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Walk-off Winner: Ratliff’s single gives Hickory 2-1 win

Tyler Ratliff lined a single into left to bring in pinch runner Franklin Rollin and sent the Hickory Crawdads to a 2-1 win over the Rome (Ga.) Braves Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

With the win, Hickory (13-21) has won two of three during the current series and it will try for the series win Tuesday morning starting at 10:30 a.m. Rome (22-15) dropped into second place, a game behind Augusta (Ga.) in the South Atlantic League Southern Division.

Facing Braves reliever Brandon White (0-2), the Crawdads started the ninth with a booming double off the wall in center field by Tyreque Reed. Austin O’Banion’s grounder to first moved Reed to third from where Rollin took over. Reed wasted little time for the walk-off winner by lining an 0-1 pitch from the side-arming White into left.

Pitching dominated Monday’s contest as a pair of No. 30 prospects – Rome’s Huascar Ynoa and Hickory’s Tyler Phillips – started the game.

Ynoa held the Crawdads hitless through five innings with the help of center fielder Drew Waters. The Braves No. 18 prospect made an on-the-run, leaping catch of a liner at the wall off the bat of Bubba Thompson in the first. Near the same spot, Waters – who also had two of the Braves seven hits – made an even better grab on a ball hit by Ratliff in the fourth when he scaled and reached over the wall to bring back a home run. Otherwise, Ynoa’s night was uneventful, as he struck out six and walked three. The lone hit against Ynoa was a home run by Justin Jacobs in the sixth.

Tyler Phillips matched zeroes on the scoreboard with five shutout innings. The Crawdads right hander allowed five hits and a walk with four strikeouts. He, too, got defensive help as Hickory turned two double plays behind him. The lone trouble for Phillips came in the fourth when William Contreras and Kurt Hoekstra each singled with two outs to put runners and first and third. Phillips got out of the inning by striking out Jean Carlos Encarnacion.

New reliever Derek Heffel entered the game for Hickory in the sixth. He allowed just two base runners over three innings and struck out three. However, the first base runner was a leadoff home run by Hoekstra to start the seventh and tie the game.

Alex Speas (1-0) dominated the Braves in the ninth with fastballs registering 96-98 mph. The right hander retired the side and struck out two.

Game story Uncategorized

Casanova and Huff go to “Plan B”: Crawdads get the benefit in 4-3 win over Rome

Down three runs early, Hickory Crawdads starting pitcher Jean Casanova settled down and his teammates fought back to take a 4-3 win over the Rome (Ga.) Braves Saturday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win for the Crawdads (12-20) in the series opener with the Braves was the third in four games of the current homestand. Despite the loss, Rome (21-14) remained in a tie for first the Southern Division of the South Atlantic League.

Hickory scored the decisive run in the eighth after two were out. With Austin O’Banion on first, Ryan Dorow put up his third single of the game. Cristian Inoa then hit a grounder that got past second baseman Derian Cruz and allowed O’Banion to score from second.

It looked as if the Crawdads would be run out of the stadium. Facing Jean Casanova, Braves center fielder Drew Waters hit the second pitch of the game out of the ballpark. Two outs later, William Contreras, Kurt Hoekstra and Jean Carlos Encarnacion hit consecutive doubles and suddenly Rome held a 3-0 lead.

The Crawdads pecked away at the lead, starting in the second with Tyreque Reed’s second home run of the season. In the third, Cristian Inoa and Bubba Thompson steered back-to-back doubles just inside the bag at third to get Hickory within 3-2.

Tyler Ratliff worked an eight-pitch at bat into a walk in the fourth. He stole second with two outs and came home when Ryan Dorow lifted a soft liner into right center.

After giving up the homer and five doubles into the third, Casanova settled down and retired 12 straight before he walked Encarnacion to start the seventh.

Sal Mendez (2-2) got out of the inning and worked around an error with two outs in the ninth to seal the win.

Casanova and Huff Work Plan B:

Simply put, the Braves were pounding the fastball of Casanova early. So Casanova, pitching coach Jose Jaimes and catcher Sam Huff decided to alter the attack against an aggressive Braves lineup that had six extra-base hits through the first 11 hitters. After Riley Delgado doubled on a first-pitch fastball in the third, Casanova started the next nine hitters with an offspeed pitch. The right-hander retired the next 12 hitters, striking out four.

Huff and Casanova talked about the change of strategy and what went into the decision to use plan B.


It didn’t look like there wasn’t much of a fastball at the start and they were hitting it. You guys made the decision to go offspeed. I think I had one time where you went through the whole order and started everybody offspeed. How did that decision come about?

Huff: Before pregame, we were talking about the hitters. A lot of them, their percentages were they’re early swingers. They’re going to swing at first-pitch fastballs no matter what. Their two-hole shortstop (Riley Delgado), he is ten-percent on striking out, so he’s putting the bat on the ball. The first inning, we kind of got an idea and we got on the same page and we just started working it. I knew he had a good curveball, slider and changeup and we started mixing those in and then just get guys thinking and uncomfortable.

They hit you and hit you hard early. There were five doubles and a homer over the first three innings. What was your part in this decision to make a change in what you were going to throw?

Casanova: The first inning, that came from my head. I was like, “I’m not going to give up. I’m still going to attack the zone.” We all went over to the side with our pitching coach (Jose) Jaimes and we talked about, “Let’s start over and use the offspeed, curveball. Then, when the guy’s got two strikes on them, throw the slider because the slider is way faster than your curveball.” Then we started with the changeup and then the fastball and it started working. So, we just kept doing that throughout the rest of the game after the first inning. That helped a lot.

Sam Huff
Catcher Sam Huff from an early 2018 game (photo courtesy of Sam Huff

Is there are a macho thing where guys will say, “I’m going to throw my fastball, come hell or high water” and you overuse it?

Casanova: As a pitcher, I like to be aggressive with my fastball. Tonight, after they were hitting my fastball, I just worked with whatever was working earlier in the bullpen, which was my curveball and the slider and the changeup looked pretty good. So, I mixed those up. Then, a couple of times I threw a fastball when they were waiting for a breaking pitch and that’s when my fastball started playing.


At what point are you watching him and saying, “Okay, this is what we need to do.”? They’re hitting the fastball and you have your pregame stuff and you see what is actually taking place. At what point do you make a decision to call it this way?

Huff: First thing, once I saw them being aggressive throughout the at bat, I was just like, “We’ve got to go curveballs now. We’ve got to switch it up and we’ve got to get them out on their front foot and get them uncomfortable.”

We were talking about going in and they were sitting there. So, we started going away and then hard away and then soft away. I mean, we tried to get them uncomfortable and thinking.

