins – 1st hits, 2nd batting avg. (.338), 2nd doubles (18), 4th stolen bases (15), 5th OBP (.401), tied for 6th total bases, tied for 7th runs scored

Rony Gonzalez – Tied for 9th triples (3)

Lenyn Sosa – Tied for 3rd doubles (16),

Individual pitching:

Davis Martin – 1st runs allowed, 1st earned runs allowed, 1st home runs allowed (12), 2nd hits allowed, tied for 8th losses (4)

Kade McClure – Tied for 6th innings pitched, tied for 9th hits allowed

Jonathan Stiever – 5th hits allowed, tied for 6th home runs allowed (6), tied for 10th innings pitched

Taylor Varnell – 2nd strikeouts, tied for 8th hit batters (5), 9th innings pitched

 

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS): .239 (8th)/ .308 (10th)/ .370 (5th)/ .678 (9th).

Other key rankings: 1st strikeouts, 2nd triples, 5th hits, 12th runs scored, 12th home runs

Team pitching:

2nd fewest walks allowed, 3rd ERA (3.35), 5th WHIP (1.22), 3rd earned runs allowed, 4th strikeouts

Who’s hot:

Hitting (last 10 team games: Alex Destino (.378/.405/.730/1.134, 4 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 5 K); Johan Cruz (.320/.414/.480/.894, 2B, HR); Ian Dawkins (.295/.354/.455/.809, 4 2B, HR)

Pitching (May) Lane Ramsey (7 games, 1.23 ERA, .154 OBA, 0.68 WHIP. 7.1 IP. 4 H, 4 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 6 K); Andrew Perez (7 games 0.64 ERA, .157 OBA, 0.79 WHIP, 14 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 22 K); Sam Long (8 games, 1.23 ERA .157 OBA, 0.82 WHIP. 8 H, 3 R (2 ER), 4 BB, 20 K).

Crawdads Win 9-Inning Game of “I Don’t Want It, You Take It”, Defeat Greensboro 4-3.

Remember being a little kid with your friends and you’d pick teams to play whatever sport was in season, and there was that one kid no one wanted on their team. And there’d be this long back-and-forth of, “I don’t want him, you take him.” The Hickory Crawdads and Greensboro Grasshoppers played nine innings of that game Tuesday night.

Greensboro had the final “you can take it” in the eighth and Hickory finally said, “okay” and went home with a 4-3 win in front of 1,382 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.  The victory wrapped up a 3-1 series win over the Grasshoppers and completed a 5-3 homestand, the longest of the season.

Unfortunately for Hickory, it did not make up ground on Delmarva (Md.), which defeated in-state rival Hagerstown 5-4 to move to 40-11, seven games ahead of the Crawdads in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. However, the Crawdads (33-18) moved within a game of Greensboro (34-17) for second place, which could have a bearing at the end of the season. If Delmarva goes on to win the first half – the Shorebirds now lead Greensboro by six games with 19 to play – and then takes the second half, as well, the team in the division with the next best record will take a wildcard spot in the playoffs.

Even by Low-A ball standards, this was an ugly one. On the books, Hickory walked seven, while Greensboro hit three batters and walked two. Combined, the teams – among the top offenses in the SAL – had just ten hits and went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. It took two errors in the eighth that literally gave the Crawdads the decisive run.

Facing Cole Winn, the Grasshoppers scored in the first. With two outs, Winn walked both Mason Martin and Rodolfo Castro. Crawdads killer Michael Gretler – he went 4-for-8 with four walks after entering Sunday’s game at .182/.250/.218 – singled in Martin to make it 1-0.

The Crawdads punched back with two-out firepower in the bottom of the inning. Greensboro starter Brad Case entered the game with only three home runs allowed over 55.2 innings. Curtis Terry and Sherten Apostel added two more to Case’s ledger after putting up back-to-back solo shots and Hickory then lead 2-1. Terry’s blast to left was his 12th of the season and Apostel hit his fourth.

The score remained 2-1 until the seventh, but both teams missed opportunities to add runs. In the top of the second, Winn walked two of the three he faced. However, the right-hander induced Zac Susi to hit into a double play. After Kyle Mottice walked to bring up Ji-Hwan Bae, rather than allow the leadoff hitter batting .320 to take cuts against a struggling pitcher, Mottice took off for second and was thrown out by catcher Matt Whatley.

It was Hickory’s turn to botch a rally in the third. Jonathan Ornelas was hit by a pitch, then moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on Miguel Aparicio’s lineout to right. With the infield playing in to cut off the run at third, Terry hit a ball to the second baseman Castro, playing on the shortstop side of the bag. Castro fields the ball, checks Ornelas twice at third. Seemingly daring Castro to throw to first so Ornelas could sprint home, Castro took the day and threw behind Ornelas to catch him returning to the bag.

Greensboro put seven runners on over four innings against Winn, but scored just the one in the first. Case retired ten in a row after hitting Ornelas before running into trouble in the sixth. With one out Case hit both Terry and Apostel before the Grasshoppers signaled for Will Gardner in relief. Gardner walked Melvin Novoa on four pitches to bring up Pedro Gonzalez. After talking the first pitch for a ball, Gonzalez hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Hickory soon regretted the missed opportunity when Greensboro tied the game in the seventh against reliever Scott Engler. With one out, Justin Harrer walked and moved to third on Brett Kinneman’s double. Susi’s fly ball to left scored Harrer to tie the game at 2.

Greensboro took the lead in the eight when Fabricio Macias lined a Grant Anderson pitch over the wall in left, his seventh of the season.

Hitless since the first, with one out the Crawdads got infield hits from both Miguel Aparicio and Terry. From there, the inning fell apart for the Grasshoppers. Novoa hit a routine fly to center for the second out. As the ball returned to the mound, the throw by Bae skips past the pitcher Conner Loeprich to the backstop. Alertly, while Greensboro argued as to whether it had called time, Terry and Apostel moved up to second and third.

It then got worse for the Grasshoppers. With Gonzalez at the plate, Loeprich bounced a pitch to the backstop. Terry scored on the wild pitch and when Susi’s throw to the plate zoomed past Loeprich (1-2) covering, Apostel sprinted all the way home for the go-ahead run.

Anderson (5-3) pitched a perfect ninth to close out the game.

After a day off Wednesday, the Crawdads return to action Thursday to start a four-game series at Kannapolis.

Series Preview: Greensboro Grasshoppers at Hickory Crawdads May 25-28

Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pittsburgh Pirates) (33-14, second place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (30-17, third place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)

Currently in third place, the Hickory Crawdads play an important series in the chase for the first-half Northern Division title with a four-game series against Greensboro.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: 2500 Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Saturday: Greensboro at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. ZOOperstars! appearance. Salute to Troops (active and former military received two free tickets, free parking)

Sunday: Greensboro at Hickory, 3:00 p.m. BirdZerk! appearance. Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring a church bulletin to the ticket office and receive a $6 ticket with $4 from each ticket donated back to the respective church),

Monday: Greensboro at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Make-a-Difference Monday (Donate a pair of shoes to receive two free tickets to the game. Salute to Troops (active and former military received two free tickets)

Tuesday: Greensboro at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Dollar Dog Tuesday ($1 hot dogs, dogs admitted for $1)

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

The Crawdads swept a three-game series at Greensboro during the first road trip of the season. This is the first series at L.P. Frans with Greensboro as the affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates affiliation was with West Virginia from 2009 to 2018. During that stretch, the Power was 52-51 overall, 30-27 at L.P. Frans. The Pirates-affiliated Power won the season-series 12-7 a year ago, including an 8-5 mark at Hickory.

PROBABLES (Greensboro/ Hickory)

 

Saturday: RHP Osvaldo Bido vs. RHP Yerry Rodriguez

Sunday: RHP Colin Selby vs. RHP Hans Crouse

Monday:  RHP Alex Manasa vs. RHP Ronny Henriquez

Tuesday: RHP Brad Case vs. RHP Cole Winn

 

ABOUT HICKORY

With 23 games left in the first half and the Crawdads 6.5 games behind first-place Delmarva and three in back of second-place Greensboro, this is probably a series Hickory needs to win in order to remain in the race for the first-half title. The Crawdads will close the first half with a seven-game trip to Greensboro and Delmarva.

Though they have lost just one series at home, Hickory has been pretty ordinary at home. The Crawdads are just 13-10 at L.P. Frans after a four-game split this week against Lexington. They are 7-7 over their last 14 at home.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 80 in top-100)

RHP Cole Winn No. 2

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 30

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley (.182/.306/.231) or Melvin Novoa (.313/.365/.438); 1B Curtis Terry (.247/.308/.530); 2B Frainyer Chavez (.246/.338/.270); 3B Sherten Apostel (.229/.298/.353); SS Jonathan Ornelas (.310/.365/.462); LF: Pedro Gonzalez (.245/.304/.442); CF: Miguel Aparicio (.268/.333/.393); RF: Jose Almonte (.177/.219/.291)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Curtis Terry – 1st doubles (20), 4th home runs (9), tied for 3rd RBI (35), 5th total bases, 5th slugging pct. (.530),

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 8th homers (7)

Jonathan Ornelas – 6th batting avg. (.310),

Matt Whatley – 6th walks, tied for 6th stolen bases (13)

 

Individual pitching:

Grant Anderson – Tied for 6th wins (4), tied for 10th games pitched (15)

Tim Brennan – Tied for 6th wins (4), 8th WHIP (1.01)

Scott Engler – Tied for 6th saves (4)

Yerry Rodriguez – Tied for 6th wins (4),

 

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.244 (5th)/ .311 (8th)/ .405 (2nd)/ .717 (3rd).

Other key rankings: 1st stolen bases, 2nd home runs, 3rd runs, 3rd triples, 3rd total bases, 11th doubles

Team Pitching:

2nd fewest hit batters, 3rd ERA (3.30), 3rd WHIP (1.17), 3rd fewest runs allowed, 3rd fewest home runs allowed, 4th fewest earned runs allowed, 4th fewest hits allowed.

WHO’S HOT

Hitting (Last 10 games): Miguel Aparicio (.333/.425/.545, 2 triples, 1 HR, 4 walks, 3 steals, 8 RBI); Sherten Apostel (.359/.381/.564, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 7 RBI); Melvin Novoa (.375/.412/.500, 1 double, 1 HR, 6 RBI)

Pitching (May): Scott Engler (7 games, 1.69 ERA, .145 OBA, 16 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 27 K); Yerry Rodriguez (3 starts, 2.25 ERA, .161 OBA, 16 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 8 BB, 27 K).

 

ABOUT GREENSBORO:

Like Hickory, the Grasshoppers are trying to stay in the SAL Northern Division race and they will start this series 3.5 games behind first-place Delmarva. Greensboro is as hot as any team in all of pro baseball, as it comes to L.P. Frans with a nine-game winning streak. That streak continued as the Pirate-affiliated team swept four straight at their old haunts at West Virginia. Greensboro is 17-5 on the road and winners of six straight away from home.

Manager: Miguel Perez (1st season)

Prospects – Greensboro (rankings by MLB.com):

RHP Steven Jennings No. 12

SS Ji-Hwan Bae No. 15

OF Lolo Sanchez No. 16

Possible Lineups: C: Grant Koch (.228/.291/.366); 1B: Mason Martin (.251/.349/.545); 2B: Rodolfo Castro (.287/.335/.615) or Ji-Hwan Bae (.323/.382/.419); 3B: Patrick Dorrian (.237/.337/.435) or Michael Gretler (.192/.250/.231); SS: Rodolfo Castro or Ji-Hwan Bae LF: Fabricio Macias  (.252/.311/.432); CF: Lolo Sanchez (.333/.413/.55); RF: Brett Kinneman (.152/.227/.290)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Rodolfo Castro – 2nd slugging (.615), 2nd OPS (.951), tied for 2nd home runs (12), tied for 4th total bases, tied for 6th RBI (32)

Brett Kinneman – 8th strikeouts

Fabricio Macias – Tied for 1st runs scored, tied for 5th caught stealing,

Mason Martin – 1st RBI (45), tied for 2nd home runs (12), tied for 2nd strikeouts, 3rd total bases, 3rd slugging (.545), 5th OPS (.894), tied for 9th runs scored, tied for 9th walks,

Lolo Sanchez – 1st triples (5), 1st caught stealing (9), tied for 1st runs scored, tied for 1st stolen bases, 3rd batting avg. (.333), 3rd OBP (.413), 3rd OPS (.928), tied for 3rd hits, 6th slugging (.515), tied for 7th total bases,

Individual pitching:

Osvaldo Bido – 2nd wins (6), 5th innings pitched, 5th WHIP (0.97), 7th ERA (2.45)

Brad Case – 1st wins (7), 1st WHIP (0.79), 2nd innings pitched, 4th ERA (2.10)

Steven Jennings – 2nd runs allowed, 4th runs allowed, 6th hits allowed

Alex Manasa – Tied for 3rd wins (5), 4th innings pitched,

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS): .242 (7th) / .330 (4th)/ .416 (1st)/ .746 (1st).