Four guys I knew for sure were like, “he’s throwing a curveball right there” and we’d throw a fastball the first pitch. And then, he’s pretty much already given up on his at bat and then we’d throw two sliders inside.

I have to read hitters, too, and know which guys are going to be swinging no matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fastball or a curveball or a changeup or slider, they’re swinging. And then the guys that are more picky and will take – because the guys that take, they take a curveball right down the pike and, okay, it’s strike one. Here comes another curveball, fouls it off and they’re 0-2. Alright, you can go fastball, curveball, changeup or slider. It just depends on what he wants.

We were pretty much on the same page. He shook me off maybe two or three times and we executed it. We took what we wanted from the first inning and built off of it. We’re taking that as a learning experience and the next time that we play them, maybe not go straight fastballs, but more working counts and getting guys uncomfortable.


Have you ever thrown that many offspeed pitches in a row to start a hitter?

Casanova: No, that was the first time where I had to start with my curveball or my slider or my changeup.

Huff: He’s a big fastball guy. This is the total opposite of what he does. He looked the part. He showed you that he can pitch both ways and still carve. You don’t need to just to just trust your fastball. You can use other things. Seeing that, I was really happy to see that from him. For him to hold and get out of that first inning and then come in and go back out there and just say, “You know what, hit it. Try and hit this.” It was really cool to see.

Casanova: It was special to me because he is the catcher that knows me the most. We’ve been together for like three years now. We got onto the same page and everything. After the first inning, I put it away and throw it in the garbage. This is a new inning and I’m going to try and compete and stay in the game as long as I can. That’s what I tried to do and it worked out.

Jean Casanova.jpg
Jean Casanova (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)


In a game like this, you had the golden sombrero tonight and I know you’re not happy about that, but you had to take a lot of pleasure in working in that way. That was more important win wise than what you did at the plate?

Huff:  As a team, we want to win. If it means I go 0-for-4, it means I go 0-for-4, but if I’m helping my pitchers and my whole staff and my team to win a ballgame behind the plate, then I’ll take it every day of my life. I love to win. I want to win.


Ratliff’s battle rewarded

It seemed innocuous at the time, but Ratliff’s at bat in the fourth played a big part in getting the Crawdads the tying run. An eight-pitch plate appearance turned into a walk and began the process of running up the pitch count of Odalvi Javier, who had thrown 42 pitches one out into the fourth.

“The first at bat, I was kind of late on his fastball and I got a hit off his changeup or slider,” said Ratliff about his approach for the key AB. “I actually got into an advantage count to 2-1. I fouled it off and got back even with a 3-2 count. He just kept throwing fastballs, fastballs. He kept trying to get me to chase the fastball up, which I couldn’t lay off of. They weren’t quite up enough to take. He just kept aggressively throwing the fastball up, up, up. I was sitting fastball and then the last pitch was kind of a spiked changeup. It was nice to get rewarded for a long 3-2.”

After hitting .167/.254/.250 in April, Ratliff has come around in May and is now at .371/.421/.486 for the month. He has multi-hit games in six of his last nine contests.

:I was working with Chase Lambin (Crawdad hitting coach) and Josue (Perez), our hitting coordinator, and (coach) Turtle (Thomas) and (manager) Matt (Hagen). They were all like, ‘You just have to go back to you, which is not chasing pitches up.’ I was trying to do too much, like I said. I was trying to go for the big home run. I’m not that type of player. I’m the type of player that’s going to hit balls in the gap, and hit doubles, and make hard contact and grind out at bats.”

Rome roaming out of runs:

The Braves baserunning cost them a couple of scoring opportunities. In the second, Isranel Wilson hit a liner to deep right. Through right fielder Justin Jacobs quickly retrieved and relayed the ball back in, Wilson hustled and reached second well ahead of the throw. However, he slid well past the bag, even avoiding the tag of Inao at short. Inao was able to snare Wilson in the ensuing rundown.

The more perplexing play happened in the seventh. After Encarnacion walked, Drew Lugbauer hit a swinging bunt in front of the plate. Mendez hopped down the mound and quickly got the out at first. Meanwhile, Encarnacion sped around second and made tracks to third. First baseman Tyreque Reed’s strong throw to the waiting Ratliff at third was well ahead of Encarnacion’s slide.

Tyreque Reed’s blast:

Check out Dan Victor’s (@slydanno70) video of Reed’s blast.


Series Preview Uncategorized

Series Preview: Rome (Ga.) at Hickory May 12-15

Hickory continues a weeklong homestand at LP Frans Stadium with a four-game series against the Rome Braves.

Rome (Ga.) Braves (Atlanta Braves) (21-13, T-1st SAL South), at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (11-20, 6th SAL North)

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Saturday 6 p.m., Sunday 3 p.m., Monday 6 p.m., Tuesday 10:30 a.m.


Saturday – Crawmoms Weekend

Sunday – Church Bulletin Sunday (Bring a church bulletin for a $6, $4 is donated back to that organization), Wine & Design, Mother’s Day Celebration.

Monday – Make-A-Difference Monday (Bring canned goods $5 or more in value and receive a free ticket.)

TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.

Where is it?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. Here is that menu

The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu


Probables (Rome / Hickory):

Saturday: RHP Odalvi Javier vs. RHP Jean Casanova

Sunday: RHP Drew Harrington vs. RHP Reid Anderson

Monday: RHP Huascar Ynoa vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

Tuesday: RHP Alan Rangel vs. RHP Tyree Thompson


Recent Series History:

Rome swept a three-game series at L.P. Frans Stadium in the only games played between the two teams in 2017. Since 2009 – the start of the Crawdads/ Rangers affiliation – Hickory is 30-26 overall, but the Braves own the advantage 18-16 at L.P. Frans.


About the Crawdads:

Hickory took the first two games of the homestand vs. Columbia (S.C.) before dropping the finale of the series on Friday… Overall, the pitching continues to take a beating in May. The team has allowed seven or more runs in five of the nine games played this month. Collectively, Hickory is second in the SAL in walks allowed and are next to last in WHIP (1.46)… Conversely, the sticks have turned it around this month. After a .242 team batting avg. in April, it is at .272 in May.


Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by

CF Bubba Thompson (No. 6) 2017 stats at AZL Rangers: 30 games, .257/.317/.434, 7 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 5 SB, 5 CS. Last series vs. Columbia: 4-for-9, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL. Joined the team on Wednesday.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 17): 2018 stats: 6 games (5 starts), 24 IP, 23 H, 19 R (18 ER), 2 HR, 4 HB, 18 BB, 32 K, 6.75 ERA, .256 OBA, 1.71 WHIP. Last start 5/11 vs. Columbia: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 HB, 7 K. Joined the Crawdads after a trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. Originally 11th round pick of Dodgers out of Twin Valley HS, Elverson, Pa. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd walks allowed, T-4th hit batters.

RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 18): 2018 stats: .224/.288/.346, 3 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 9 BB, 20 K. Last series vs. Columbia: 3-for-10, 2B, 3 BB, 2 K. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela.

RHP Alex Speas (No. 23): 2018 stats: 11 games, 3 saves, 16 IP, 12 H, 8 R (6 ER), 1 HR, 16 BB, 28 K, 3.38 ERA, .200 OBA 1.75 WHIP. Last game 5/10 vs. Columbia: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 3 K. Second-round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of McEachern HS (Powder Springs, GA). SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd Ks-per-9 innings among relievers (15.75), T-5th walks.

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 26): 2018 stats: .218/.277/.414, 5 2B, 4 HR, 5 BB, 31 K. Last series vs. Columbia: 2-for-8, 2 HR, 3 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.).


Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Jean Casanova: 2018 stats: 6 games (3 starts), 17.2 IP, 17 H, 9 R (6 ER), 4 HR, 1 HB, 8 BB, 11 K, 3.06 ERA, .243 OBA, 1.42 WHIP. Last start 4/28 vs. Delmarva (Md.): 5 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 HR, 1 BB, 4 K. Thirty-fifth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Waukegan (Ill.) HS. Born in the Dominican Republic.

RHP Reid Anderson: 2018 stats: 6 games (5 starts), 28.2 IP, 24 H, 10 R (9 ER), 2 HB, 8 BB, 28 K, 2.82 ERA, .229 OBA, 1.12 WHIP. Last start 5/7 at West Virginia: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 HB, 2 BB, 7 K. Seventeenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville (Pa.) Univ. Attended New Egypt (N.J.) HS.

RHP Tyler Phillips: 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 32 IP, 34 H, 15 R (14 ER), 2 HR, 1 HB, 4 BB, 34 K, 3.94 ERA, .266 OBA, 1.19 WHIP. Last start 5/7 at West Virginia: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R (0 ER), 1 HB, 1 BB, 6 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, N.J.

RHP Tyree Thompson: 2018 stats: 6 games (5 starts) 25.1 IP, 30 H, 22 R (19 ER), 4 HR, 2 HB, 7 BB, 10 K, 6.75 ERA, .294 OBA, 1.46 WHIP. Last start vs. Columbia 5/9: 4 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 HR, 3 BB, 1 K. Twenty-sixth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Edna Karr HS, New Orleans. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-9th hits allowed.

1B Tyreque Reed: 2017 stats at AZL Rangers: 35 games, .350/.455/.617, 13 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 22 BB, 26 K. Last series vs. Columbia: 4-for-9, HR, BB, 3 K. Eighth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. Attended Houlka (MS) HS. Named to Arizona Summer League All-star team in 2017.

LF Austin O’Banion: 2018 stats at AA Frisco: 4 games, .188/.235/.188, 1 BB, 7 K. Last series vs. Columbia: 5-for-11, 3B, BB, 4 K, 1 SB. Thirty-seventh round pick by the Rangers in 2016 out of Cal State-Fullerton.


About the Braves:

Managed by Rocket Wheeler, in his 26th season overall as a minor league manager, the 16th in the Braves organization. Wheeler (240-209 with Rome) returned to Rome this season. He last managed the R-Braves from 2003 to 2005 and won the SAL title with the team his first season… Rome comes to Hickory after winning 3 of 4 at Augusta to gain as a share of first in the SAL Southern Division… In the middle of the pack statistically, the pitching staff has allowed three or fewer runs in five of the last nine games.

Prospects to watch- Rome (rankings are by

C William Contreras (No. 17): 2018 stats: .246/.370/.361, 1 2B, 2 HR, 11 R, 4 RBI, 9 BB, 14 K. Last series at Augusta: 3-for-13, 2 BB, 3 K. Signed as an international free with the Braves in 2015. Native of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Appalachian League all-star in 2017 at Danville (Va.). Brother of C Wilson Contreras of the Cubs. Joined the Braves on April 24.

CF Drew Waters (No. 18): 2018 stats: .225/.286/.408, 6 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 8 R, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 3 SB. Last series at Augusta: 2-for-12, 2 2B, 6 K. Returned from DL on 5/9 after over two weeks out with an injury. Second-round pick of the Braves in 2017 out of Etowah HS in Woodstock, Ga.

2B Derian Cruz (No. 19): 2018 stats: .227/.270/.361, 4 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 15 R, 10 RBI, 6 BB, 44 K. Last series at Augusta: 4-for-13, 2 2B, 4 K. Signed as an international free with the Braves in 2015. Native of Puerto Plata, D.R. SAL Top-10 rankings: T-2nd strikeouts, -7th triples.

RF Isranel Wilson (No. 21):  2018 stats: .184/.283/.316, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 20 R, 10 RBi, 13 BB, 38 K, 8 SB, 3 CS. Last series at Augusta: 3-for-10, 2 2B, 3B, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB. Signed as an international free with the Braves in 2014. Native of St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles. Gulf Coast League All-star in 2015. SAL Top-10 rankings: T-6th steals.

RHP Freddy Tarnok (No. 24): 2018 stats: 8 games, 15 IP, 9 H, 7 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 10 BB, 22 K, 0.60 ERA, .167 OBA, 1.27 WHIP. Last Game 5/7 vs. Asheville: 2 IP, 1 BB, 4 K. Third-round pick of the Braves in 2017 out of Riverview (FL) HS.

C-3B Drew Lugbauer (No. 28): 2018 stats: .217/.300/.358, 3 2B, 4 HR, 12 R, 13 RBI, 12 BB, 44 K, 1 SB. Last series at Augusta: 2-for-11, HR, 4 RBI, 4 K. Eleventh-round pick of the Braves in 2017 out of the Univ. of Michigan. Native of Pleasant Valley, NY, attended Arlington HS in Poughkeesie. SAL Top-10 rankings: T-2nd strikeouts.

RHP Huascar Ynoa (No. 30): 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 21.2 IP, 21 H, 18 R, 16 ER, 3 HR, 2 HB, 16 BB, 26 K, 6.65 ERA, .253 OBA, 1.71 WHIP. Last start 5/9 at Augusta: 5 IP, 3H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 HR, 6 K. Obtained by the Braves in a trade with the Twins for RHP Jaime Garcia last July. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-5th walks.


Others to watch-Braves

LHP Hayden Deal: 2018 stats: 6 games, 11.1 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 2 HB, 2 BB, 18 K, 1.59 ERA, .227 OBA, 1.06 WHIP. Last game 5/9 at Augusta: 2 IP, 3 H, 6 K. Signed with the Braves as a non-drafted free agent in 2017 out of Presbyterian College (Clinton, SC). Played at Bandys HS in Catawba.