Other key rankings: 1st runs scored, 1st home runs, 1st total bases, 2nd caught stealing, 3rd stolen bases.

Team pitching: fewest hit batters, tied for fewest walks allowed, tied for 1st shutouts (6), 2nd ERA (3.15), 2nd WHIP (1.11), 2nd most home runs allowed, 2nd fewest hits allowed, 2nd fewest runs allowed, 2nd fewest earned runs allowed,

WHO’S HOT

Hitting (Last 10 games): Fabricio Macias (.382/.462/.647, 3 2B, 2 HR, 9 RBI); Mason Martin (.317/.364/.732, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 2 BB, 14 K); Lolo Sanchez (.382/.488/.500, 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 4 SB)

Pitching (May): Yerry De Los Santos (6 games, 2 holds, 2 saves, 6.2 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 10 K, 0.60 WHIP, .053 OBA); Brad Case (4 starts, 4-0, 27 IP, 22 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 2.00 ERA, 0 BB, 24 K, 0.81 WHIP, .218 OBA)

Series Preview: Lexington (Ky.) Legends at Hickory Crawdads May 21-24

Lexington Legends (Kansas City Royals) (21-22, third place, South Atlantic League Southern Division)

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (28-15, third place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads begin their longest homestand of the season with four games against the defending South Atlantic League champions

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: 2500 Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Tuesday: Lexington at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Dollar Dog Tuesday ($1 hot dogs, dogs admitted for $1)

Wednesday: Lexington at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Kids Win Wednesday (All kids 12 and under receive a free ticket, free meal voucher, and free bounce house, speed pitch and carousel voucher every Wednesday night game); Wine Wednesday.

Thursday: Lexington at Hickory, 7:00 p.m. Thirsty Thursday; Thanksgiving in May.

Friday: Lexington at Hickory, 7:00 p.m. Postgame Fireworks; British Invasion Night.

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

Hickory and Lexington played just three games last season and the Crawdads swept them in a series at L.P. Frans in April. Since 2013 and the start of the Legends current affiliation with the Royals, Hickory holds a 24-19 advantage with a 15-13 mark at L.P. Frans.

 

PROBABLES (Lexington/ Hickory)

Tuesday: RHP Jonathan Bowlan vs. RHP Ronny Henriguez

Wednesday: RHP Austin Cox vs. RHP Cole Winn

Thursday:  RHP Charlie Neuweiler vs. RHP Tyree Thompson

Friday: RHP Jon Heasley vs. RHP Tim Brennan

 

ABOUT HICKORY

The Crawdads continue to win more than they lose but are getting no help in the Northern Division standings. Sitting with the third-best record in the league, they are 6-4 over the last 10 but have fallen to 5.5 games behind first-place Delmarva (Md.) and now are a game behind Greensboro for second.

Hickory returns home after a 4-3 road trip, which was capped by a win at Hagerstown (Md.) Monday to salvage a split of the four-game series. The Crawdads have actually been pretty ordinary at home with just an 11-8 record. However, they have lost just one series at L.P. Frans, that coming against Asheville during the previous homestand.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 80 in top-100)

RHP Cole Winn No. 2

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 30

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley (.181/.314/.228) or Melvin Novoa (.287/.333/.444); 1B Curtis Terry (.263/.321/.572); 2B Frainyer Chavez (.252/.336/.270); 3B Sherten Apostel (.217/.290/.355); SS Jonathan Ornelas (.316/.375/.478); LF: Miguel Aparicio (.253/.318/.326); CF: Pedro Gonzalez (.235/.292/.447); RF: Jose Almonte (.183/.222/.310)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Frainyer Chavez – Tied for 10th stolen bases (11)

Pedro Gonzalez – Tied for 5th homers (7), tied for 9th runs scored

Jonathan Ornelas – 5th batting avg. (.316), 10th OPS (.853)

Curtis Terry – 1st doubles (20), 2nd total bases, 3rd RBI (34), 3rd slugging pct. (.572), 4th home runs (9), 5th OPS (.894).

Matt Whatley – 3rd walks, tied for 8th stolen bases (12)

 

Individual pitching:

Grant Anderson – Tied for 5th wins (4), tied for 9th saves (3), tied for 10th games pitched (14)

Scott Engler – Tied for 9th saves (3)

Yerry Rodriguez – 3rd ERA (1.95), tied for 5th wins (4), 10th strikeouts (51).

 

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.244 (5th)/ .309 (10th)/ .414 (1st)/ .723 (2nd).

Other key rankings: 1st total bases, 2nd runs, 2nd home runs, 2nd stolen bases, 4th triples

Team Pitching:

fewest hit batters, 2nd ERA (3.15), 3rd WHIP (1.16), 3rd fewest runs allowed, 3rd fewest earned runs allowed, 4th fewest earned runs allowed, 4th fewest hits allowed

WHO’S HOT

Hitting (Last 10 games): Miguel Aparicio (.333/.389/.400, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 2 steals); Sherten Apostel (.314/.366/.571, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 7 RBI); Melvin Novoa (.278/.333/.444. 3 doubles 1 HR)

Pitching (May): Scott Engler (6 games, 1.84 ERA, .157 OBA, 14.2 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 23 K); Yerry Rodriguez (3 starts, 2.25 ERA, .161 OBA, 16 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 8 BB, 27 K).

 

ABOUT LEXINGTON:

The Legends are the defending South Atlantic League champions, taking their first title since 2001, which was an abbreviated series after the attacks on 9/11. Lexington returns to the road after splitting a four-game series at home with Asheville. The Legends will be road warriors for much of the remainder of the first half. Entering this series, they have played the fewest road games of any SAL with a 9-7 record. Heading into the all-star break, 19 of the next 26 for the Legends will be away from home.