RHP Odalvi Javier: 2018 stats: 6 games (5 starts), 29 IP, 19 H, 14 R, 13 ER, 2 HR, 6 HB, 12 BB, 30 K, 4.03 ERA, 1.90 OBA, 1.07 WHIP. Last start vs. 5/7 Asheville: 6 IP, 1 H, 2 HB, 2 BB, 8 K. Signed as an international free with the Braves in 2014. Native of Puerto Plata, D.R. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st hit batters.

RHP Drew Harrington: 2018 stats: 6 games (1 start), 15.1 IP, 20 H, 13 R (9 ER), 2 HR, 3 HB, 4 BB, 10 K, 5.28 ERA, .323 OBA, 1.57 WHIP. Last start 5/9 at Augusta: 3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 HB, 1 BB, 2 K. Third-round pick of the Braves in 2016 out of the Univ. of Louisville. Attended Central Hardin HS, Cecilia, KY. Named to Florida State League All-Star Game in 2017.

RHP Alan Rangel: 2018 stats: 7 games (5 starts), 24 IP, 23 H, 16 R, 2 HR, 6 BB, 25 K, 6.00 ERA, .245 OBA, 1.21 WHIP. Last start 5/10 at Augusta: 4 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. Signed as an international free with the Braves in 2014. Native of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.

RHP Brandon White: 2018 stats: 12 games, 5 saves, 17 IP, 10 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 HB, 2 BB, 17 K, 1.59 ERA, .159 OBA, 0.71 WHIP. Last outing 5/11 at Augusta: 2 IP, 1 H, 1BB, 4 K. Twelfth-round pick of the Braves in 2016 out of Lander Univ (Greenwood, SC). Attended Chapin (SC) High. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-3rd saves, T-4th games pitched.

SS Riley Delgado: 2018 stats: .313/.355/.426, 10 2B, 1 HR, 12 R, 23 RBI, 4 BB, 12 K. Last series at Augusta: 2-for-11, 2B, RBI, 2 K. Ninth-round pick of the Braves in 2017 out of Middle Tennessee St. Also played at Columbia State CC (Tenn.) Played at Palmetto HS, Miami, FL. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-1st doubles, 5th hits, 6th RBI, 9th batting avg.

Game story Uncategorized

Game Story 4/26/17: Third verse, same as the first – Rome completes sweep

Another day, same story. The Rome (Ga.) Braves took advantage of sloppy defensive early and never trailed during a 3-1 defeat of the Hickory Crawdads Wednesday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win completed a 6-1 road trip for the defending South Atlantic League champion Braves (14-6), who now return home to open a weekend series against West Virginia. Rome is now 11-2 away from home this season and has won 9 of the last 11 played at Hickory over the last two seasons.

Hickory (6-14) has lost four in a row and is now 2-8 at home, scoring a total of 22 runs.


What happened?:

The game turned out to be decided by the fifth batter of the game when the Braves scored two runs with the help of sloppy Crawdads defense. Anfernee Seymour singled to right to start the game. Derian Cruz then laid down a bunt in front of home plate. Catcher Ricky Valencia pounced to the ball, then overthrew first baseman Preston Scott, which allowed the runners to advance to second and third.

Kyle Cody (0-2) then got Tanner Murphy to fly out to shallow centerfield before inducing Juan Yepez to hit a dribbler up the first base line. Scott fielded the play, but misconnected on a soft toss to Cody covering first on the play, as Seymour scored the first run. Anthony Concepcion’s sacrifice fly to center made it 2-0.

Hickory got its only run of the game in the second inning. With one out, Valencia was hit by a pitch and Yanio Perez dropped a bloop single into short left. Scott’s fielder’s choice moved to Valencia to third, from where he scored when Yeyson Yrizarri chopped a grounder to shallow third. However, the Crawdads ran themselves out of the innings when Scott overran the bag at second and was caught in a rundown between second and third.

Ian Anderson (2-1) kept the Crawdads in check for the most part over his five innings on the mound. The right-hander allowed the lone run on three hits, two walks and struck out six.

Cody pitched into the sixth for Hickory and allowed just the two unearned runs on five hits, two walks and fanned two.

Rome added an insurance run against reliever Reid Anderson in the seventh when Randy Ventura doubled and scored one out later on Cruz’s single through a drawn-in infield.

A trio of Ian Anderson, Tucker Davidson and Brandon White combined for 13 strikeouts of Crawdads hitters, who put together just three runs on 16 hits over the three-game series.


Cody deserved better:

Firing at 95-96 early and dropping to 93 by the end of the outing, Cody kept the Braves shut down for the most part. The Seymour hit was a roller that found a hole and a Brett Cumberland dribbler was unable to be scooped up by Yanio Perez at third. He finished the game with 2 outs in the sixth (He should’ve finished the sixth but for a poor call by the umps on a checked-swing that turned into a single and then a four-pitch walk. Threw mostly changeups (it appeared, no speed gun) for secondaries, as well as a few sliders that missed bats. Finished with 88 pitches, of which 60 were strikes).


Doing too much:

Hickory ran out of a couple of innings early. In the first, Eric Jenkins walked then tried to advance to second when Franklin Rollin sliced a pop fly that Ventura caught just on the foul side of the line in right. Ventura made the catch and recorded the out when Jenkins slid past the bag at second.

On the Yrizarri dribbler in the second, Scott saw that third base was uncovered on the play. However, 20 feet from his trek at second, he realized a defender was nearer than believed and was eventually run down. It turned out to be the last time Hickory had two runners reach in an inning.


Prospect vs. Prospect

Ian Anderson (81) and Leody Taveras offered a top-100 prospect ( matchup, of which Anderson won both. In the first, Anderson broke off a 1-2 curveball down that Taveras swung through. In the third, Anderson missed with a fastball low and away to the left-handed hitter. Then he proceeded to get Tavares to swing through a change and a fastball, before missing with a fastball in that Taveras grounded sharply to first.

Game story Uncategorized

Game Stories 4/25/17: Rome builds two in a day; Sweeps DH

The Rome (Ga.) Braves took the lead early in both games went on to sweep the Hickory Crawdads 2-1 and 4-1 Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The wins pushed the Braves (13-6) to a 5-1 record during their current road trip and improved the road record to 10-2 for the season. Rome has won 8 of their last 10 games at L.P. Frans over the last two seasons. The Crawdads (6-13) have lost three straight and are now 2-7 at home, where they’ve scored 21 total runs.

The teams conclude the series on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.


What happened?:

Game 1:

Rome took advantage of a rough start by Crawdads starter Jonathan Hernandez to get on the board in the first. Randy Ventura lined a single to center, moved to second on Derian Cruz’s sacrifice and then to third by Cristian Pasche’s single. Juan Yepez’s fly ball to left was deep enough to score Ventura, but Pasche was out on the play as he failed to retouch second on his way back to first.

The Braves added a run in the third. Lucas Herbert and Kurt Hoekstra singled back-to-back to start the inning. Ventura bunted into a strikeout (I still don’t get that one) and then one out later, Pache squeezed a grounder past the dive of Ti’Quan Forbes at third to score Herbert.

The Crawdads put five runners on over the first three innings, but Rome’s starter Jeremy Wilson (Gardner Webb Univ. product) faced only two over the minimum in that stretch. Eric Jenkins led off the first with a double, but was doubled off second on a sharp liner by Leody Taveras to short. Hickory loaded the bases with one out in the second, but Jose Almonte hit into a double play. Anderson Tejeda opened the third with a single, but was then caught stealing.

Hernandez (0-3) settled down and had his longest start of the season, going into the sixth. The Crawdads right-hander allowed just the two runs on eight hits – five of those in the first three innings – over 5.2 innings with six Ks and – more importantly – no walks.

Hickory finally scratched a run across in the seventh against Rome reliever Jon Kennedy. Ricky Valencia doubled and went to third on Yanio Perez’s single. Preston Scott whistled a sharp grounder up the middle through Kennedy’s legs, but the Braves were able to get an out at second while Valencia scored. Scott eventually stole second and third, but Almonte and Tejeda both struck out to end the game.


Game 2:

Hickory took its only lead of the doubleheader in the second inning when Yanio Perez hit his second homer of the season, a high fly ball to right after it appeared he was jammed.

However, Rome quickly and swiftly took the lead back in the third. Kevin Josephina lined a Tyler Phillips (1-1) 0-2 pitch to center and stole second. Ventura singled Josephina to third and then himself stole second. Anfernee Seymour singled in Josephina and advanced moved up to second. Ventura and Seymour scored on back-to-back grounders to make it 3-0.

The Braves added an unearned run in the sixth as a botched pickoff at first set up Seymour’s second RBI single of the game.

Hickory managed only three hits against starter Oriel Caicedo (4-0) over his five innings of work. Matt Custred gave up two hits and fanned two over his two-shutout innings for his first save of the season.


Jenkins returns:

Last year’s starting centerfielder Eric Jenkins played in his first game of the season with Hickory. In his first AB, he fell behind 0-2, the proceeded to spoil a couple of fastballs and spit on breaking balls off the plate to get the count full. The 8-pitch plate appearance ended when he turned on a fastball and shot it into the rightfield corner.

The second time up, he waved through a low breaking ball, but then recovered to work the count full before again turning on a fastball. Only this time, it was a liner to first. After 157 Ks last year, job one is to make contact to take advantage of his speed.

One thing of note to me was not that Jenkins played left in game one, but when Leody Taveras went into the DH role in game two, Jenkins did not play in center. It’s probably nothing, but it grabbed my curiosity.


Taking advantage of the advantage:

I’ll admit it. It’s frustrating to watch the lineup miss opportunities to cash in runs. It’s a young lineup, I know, but it feels like this team never feels like it has the advantage. When it has the opposing team against the wall, it feels like Hickory is standing by the wall with them.

In game one, Hickory had the starter Walker on the ropes in the second inning. Struggling with control, Walker loaded the bases after back-to-back, five-pitch walks with one out. A mound visit ensued after which Jose Almonte tried to pull a fastball away, which turned into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

From there, Hickory had just three more baserunners until the seventh. In that inning, Valencia doubled and Scott worked a walk out of an 0-2 count. Almonte fanned and then with Anderson Tejeda at the plate, Scott – the tying run – stole second and third. However, Tejeda went fence chasing and turned a 2-0 count into a full-count K and ended the ballgame.

It was more of the same in game two. Hickory was gifted an error and a hit batter in the fourth. However, a 2-0 count with runners at second and third turned into an Almonte K. Hickory had just one other baserunner the remainder of the night.


Hernandez night

Hernandez has struggled with fastball command so far this season and it was more of the same at the onset on Tuesday.

An 0-2 fastball was lined to center by Ventura to start the night. One out later, Hernandez went 3-1 to Pache before losing the battle on a fastball. He also struggled to get his change over the plate. But suddenly in the fourth, he found a groove with both pitches and with a slider mixed in, Hernandez began to take command. The most impressive AB was the fourth-inning sequence to Brett Cumberland. Facing last year’s Pac-12 home run champ, Hernandez got the left-handed hitter to chase a pair of changeups off the plate, then ran a fastball (93-96 mph on the night) in on the hands for the Ks.

His fate though was sealed in the third when .140 hitter Lucas Herbert lined a 2-0 fastball for a single and .182 Kurt Hoekstra fought back from 0-2 to also single. Later, Hernandez made a good pitch (low-and-in fastball) to Pache that needed 75 hops to find a hole through the left side of the infield.


That was… different:

Hickory got out of further damage in the first when on Yepez’s sacrifice fly to left, Pache went well past second and then on the return trip, cut through the inside cut of the grass near the second base bag. This wasn’t an attempt to cut a corner. He took the most direct route back to first.

After Herbert and Hoekstra singled in the third, Ventura (.368) was asked to bunt… not once… not twice… but on every pitch, including for strike three.


Phillips looking for the out-pitch:

Tyler Phillips used sinker/ change to get the Braves hitters to beat the ball into the ground. Four straight outs and a ground single stretched from the first through all the second inning. But in the third, Phillips couldn’t find a put-away pitch and eventually that put Phillips away. Josephine’s single was on 0-2. Ventura’s single was on 1-2. Seymour’s on 0-2… All on what looked to be off-speed pitches away to the left-handed hitters… All of whom used shortened swings to politely serve them into center and left. Phillips threw 39 pitches in the third before manager Spike Owen took him out.


Evans hurls the spheroid:

Listed at 6-4, 270, Demarcus Evans gassing it at 95 can be intimidating. He fanned five of the 14 hitters he faced Tuesday and for the season K’d 16 of 48. But, with two walks this evening he now has walked 11 to go with 2 HBPs.

His offspeed I thought was a slider, but the Rangers pitch trackers say it’s more of a curve at 80. Whatever it is, it stays up and was quite hittable. Also, to my untrained eye, Evans seems to slow everything down when he throws anything offspeed. I could tell it was coming.

Series Preview Uncategorized

Series Preview: Rome Braves at Hickory Crawdads April 24-26

Rome Braves (Atlanta Braves) (11-6, 1st SAL Southern Division) at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (6-11, 7th SAL Northern)

The Hickory Crawdads open a seven-game homestand with three South Atlantic League games against the Rome Braves at Hickory’s L.P. Frans Stadium.