Manager: Brooks Conrad (1st season)

Prospects – Lexington (rankings by MLB.com):

CF Mike Gigliotti No. 13

LHP Austin Cox No. 22

SS Jeison Guzman No. 24

RHP Jonathan Bowlan No. 29

Possible Lineups: C: Freddie Fermin (.286/.318/.419); 1B: Reed Rohlman (.240/.282/.338); 2B: Rubendy Jaquez (.223/.287/.338); 3B: Nathan Eaton (.252/.353/.392); SS: Jeison Guzman (.204/.259/.336); LF: Jackson Lueck (.133/.211/.194); CF: Michael Gigliotti (.248/.346/.328); RF: Juan Carlos Negret (.169/.282/.338)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Eric Cole – Tied for 6th triples (3)

Mike Gigliotti -1st stolen bases (17)

Jeison Guzman – Tied for 3rd caught stealing (5)

Nick Hutchins – Tied for 7th doubles (12)

Rubendy Jaquez – Tied for 6th triples (3), tied for 10th stolen bases (11)

Juan Carlos Negret – Tied for 10th strikeouts

Chase Vallot – 7th strikeouts, 10th slugging pct. (.486)

Individual pitching:

Jonathan Bowlan – 7th WHIP (0.94)

Jon Heasley – 2nd WHIP (0.82), 5th ERA (2.04), tied for 5th wins (4)

Kyle Hinton – Tied for 9th saves (3)

Charlie Neuweiler – 4th walks allowed, 9th innings pitched, tied for 9th hit batters (5), tied for 10th home runs allowed (5)

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS): .224 (12th) / .293 (12th)/ .353 (11th)/ .645 (11th).

Other key rankings: 1st stolen bases, 4th strikeouts, tied for 11th walks, 12th runs scored

Team pitching:

1st WHIP (1.08), fewest walks allowed, 4th strikeouts, 5th ERA (3.31),

WHO’S HOT

Hitting (Last 10 games): Jeison Guzman (.303/.343/.576, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB); Chase Vallot (.200/.407/.500, 2 HR); Freddie Fermin (.364/.382/.485. 2B, HR).

Pitching (May): Austin Lambright (5 games, 1.29 ERA, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 11 K, .120 OBA); Jon Heasley (4 starts, 2.11 ERA, 21.1 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 2 HR, 4 BB, 26 K, .182 OBA)

Series Preview: Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs at Hickory Crawdads May 11-13

Charleston RiverDogs (New York Yankees) (19-15, first place, South Atlantic League Southern Division)

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (22-11, tied for second place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)

The Hickory Crawdads continue their homestand with a three-games series at L.P. Frans against the Charleston RiverDogs.

 

IF YOU PLAN TO GO:

WHERE IS IT?: 2500 Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

GAME TIMES/ PROMOTIONS:

Saturday: Charleston at Hickory, 6:30 p.m. Murder Mystery Night, Replica Jersey Giveaway (1st 1,000 fans), Teacher Appreciation Night (School staff receive a free ticket with a valid ID badge).

Sunday: Charleston at Hickory, 3:00 p.m. Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring a church bulletin to the ticket office and receive a $6 ticket with $4 from each ticket donated back to the respective church), Teacher Appreciation Night (School staff receive a free ticket with a valid ID badge), Craw-moms day.

Monday: Charleston at Hickory, 10:30 a.m.

TICKETS: $9 tickets in advance, $10 at the gate. Children (12 and under) and seniors $8, $15 for VIP section.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

 

RECENT SERIES HISTORY:

The Crawdads went 7-4 against the RiverDogs in 2018, but it was the road team that succeeded most of the time. Charleston started off with a 3-1 series win at L.P. Frans early in the season before Hickory returned the favor later in the year. Hickory then swept a three-game series in late July through early August. The Crawdads are 31-24 against the Yankees affiliate at home since 2009, 57-49 overall.

 

PROBABLES (Charleston/ Hickory)

Saturday: RHP Alexander Vizcaino vs. RHP Tyree Thompson

Sunday: RHP Luis Medina vs. LHP Tim Brennan

Monday:  RHP Roansy Contreras vs. RHP Yerry Rodriguez

 

ABOUT HICKORY

Though the Crawdads have the second best record in the SAL, they are four games behind Delmarva (Md.) in the Northern Division, as the teams reach the halfway mark of the first half-season. However, Hickory is 9-7 at home and that is coming off the first series loss of the year to Asheville, which took two of three.

Manager: Matt Hagen (2nd season)

Prospects – (team rankings are by MLB.com):

RHP Hans Crouse No.1 (No. 80 in top-100)

IF Jonathan Ornelas No. 18

3B Sherten Apostel No. 22

RHP Ronny Henriquez No. 30

Possible lineups: C: Matt Whatley (.182/.333/.222) or Melvin Novoa; 1B Curtis Terry (.271/.331/.576); 2B Frainyer Chavez (.265/.351/.289); 3B Sherten Apostel (.184/.263/.282); SS Jonathan Ornelas (.347/.413/.490); LF: Tanner Gardner (.192/.214/.423); CF: Pedro Gonzalez (.237/.315/.485); RF: Jose Almonte (.170/.216/.298)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Pedro Gonzalez – tied for 4th homers (7)

Jonathan Ornelas – 4th batting avg. (.347), 6th OBP (.413), 9th hits, 9th OPS (.903).

Curtis Terry – 1st doubles (15), tied for 1st RBI (29), tied for 3rd total bases, tied for 4th home runs (7), 7th slugging pct. (.576), 8th OPS (.907)

Matt Whatley – 2nd walks, tied for 6th stolen bases (11)

Individual pitching:

Tim Brennan – 2nd WHIP (0.73)

Hans Crouse – Tied for 9th home runs allowed (4).

Scott Engler – Tied for 9th saves (3)

Team Batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS):.242 (4th)/ .310 (8th)/ .417 (1st)/ .727 (3rd).

Other key rankings: 2nd home runs, 2nd total bases, 3rd stolen bases, 4th runs, 1th doubles, 12th walks,

Team Pitching:

1st ERA (2.87), 2nd WHIP (1.11), fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs allowed, fewest hit batters, 2nd fewest walks allowed.

WHO’S HOT (Last 10 games)

Hitting: Jonathan Ornelas (.349/.404/.442/.846, 12-game hitting streak); Frainyer Chavez (4 SBs, .394/.444/.324/.869)

Pitching: Tim Brennan (1 start, 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R (0 ER), 7 K); Scott Engler (3 games, 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R 1 BB, 13 K); Yerry Rodriguez (2 starts, 11 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 19 K).

ABOUT CHARLESTON:

The RiverDogs took 2 of 3 at home against Columbia and overall won 11 of the last 14. Charleston is 11-6 on the road.