Leody Taveras - Lin
Leody Taveras looks to continue his hot streak (5-for-11) as Hickory begins a three-game series with the Rome (Ga.) Braves


If you plan to go:

GAME TIMES: Monday-Tuesday at 6 p.m., Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

Promotions: Monday – Make a Difference Monday: Receive a free ticket with requested items valued at $5 or more: Requested items include Pencils, Markers, Loose-leaf papers (wide ruled), Pencil sharpeners, Erasers, Highlighters, Dry-erase markers (Expo Markers), Permanent markers, Three-ring binders (any kind of size), Black & Blue pack of pens, Paint Brushes, Acrylic Paints, Washable Paints, Construction papers, Drawing sketch pad for arts & crafts, Yarns, Scissors, Glue Sticks, Hula hoops, Jump ropes, Football/ Soccer ball/ Basketball /Volleyball, and any Toys for boys/girls ages 6-17. Items go to Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club.

Tuesday – 25th Anniversary Celebration: If the Crawdads score five runs in the fifth inning, one lucky fan in attendance will win $25,000. T-shirt Giveaway: First 500 fans in attendance will receive a free Crawdads replica jersey T-shirt.

Dollar Dog Tuesday: Bring pet to the game for $1 each. Dog show each Tuesday night. $1 hot dogs, $2 craft pints and Pepsi products.

Wednesday – Business Card Special: Show your business card at the Ticket Office for a $5 ticket.


TICKETS: $9 dollars for regular seats, $14 for VIP section.

 Where is it?: Clement Blvd., 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321, near entrance to Hickory Airport.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

CONCESSIONS: L.P. Frans Stadium has two main concession areas plus the Crawdads Café. The concession stands have your basic ballpark food: Hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwich, BBQ, etc. The Crawdad Café has a menu that features more diverse items, including the Mac & Crawdog, Banana Foster Bites, Fried Pickles, Sloppy Burger, and more. Click here for the menu


Probables (Rome / Hickory):

Monday: RHP Jeremy Walker vs. RHP Argenis Rodriguez

Tuesday: RHP Ian Anderson vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

Wednesday: LHP Joey Wentz vs. Jonathan Hernandez


Recent Series History:

The Crawdads and Braves split the 2016 season series 9-9 with each club taking charge at the other’s ballpark. Rome held a 7-4 advantage at L.P. Frans, while the Crawdads were 5-2 at the State Mutual Stadium.


About the Crawdads:

The Crawdads return home after a 1-2 trip to Kannapolis. Hickory was 2-5 during last week’s homestand… After the Hickory lineup limped to Kannapolis near the bottom of many of the SAL statistical standings, the Crawdads charged ahead to 24 runs over the last two games. When the Crawdads are churning, it usually involves the longball. Hickory leads the SAL with 18 homers and is third in slugging (.400).  However, their 73 runs are seventh in the league … Awakened from a dormant state on Saturday was the running game. The Crawdads had seven for the season entering Saturday’s game at Kannapolis, then ripped off a single-game, club-record eight in four innings… The pitching, however, continues to struggle. Currently, they are last in the SAL with a 5.30 ERA, which is nearly a run more than the next lowest. Greensboro is at 4.47. Hickory is also last in hits allowed, total runs allowed and WHIP, as well as second in walks allowed… The Crawdads fate is usually determined by the sixth inning. They are 6-1 when ahead or tied after six innings, 0-10 when trailing. The one loss came in the last game, when the bullpen coughed up an 8-1 lead.


Prospects to watch- Hickory:

CF Leody Taveras (No. 1 and Baseball America, No. 51 top-100 prospects): Signed as international free agent 2015 out of Tenares, Dominican Republic. After posting a 3-for-28 skid during the last homestand, Tejeda started to heat up at Kannapolis. Enters the Rome series with 5 hits in his last 11 ABs. Got his first two steals of the season on Saturday.

SS Anderson Tejeda (No. 7, No. 16 Baseball America). Signed as an international free agent in 2015 out of Bani, D.R. Returned to action last Wednesday after bruising his forearm on a hit-by-pitch. Hit a three-run homer on Friday and then singled on Saturday. Perhaps the most encouraging part of the weekend at Kannapolis was a three-walk game on Saturday. Has eight walks already in 2017 after just 18 all last season in 66 games.

OF Yanio Perez (No. 15, 27 Baseball America): Signed as an international free agent out of Havana, Cuba. Sat out Friday’s game at Kannapolis following an 0-for-9 drought, then went 2-for-5 with a walk on Saturday. Normally makes good contact, though he can run up Ks in bunches. Has 2 whiffs in each of his last two games after having none the previous five.

RHP Jonathan Hernandez (No. 17 Baseball America, No. 18 Signed as an international free agent in 2013 from the D.R. Arguably the Crawdads best starter down the stretch in 2016, Hernandez has struggled to put it together out of the gate in April. Has yet to make it out of the fourth in his previous three starts, he has six walks in ten innings so far. Opponents are hitting .386 against Hernandez.

2B Yeyson Yrizarri (No. 17 Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of the D.R. After starting the season 1-for-39 stretch and hitting .065 over his first 12 games, Yrizarri has begun to show signs of life at the plate. He doubled and homered during the last home game on Wednesday, and then went 4-for-13 the last two games of the Kannapolis series. Yrizarri has scored five runs and knocked in three over his last four games.

RF Jose Almonte (No. 29 Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. After just nine walks all of last season, Almonte has five already in 15 games. Went 0-for-7 in the Kannapolis series with a walk and three Ks.

RHP Tyler Ferguson (No. 30 Baseball America): Sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Vanderbilt. Can he maintain control? That will separate him from success and failure. In his first outing (4/14), Ferguson threw a perfect inning with two Ks. Three days later, he walked one and hit two of the 12 batters he faced, and along with four hits allowed, he gave up five runs over 1.2 IP. On Friday, he walked one, hit two more, but fanned five over two shutout innings.


Others to watch – Hickory:

3B Ti’Quan Forbes: Second-round pick 2014 out of Columbia (MS) High. After a brief cooling-off period after a hot start, Forbes is back at it again with four hits in his last two games, three for extra bases. Among the top-ten in the SAL, Forbes is tied for first with five homers, one hit behind the league leader, second in total bases and in slugging (.647), third in OPS (1.044) and tied for 6th in RBI (12).

LF Franklin Rollin: Signed as an international free agent in 2013 out of La Romana, D.R. As the leadoff man, went 9-for-17 over his last three games with six runs scored, two homers and seven RBI. Has also been a spark plug with four steals.

1B Preston Scott: 34th round pick in 2016 out of Fresno Pacific Univ. Sat out last Wednesday’s game following a 1-for-22 drought, then went 5-for-11 in the Kannapolis series. Has just 2 RBI over his last 12 games.


About the Braves:

Managed by South Atlantic League, Hall-of-Fame manager Randy Ingle in his 10th overall season (592-675) with Rome during his third stint with the class Low-A club. The Braves are the defending SAL champs and were named “Team of the Year” for the 2016 season by Baseball America … Rome is on the second leg of a two-city road trip, which started over the weekend at Greenville (S.C.) where the Braves took two of three in a rain-shortened series … Rome is 8-2 on the road this season… The Braves lead the SAL with 31 steals and have been caught just five times … As it does most years, Rome relies on a strong pitching staff. The staff has allowed just three homers in 17 games and its 2.30 ERA is second in the SAL and they are second in Ks. They have allowed the third fewest hits in the SAL, but control has been an issue, as they have allowed the third most walks. Rome has given up three or fewer runs in 12 of 17 games.


Prospects to watch – Rome:

LHP Ian Anderson (No. 5 Baseball America, No. 6, No. 81 top-100) First-round pick (third overall) in 2016 out of Shenendehowa High (Ballston Lake, NY). Had a 2.04 ERA over ten starts at two rookie-level affiliates in 2016, Anderson currently has a 1.98 ERA after three starts this year. SAL hitters are hitting just .133 against Anderson, who has 23 Ks to 8 walks over 13.2 innings. Braves signed him away from a Vanderbilt commitment.

RHP Joey Wentz (No. 13, No. 15 Baseball America) First-round pick (40th overall) in 2016 out of Shawnee Mission East High (Prairie Village, KS). Didn’t allow a run over four starts with the rookie Gulf Coast League Braves, then moved up to Danville (VA) where he struggled with control (20 walks in 32 innings). Has curtailed the wildness in the early going (19 Ks to 3 BBs in 14 innings), but the SAL is hitting .333 against him. Signed out of a commitment to Virginia.

CF Cristian Pache (No. 13 Baseball America, No. 14 Signed as international free agent in 2015 out of Santo Domingo, D.R. Speedy 18-year-old could potentially be the Braves centerfielder of the future, though at this point he has yet to put the speed to use on the basepaths (3 steals in 16 games this year.) Showed the ability to make contact at rookie levels – 24 Ks in 220 ABs – but struggling so far this year, with already 14 Ks in 61 ABs.

SS Derian Cruz (No. 20, No. 22 Baseball America) Signed as international free agent in 2015 out of Puerto Plata, D.R. A natural right-handed hitter, is toying with switch-hitting. Enters the series at .167/.215/.250 as much of his struggles have come from making contact. (16 Ks/ 2 BBs in 60 ABs). He is also working to slow down the game, as he has nine errors in 14 games. The Braves will be patient with the 18-year-old in his first full season.

C Brett Cumberland (No. 23 Baseball America, No. 29 Second-round pick in 2016 out of California. Led the Pac-12 Conference in homers in 2016. A bat-first catcher for now, as caught just three games and DH’d the other seven. Hitting at a .143/.333/286 slash.

C Lucas Herbert (No. 28, No. 30 Baseball America) Second-round pick in 2015 out of San Clemente High (CA). Returns to Rome after splitting time behind the plate for the team in 2016. A defensive-first catcher to date, he has struggled to hit and make contact and enters the series 1 for his last 29 with 15 Ks.

OF Anfernee Seymour (No. 30 Traded to the Braves from Miami in 2016. Was an 2015 all-star pick in the short-season New York-Penn League and one of the speedier shortstops (37 SBs) in the SAL when with Greensboro. But the Braves have chosen to shift him to the outfield. Strikes out too much, given his speed – 118 times in 491 ABs – the Braves are working to cut that ratio and to raise his walk pct. in order to make him into a leadoff hitter.


Others to watch – Rome:

RHP Jeremy Walker: Fifth-round pick in 2016 out of Gardner Webb Univ. Had 37 Ks in 39.2 innings with Danville last year,but has just 5 Ks and 5 walks so far in 12.1 IP. Relies on his defense to soak up grounders, has a ratio of two groundouts to airouts in his pro career.

IF Marcus Mooney: 10th round pick in 2016 out of South Carolina. Had 7 hits in his first 10 ABs at Greenville, currently at .378/.462/.444 with the Braves. Among the top-ten in the SAL in runs (6th), hits, Batting Avg. (6th) and on-base pct. (7th).

Game story

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.

Game story

Rome at Hickory May 29

In a rain-delayed game that started on Thursday, the Rome (Ga.) Braves defeated the Hickory Crawdads 7-3 in front of a season high 4,423 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The Braves (23-24) surpassed the Crawdads as the hottest team in the South Atlantic League with their sixth straight win and are now 4 ½ games behind first place Greenville in the Southern Division. The Drive lost on the road at Lexington.

Hickory (32-15) saw its lead in drop to 4 ½ in the Northern Division, as West Virginia defeated Delmarva on the road. The Crawdads and Braves are scheduled to play a doubleheader Saturday starting at 4:30.

The game started Thursday night with Austin Pettibone taking the hill for Hickory. Omar Obregon (2-for-5) singled to left and stole second before Jordan Edgerton walked. One out later, the rains came and washed out play the rest of the evening.

When play resumed on Friday, Collin Wiles (5-2) took over on the mound and gave up an RBI single to the first hitter Matt Tellor.

The Crawdads evened the score at 1-1 against Caleb Beech (5-2) in the fourth on three hits and an RBI groundout by Eduard Pinto. They then took the lead in the fifth on Josh Morgan’s RBI single.

But the Braves evened the score in the sixth on Braxton Davidson’s run-scoring single, and then went on to score in four consecutive innings for the win. Ozhaino Albies chased Wiles with a two-run, go-ahead triple in the seventh. Back-to-back doubles by Tanner Murphy and Connor Oliver added a run in the eighth.

Two errors and a hit batter led to a run for Hickory in the eighth and brought the go-ahead run to the plate in Marcus Greene. He lifted a deep fly to left that the wind knocked down at the wall.

Obregon tripled and scored on Edgerston’s single to provide the final margin in the ninth.

The Good:

**Collin Wiles actually cruised much of the game for Hickory. He used his usual three-pitch (fastball, change, curve) mix effectively to keep the Braves hitters off balance. Wiles pounded the strike zone much of the night (70 pitches, 50 strikes) His curveball was responsible for all three of his strikeouts, including two in the fourth (one swinging, one looking). For the most part, his fastball stayed down, though as the game wore on the pitch drifted off the plate on his glove side. The last pitch (88 mph) was middle-in and was spanked by Albies for the decisive triple.