Manager: Julio Mosquera (2nd season)

Prospects – Charleston (rankings by MLB.com):

RHP Roansy Contreras No. 10

RHP Luis Gil No. 13

RHP Luis Medina No. 14

C Josh Breaux No. 15

RF Josh Stowers No. 25

Possible Lineups: C: Josh Breaux (.307/.344/.557) or Eduardo Navas (.146/.217/.364); 1B: Mickey Gasper (.284/.376/.473); 2B: Kyle Gray (.232/.339/.343); 3B: Wilkerman Garcia (.292/.309/.492); SS: Eduardo Torrealba (.240/.282/.281); LF: Canaan Smith (.307/.388/.466); CF: Brandon Lockridge (.220/.270/.371); RF: Josh Stowers (.308/.396/.429)

SAL Rankings:

Individual Batting:

Josh Breaux – Tied for 4th RBI (25); tied for 6th HRs (6), 8th Slugging pct. (.557), 10th OPS (.901).

Brandon Lockeridge – Tied for 7th doubles (10)

Josh Stowers – Tied for 3rd doubles (11), tied for 9th steals (8), 10th OBP (.396)

Individual pitching:

Luis Gil – Tied for 5th strikeouts, tied for 8th walks

Luis Medina – 2nd walks, tied for 8th hit batters

Jio Orozco – 7th ERA (1.83), tied for 8th hit batters

Team batting:

Slash line (BA. OBP/ SLG/ OPS): .239 (5th) / .310 (9th)/ .364 (6th)/ .675 (7th).

Other key rankings: 1st strikeouts, 3rd hits, tied for 4th HRs (23), 6th runs,

Team pitching:

1st hit batters, 2nd strikeouts, 2nd fewest HRs allowed (15), 6th WHIP (1.22), 8th ERA (3.57),

NOTES OF INTEREST: Tyree Thompson was brought up from extended spring to start for Hickory on Saturday… C Sam Huff and LHP John King were both promoted to High-A Down East…  RHPs Kelvin Gonzalez and Nick Starr were assigned to Hickory from extended spring… OF Miguel Aparicio was brought off the injured list.

 

Flipping the Switch: A Look at the 2018 Hickory Crawdads with Manager Matt Hagen

Quite honestly, the Hickory Crawdads were a dreadful team to watch much of the first half. There were a few early successes – Catcher Melvin Novoa’s hot April that earned him a promotion and the season-long consistency of Crawdads opening day starter Tyler Phillips – but overall, the team didn’t hit well, didn’t pitch well, couldn’t hold leads, and so on. However, for me, what I will remember about this team is the ability for players to grind through the season and endure the process of development. Several players turned in big second half-seasons and kept the Crawdads in the playoff hunt until the final few days of the season.

The Crawdads came out of the South Atlantic League all-star break at 30-38, and promptly were swept at home in three straight by West Virginia to drop to its low point of the season at 30-41. But the Crawdads bounced back with a sweep of Augusta (S.C.) and then began to piece together series wins. An 18-10 July put the team within the .500 mark, which the Crawdads reached for the first time on August 4 at Hagerstown (Md.).

Hickory stayed within range of first-half Northern Division winner Lakewood (N.J.) for the second-half race and were within 2 1/2 games of the BlueClaws, when they traveled to L.P, Frans Stadium for a series on August 10. Lakewood took 3-out-4 to surge ahead, but a 5-2 road trip by the Crawdads followed and got the team again within 2.5 games of the BlueClaws. Lakewood returned to L.P. Frans for another series and again asserted its dominance with a 3-1 series win to put a bow on the second-half division title. Left with an outside shot at a wildcard slot – something unthinkable when Hickory finished sixth in the first half – the Crawdads took three-of-four at Delmarva (Md.) and the first game of the series finale against Greensboro. However, a loss to the Grasshoppers the next night officially knocked the Crawdads out three games from the end of the season. It was the second straight season in which Hickory was eliminated during the final weekend of the season.

The 70-68 record was the eighth time in ten seasons as the Texas Rangers affiliate the Crawdads had a winning record.

What changed? The hitting improved. The pitching improved. However, in talking with manager Matt Hagen, he was adamant that none of that would’ve occur had the accountability of the squad and their expectations had not changed. In talking with him the first half, there was a constant mantra of being one play short. A big hit in a key spot was missed. One pitch in a key spot wasn’t made. One ball wasn’t caught.

The attitude changed in the second half and the confidence came with it.

During an interview with Matt Hagen prior to the final game of the season on Monday, he talked about that shift in the mental approaches that occurred, as well as highlights of the season with some of the individual players.

Matt Hagen

Manager Matt Hagen from a game in May (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

Considering where you guys started, 0-6 and 1-8, that was a heck of a turnaround in the second half. What are some things you contribute that to?

Hagen: Our coaches did a really good job of getting the players better. The players got better, and I think we raised the accountability level and the expectation level. Some of the things we were doing early on, as far as not just not playing with the right level of focus and intensity, we challenged them to be accountable to it.

We flat out just played better. We had a 4.6 ERA in the first half and a 3.2 in the second half. Some of those guys that were hitting .190 at the break ended up hitting .260. So, we had several guys hit over .300 for the second half. So, that was a pretty good deal.

Was there a tipping point at some time in the middle of the season, maybe late June or early July? That time period was a point where there seemed to be a gear shift. You went on a long road trip right after the (July) 4th.

Hagen: It was our first series in Hagerstown (Md.). We had a team meeting and we talked about raising expectations and making sure that guys are completely switched on when they walk in the door, and when they walk out the door to go to the field. From that point on, we won a lot more games than we lost.

The pitching staff, what a turn around: DeMarcus (Evans), Tyler (Phillips), who pretty much had it all year, AJ (Alexy), he finished strong.

Hagen: Reid Anderson.

What were some of the things that you guys were able to figure out?

Hagen: I would give credit to (pitching coach Jose) Jaimes. He’s out there every day sweating in that bullpen with those guys.

Tyler, I think, was more of a continuation of the success he had last year in Spokane.

To see the transformation of Reid Anderson, who won only one game last year. His demeanor on the mound was better. His presence was better. His conviction was better. His belief was better. His confidence was better.

Reid Anderson 2018

Reid Anderson was in the SAL top-ten in ERA (3.22) and WHIP (1.13) in 2018 (Photo courtesy of Ashley Salinas/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

I think AJ has just completely progressed as a pitcher, everything from his preparation to his mentality to his repertoire, his control, his attitude. Everything has gotten better.

And then our bullpen, my goodness, our bullpen was probably one of the best one in the league in the second half. If we had a lead in the seventh inning, we held on to it.

You mentioned the bullpen, what a luxury to have DeMarcus and Joe (Barlow). I talked with him and he talked about the walks to the point of saying I’m not going to use the word. (Joe) Kuzia had a good second half. (Josh) Advocate, when he was healthy, had a good second half. Did you get a sense that those guys got together to change the attitude of the bullpen?

Hagen: I think they took a lot of pride being in the bullpen. They saw it as kind of a brotherhood down there. It’s a great collection of guys. They joke around a lot and they pick on each other, but it’s like a family and they hold each other accountable, too.

DeMarcus, his numbers tell the whole story; he was lights out. He and Joe Barlow were like 1 and 1A; take your pick. Statistically, they were two of the best three relievers in the league. You can’t even argue that. The other guys you named were really good down the stretch, too.

DeMarcus Evans 2018

DeMarcus Evans struck out 66 during the second half and had over 16 Ks per 9 innings to lead the SAL (Salinas/ Hickory Crawdads)

So, I think there was a confidence that kind of grew when one or two guys started having some success, and I think it got contagious down there.

 

Tyreque (Reed) was another guy that when the calendar turned to July, he found something. He talked about his approach going up the middle and going away, and he added the power back. What did you see with him, as far as flipping that switch?

Hagen: He came in right away and his first at-bat was a walk-off home run. Then, having not played at an affiliate yet, I think the rigors of playing against better competition, the hotels, the bus rides, the fans, playing under the lights, that kind of stuff caught up to him a little bit. Once he and Bubba (Thompson) kind of realized, hey, not only do we belong here, we can excel here, you just handed the keys over to them at that point. When Bubba was clicking in the leadoff spot, he was a guy that hit over .300 in the second half. Then, Tyreque, more or less, carried the middle of our lineup for the entire last month. If he were here all year, who knows where his numbers end up. We’d be talking a potential league MVP had he been here all year.

To watch those guys and to know the conversations that (hitting coach) Chase (Lambin) was having with those guys every day, making sure they stayed logged in, making sure they stayed confident and got their work in every day. It was a pleasure to high five those guys as they came around the base.

Tyreque Reed (2).jpg

Tyreque Reed finished third in the SAL in slugging pct. (,503) and OPS (.846) (Salinas/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

Bubba (Thompson) had a little hitch and then in July, he found a switch. It just seemed like a bunch of you found a switch at the same time.

Hagen: Bubba is a really talented kid and he can beat you in a lot of ways. One night, he’d go out – you talk about trying to leave your fingerprints on the game in a positive way – he may have gone 0-for-4 at the plate, but he might have made two or three plays in the outfield that might have won us the game. As young players do, they get locked in on the fact that maybe they didn’t have a great day at the plate, but you can still walk, you can steal two bases, you can still make plays in the outfield. He’s a special kid and not a lot of people can beat you in that many ways.

Bubba Thompson- Proffitt.jpg

Bubba Thompson stole 32 bases for Hickory and had a second-half slash of .300/.341/.441 (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

Yonny (Hernandez), I just like watching him play. You said it in the first meeting you and I had where you called him “The Mosquito”. He’s another guy that had a strong second half. You put him second in the lineup and that seemed to be a good niche for the guy with he and Thompson at the top of the order.

Hagen: The expectations were, we know he can play defense and we know he can run the bases a little bit. The question was, is he going to hit. You look up and he’s second in the league in walks and second in the league in stolen bases. He hit over .300 in the second half and raised his batting average over 70 points. Pretty special. He’s a disruptor, too. He gets on the bases and gets the pitchers thinking about him instead of the hitter. The next thing you know, the pitcher leaves a pitcher over the middle that (Ryan) Dorow or Tyreque and three runs are on the board.

He’s just a fun kid to watch. You just let him go out and do his thing. He attacks the game very aggressively.

Yonny Hernandez

Yonny Hernandez finished the season second in the South Atlantic League in steals (44) and OBP (.371) and third in walks (58) (Salinas/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

The three-headed monster at catcher wound up being two with (Yohel) Pozo and (Sam) Huff. Please with their progress this year?

Hagen: Yeah. The goal was to get them both over 400 at-bats and they both got their 400 at-bats. Two guys that made an all-star team. Obviously, Melvin was doing good enough to get promoted. He was on fire early.

From a defensive standpoint, they both finished the season, hopefully with winning records <Note: Yohel Pozo was 30-30 entering the final game of the season. Pozo caught the game, which Hickory lost to Greensboro.>

Sam Huff and Yohel Pozo

South Atlantic League All-Star Catchers Yohel Pozo (left) and Sam Huff played a big role in the pitching staff’s turnaround in the second half (Salinas/ Hickory Crawdads)

To see those guys mature, to where the pitchers have confidence in them – you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for the success the pitchers had in the second half, too. Because, they got better in calling the game and controlling the game. Two guys that can throw pretty well and I think they both finished in the top two or three in the league in receiving metrics. They’re getting pitches that are strikes called strikes, and stealing a few strikes here and there.

 

Was there any disappointment that Miguel (Aparicio) didn’t have the year I think folks were expecting from him, and maybe Pedro (Gonzalez), as well? Any concerns on their progress for this year?

Hagen: No, if we look it up, Pedro’s run production is the third best on the team, as far as scoring runs and driving in runs. The only downside there is the batting average is down a little bit. The slugging pct. is good. He’s had some leg issues that kind of plagued him all year, so his stolen bases weren’t as high as he wanted them to be. Earlier in the season, he was stealing bases when he was healthy. For me, I think Pedro actually had a good year.

Miguel was just up-and-down. He was player of the week one week, and then the next week you see a 19-year-old kid who’s going to struggle. He’d struggle to stay in his approach and then the next week he’d get hot again. Obviously, the power is there, as evidenced by the home run he crushed a couple of days ago over the advertisements there. For him, it’s just finding a way to be consistent.

Miguel Aparcio

Top-30 prospect Miguel Aparicio took home a South Atlantic League hitter of the week award in mid-July, but struggled much of the season and finished at .214/.263/.361 (Salinas/ Hickory Crawdads)

 

The glue of the team all year, for me, was Dorow. Is that a fair read for you?

Hagen: That’s a bull’s eye right there. We came in talking about somebody needing to step up to surprise you. I knew Dorow could catch a ground ball if it was hit to him, but I had no idea that he could catch every ground ball within running range and then throw guys out from any arm angle. What he did at the plate, he’s two away from 30 doubles, 12 home runs and right around .300 most of the year.

He really exceeded a lot of people’s expectations and he’s been a pleasure to watch run out and play and go about his business. You just plug him into the lineup and let him go. He has a very mature approach and a very tough kid mentally, and a very tough kid physically. He’s a manager’s dream.

Ryan Dorow

Ryan Dorow (Proffitt)

 

When you look back at this team in a couple of years, what’s going to stick out for you?

Hagen: I think just the turn around from where we were in the first half to where we finished up. The way they came together and started worrying less about themselves and started playing for each other a lot more, which is hard to do in this game, because everybody wants to get to the big leagues. They were able to take the focus off of their individual success and started thinking about what the team was doing.

They learned how to win, so when they get to the next level, or the guys that get to the big leagues, they don’t get there and go, “Well, I’m a big-league player, but I don’t know how to win.” They’re learned how to win and what it takes to win. That’s invaluable.

 

What did you learn this year as a manager?

Hagen: Ooooo, that’s a good question. Something new every day. I think knowing and continuing to learn when to push the guys and when to just pat them on the back. I think I would’ve liked to have held them to a higher level of expectation, earlier on. But there was a lot of getting to know one another still going on at that point.

Definitely letting my staff do their job. That’s been a luxury for me. Knowing when to speak up and when to stay out of the way and let Chase do his thing, or Jaimes do his thing, or Turtle (Thomas). I’m really fortunate to have three really good coaches, and that extends to the weight room, too. I didn’t have to monitor anything there. I’d stick my head in once in a while. Adam (Noel) does a great job with those guys. But, just trusting those guys to do their jobs and letting them do them was a big part of our success.

 

 

The Fire to Win: An Interview with Sam Huff

In writing the feature for the Hickory Daily Record, I had a bit of a writer’s block. I found the subject of this interview, Sam Huff, to be a multi-faceted person and there were so many directions in which I could’ve steered the article.

For the HDR writeup, I chose to go the route of the guy that had his baseball fire sparked at the age of five. As I mentioned in the article, there is a fire there that burns in the baseball soul. This kid wants to win and he wants to win however necessary.

I interviewed Huff a day after a game against Rome during which he and pitcher Jean Casanova put together a clinic on how to change the plan of attack against a lineup when the original plan didn’t work.

The night before, I had talked to the two of them about the game. A minor blip on Huff’s night was getting the golden sombrero (4 strikeouts in a game at the plate, for those that don’t know). When I asked him about that, while he wasn’t happy about the strikeouts, in the grand scheme of the game itself, he didn’t care. His team won. He had a part of that win because of the work as a catcher and that’s all that mattered to him. He repeated the mantra over and over, “I just want to win.” I left without the expletive that was a part of one of those statements.

So, inside of a measured speaker, that fire is there and the more it smolders.

There were other areas we touched on in this interview: his development, his leadership, and his curiosity for learning. I think readers will see that curiosity when reading through the interview and how he seeks to soak up information.

Both Huff and catching coordinator mentioned the influence of former Crawdads catcher Jose Trevino on Huff. So, I tracked down Trevino to get his perspective on Huff and what stands out to him.

Said Trevino about Huff:

“He’s different. Swings different. Throws different. He’s a special kid.

“He doesn’t know how dangerous he is yet though and I think being in his first full season, he will start to figure it out. He’s like that baby snake that doesn’t know how poisonous it is, yet. But sooner or later he will know when to strike and how much he needs to take down someone.

“He always wants to learn and he’s always picking my brain about everything! I like being around the kid because he still needs that person to check him back into place at times. It looks funny, a 5’8” dude telling a 6’8” dude something that will help him.

“But yes, a very special kid with a lot of talent. I don’t really compare him to a player in the big leagues right now cause I don’t think you can. Sam Huff is Sam Huff. He’s going to keep getting better and he’s always going to want to learn. Great ballplayer and a better person!”

However, Huff is not just a student for the sake of being a student. He wants to lead. He wants to lead his team. He wants to lead his pitchers. Huff doesn’t appear to be a person to lead in such a way that gives the feeling he that wants the world to revolve around him; he wants to figure out how to make his teammates better—so they can win.

Sam Huff fist pump

Sam Huff with a first pump during a game against West Virginia (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

Here is the interview with Sam Huff:

First of all, your three-headed monster at catcher, I guess, is now down to two with you and Pozo. How did the three of you work together where you’re not getting total playing time behind the plate but you’re having to figure that out?

Huff: At the start it was kind of different because we’d play like Melvin, me, Pozo, Melvin, me, Pozo and we kind of had to work off of that. It was kind of hard to get into a rhythm and a groove. Then we’d finally start to get the hang of it and we were like, “Okay, this is our day.”

The day before that we’d get focused on watching and studying. Then the day of, we’d talk to each other. Melvin would say, “Hey, this team is good at hitting fastballs” or “This team likes to hit offspeeds and the fastball away” or “They’re a fast team, so then like to bunt or run.” We just had to almost give each other reports to keep us in the game and to help our pitchers.

Because, our goal is to help our pitchers. Us three together, we knew we all had to come together and help each other, because overall, we want to be good and we like to see each other do good because we’re winning. What I said last night, we like to win and have us three catchers calling good games and our pitchers in the strike zone and keeping them in good rhythm. It helps a lot to talk to each other.

 

Was it hard to get the pitchers into any kind of consistency, though, when you have three different voices coming at them?

Huff: Yeah, because pitchers will want to throw to a different guy, or to one or the other, but we just had to work with it. We had to learn our pitchers by talking, then catching the bullpens, catching the sides and getting an idea of what they like to do. So, every day I didn’t catch, and it was my off day, I would go to the bullpen and catch all the relievers. That’s the biggest part is every night, you’ve got a new guy coming in. You’ve haven’t caught them in two weeks and you don’t remember the ball movements. My biggest thing is I can remember my pitchers.

I live with four: Tyler Phillips, Joe Barlow, Josh Advocate and Noah (Bremer) – he’s coming back from the rehab. I talk to them. I always work with them. I know them like the back of my hand. I love them and it’s just good to talk to pitchers because then they tell you what pitchers think like from a perspective of what they want to do, how they want to do it. What’s their strengths and what’s their weaknesses. How they rank their pitches. That comes into play because you’ve got to know, if he doesn’t have his fastball, what’s his second best and go off that. You can’t just say, “Okay, we’re going to go to his third best,” and that’s not his strength. You got to work to the strengths of the pitcher and understand them.

 

There’s so much that goes into catching, not just handling the pitching staff, obviously the defense, then you’ve got to come out and bring a stick to the plate and hit. Then, there’s so many intangibles. What’s the biggest thing you are working on right now, at this level?

Huff: The biggest thing is being consistent behind the plate, catching, calling the game, maintaining a good pitching staff and how I want to approach hitters. Last night was a really good thing for me as a catcher to learn. If a plan doesn’t work, we can work off of it where we can modify it a little bit. We don’t have to flip the script and get a whole new plan. We just build off of it. It was really cool to understand that. Here’s a team that’s a fastball hitting team. They don’t like curveballs, so, okay, we’ll pitch backwards now. As a catcher, when I see that, it’s going to be easier to call because you understand, because I’m right here and the hitter’s standing right there. So, it’s easier for me, but it has to come from the pitcher, too.

Learning that as a player and hitting and just being consistent. I’m just working on some stuff. Overall, I don’t try to focus too much about hitting, because the biggest thing for me is to become the best catcher and I want to be the best.

Sam HUff hitting

Sam Huff with a home run swing during an exhibition game vs. Catawba Valley CC (Tracy Proffitt)

 

What made you decide you wanted to be a catcher in the first place? You guys take a beating and there’s so much going into what you do at the position.

Huff: I didn’t catch my whole life. I played short when I was little, third, first, the outfield and pitched. I didn’t pitch in high school. I played first base my freshman year.

I watched a guy named Tommy Joseph and Matt Wieters and Joe Mauer. I liked the way they did their catching. I just kind of said, I want to be a catcher. I went to a guy in Arizona – he was Tommy Joseph’s catching coach. Tommy was in the (Arizona) fall league at the time with the Giants, so he’d come and watch and hang out. It kind of got me triggered there. I was in my sophomore year. In my junior and senior year, I caught.

It’s been different. I didn’t think I was ever going to be a catcher when I was younger. I thought I was going to be a third baseman or a first baseman, or the outfield type. It stuck with me. I liked the way it is, that you’re in every pitch. You’re not just standing there, but you’re doing something to help the team win.

 

What is the thing you think you bring to the position? You were playing other positions and now you’re fresh behind the plate. What did you bring to the position that you thought would make it work?

Huff: I thought I received well. I caught the ball. I threw the ball good and I could throw guys out. Blocking, I had to work at it and I’m still working at it, but it’s becoming one of my strengths. I just felt like I could catch and throw really well. I felt like I could bring energy as a player and being able to control my team and help my teammates out, because I want other guys to be good.

To be able to see a catcher, even though he’s down, but he’s still up and going, that’s a leader. I’m just trying to fill the role, because it’s something I want to be, but it’s something I’ve got to work at. Every day I’m working and I’m talking to guys that I feel like are leaders to me and they tell me how they do it and I try to copy that.

 

Who are the leaders to you?

Huff: I feel like Clay Middleton. He’s a really good guy to look after. Tyree Thompson, Tyler Phillips, I could go on. I feel like everybody, in some aspect of the way, is a leader to me. They show me things that I can do different, and they tell me things that I can do different, and I show them things that I’ve improved on that they could do different. So, it’s really cool. As a team, I try and incorporate everybody as a leader. It doesn’t matter how you lead, if you’re just a quiet guy or if you like to talk a lot. If you’re a leader, you’re a leader.

 

You mentioned some guys that got you interested in catching like Mauer and Tommy Joseph. At this stage of you career, who are you looking at as someone you’d like to model your game after?

Huff: I’d like to model my game after Mike Piazza. He wasn’t the best catcher, but he could hit. He’s a Hall-of-Famer, so you can’t say that he’s not that bad of a catcher. But, I really like to model my game after him, because watching video, he had the mentality of, he’s going to beat you. He doesn’t care about you. He doesn’t give, you know what, about you.

He plays hard. He wasn’t given the opportunity, he had to work for it. I like watching him as a player, because he had the flow. He had the mentality to just go out there and play to show everyone that he was better than they thought he would be.

 

(Rangers catching coordinator) Chris (Briones) will come in and say, “it’s time to fill my guys up.” What does a guy like Chris bring to you when he comes on a visit?

Huff: We talk about what I can do different and what I’m doing good at. What things he’s seen that I’ve improved on, or I need to improve on. Lately, we’ve just talked about being consistent behind the plate and getting wins, being consistent with the blocking, the throwing, the receiving, calling. I love Chris and love when he comes here and we talk.

We always bring up Trevino because we’re in the same agency and we always talk. I always talk to Jose, so I ask him little things and he just tells me what’s the deal and how to do it. It’s really awesome to have a guy like that talk to me. It’s really cool.

 

What are you looking at as the next step of development for you?

Huff: Just getting better every day at everything. I feel like I can get better at everything. There’s always something I want to improve on. I feel like once I start to get the hang of hitting, then everything will come together. Overall, I want to get better at everything. I’m always anxious to learn. Briones, he knows that and I’m always talking to him about stuff. So, it’s always cool to have him here and pick his brain a little more.

 

You get a call that says you’re going to the major leagues? Who’s the first person you call?

Huff: My parents. My dad first. He’s been there since the start, so he would get the first call. Then my grandma and grandpa, and then my whole family members and my coaches and friends.

 

Who is the biggest factor in your career that is not a family member?

Huff: As crazy as it sounds, my dad’s best friend, Marty Maier, a pitching coach at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. We talk all the time and he’s been playing for a while.

He was kind of the first guy I talked to in baseball when I was a five-year-old kid. He’s a pretty funny guy, but he told me, “This game ain’t easy, but you can do a lot if you just apply yourself. Play every game like it’s your last. Never, ever take anything for granted.” I took that to heart and I really love this game and I like to play.

I thank myself every day and I thank my parents. I thank everybody that’s helped me along this journey. Even though I’m in the ups and downs, I still remember what would I rather be doing: going to school or playing baseball for a living? When you tell yourself that, you really take it to heart. I’m playing a game that’s a kid’s game and I’m having fun with it. So, I try not to take anything for granted. For him doing that and telling me that at a young age, that was really cool and I thank him for that every day.

Huff Jaimes Mendez mound visit

A mound visit with Sal Mendez (left) Jose Jaimes and Huff (Proffitt)