**Rock Shoulders with a heads-up play ran hard on a strikeout/ wild pitch in the seventh and was able to get to second when the catcher Tanner Murphy couldn’t find the ball at the backstop.  He also appeared to “take one for the team” on an 0-2 curveball by reliever Oriel Caicedo to load the bases in the eighth. In the field, Shoulders also made a nice play on a hard hit grounder to turn a 3-6-3 DP.

**Marcus Greene and Michael De Leon teamed up for a nice caught stealing in the sixth. Greene corralled a 2-2 curveball from Wiles, then sent a throw to De Leon, who scooped what appeared to be a short hop at the bag and dropped the tag on Davidson.

The Not-So-Good

**The Crawdads are phenomenal in the infield, unless you bunt against them. Simply, they do not defend the bunt well, at all. Tonight, with a runner on first in the decisive seventh, Erison Mendez sent what appeared to a generic sacrifice bunt to the right of the mound. Both Shoulders from first and Wiles charged the ball on the play, but Demeritte was slow to get to the bag at first, so no play could be made.

**A baserunning blunder thwarted a chance for a big inning for the Crawdads in the fourth. After De Leon and Luke Tendler singled, Jose Trevino sent a soft liner to shallow left field. Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale coaching at third immediately threw up a stop sign for De Leon, but Tendler rounded the bag too far at second. With Tendler caught in a run down, it forced De Leon to make a break for the plate and he was thrown out. Pinto’s 4-3 grounder scored Tendler, but that was as far as the inning went.

**Hickory hit into a little bad luck at times in the game. Normally a heavy groundball pitcher, Beech had problems spotting his fastball early with the Crawdads hitting several fly balls in the second and third that were run down. However, Beech found a groove with his slider in the middle innings and fanned six with it from the fourth through seventh. Jose Cardona did get a fastball up in the seventh, but his liner was snagged on a leaping catch by Albies at short.

**Had Greene’s at bat occurred a couple minutes earlier in the eighth, his fly ball to deep LF likely leaves the yard for a go-ahead grand slam. But a nearby thunderstorm passing just to the east of the ballpark shifted the wind in from left and knocked the ball down near the wall.

** This particular umpiring crew of Alex Trujllo and Kyle Wallace has what seems to be an unhealthy machismo to play through heavy rain. Back in a game in April, they allowed play during an extended downpour before calling for the tarp—which the crew could not get onto the field in the mucked-over infield dirt. It happened again on Thursday, but with all the rain that fell, it made no difference as to the speed of which the tarp got onto the field.

Look Who's Coming to Hickory Player Interviews

Look Who’s Coming to Hickory: Rome Braves 3B Jordan Edgerton

Four years ago, Gaston County native Jordan Edgerton helped lead South Point High to the state 3A title in baseball. Tonight, he returns to the region for the second time as a pro (Edgerton played in a four-game series at Kannapolis earlier in May) as the Rome Braves come to Hickory for four games starting with the resumption of a suspended game tonight.

Edgerton expects a large contingent of family and friends to make the drive up Hwy. 321 to catch the series.

“I’m sure they will be,” said Edgerton. “They’re only about 45 minutes away, so they wouldn’t have to stay in a hotel or anything. So, I’m sure they’ll be a decent crowd here.”

After playing his college ball at UNC Pembroke, the All-Peach Belt Conference selection became the ninth-round pick of the Atlanta Braves last June. Edgerton said he was excited about coming to the South Atlantic League because of the number of opportunities to play in front of his family during the start of his pro career.

“I’m lucky enough to be able to play in this league,” said Edgerton, “instead of maybe in the Midwest League, or somewhere out West where I wouldn’t be able to play in front of my family at all. So, this is definitely a blessed experience.”

He signed with the Braves and then went on to play for rookie level Danville (Va.) of the Appalachian League, where he hit .275 with 13 doubles, three homers and 43 RBI. He also showed a patient approach at the plate when he walked 29 times in 59 games with only 34 strikeouts. He was named to the post-season all-star team in the Appalachian League.

Edgerton said that the first taste of pro life in the Appy League prepared him for a first full season at Rome.

“Last year, the short season got my feet wet and got me ready for this year,” said the R-Braves third baseman. “It made me realize how much of a grind it really is. It got me a lot more prepared for that. This year, I’m just trying to go out there and play and not worry too much about it.”

Edgerton enters the series with a slash line of .307/ .356/ .380 with 31 RBI in 42 games, though he is batting only .179 (7-for-39) in his last ten games. Trying to work out of his current slump is one of the lessons he is learning as a pro and is a different experience that his college days.

“In college, you can get into a little slump on the weekend, and then you have Monday and Tuesday to work it out,” Edgerton explained. “You play a lesser team on Wednesday, then work it out Thursday and Friday. In pro ball, you get into a little slump, it’s go out there and play the next day. You’re facing a guy throwing a 90 mile-an-hour fastball at you.”

As a huge Braves fan growing up in the Southeast, Edgerton was excited when Atlanta took him in the draft. He had a chance to meet some of the Braves major leaguers at spring training and during last fall’s instructional league. However, it was the chance to talk with Hall-of-Fame manager Bobby Cox that is the most memorable encounter yet.

Edgerton said. “He came down and threw out a first pitch in Rome this year, and he just sat in the dugout and talked to us a little bit. He’s a cool guy. It was just weird seeing him on TV your whole life and then you get to meet him in person.”

Series Preview

Series Preview: Rome at Hickory

The Hickory Crawdads continue a week-long stand Thursday through Sunday against the Rome (Ga.) Braves at L.P. Frans Stadium

Probables: (Note, Rome has not released its probables at the time of this writing)

Thursday: Chad Sobotka (RH, 1-2, 4,73) and Brett Martin (LH, 3-1, 2.50); Friday: Caleb Beech (RH, 4-2, 2.06) and Collin Wiles (RH, 5-1, 1.37); Saturday: Max Povse (RH, 2-1, 2,43) and Nick Gardewine (RH, 3-3, 3.06); Sunday: Alec Grosser (RH, 3-2, 4.63) and Ariel Juado (RH, 7-0, 2.60).

Entering the series:

Hickory (32-14) finished off a three-game sweep of Delmarva (Md.) with a 4-2 win Wednesday afternoon… The Crawdads have won five straight and now have a five-game lead over the West Virginia Power in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division…The bats have joined the hot pitching during the winning streak, as the Crawdads have put up 41 runs on 60 hits during that stretch…. On the mound, the Crawdads continue to dominate opposing lineups. The starters have a 2.39 ERA for the season to go with a 1.12 WHIP. Hickory’s team ERA of 2.72 is well ahead of the Power’s 3.10 posting, and they have surrendered the fewest hits in the Sally League… Also, the team WHIP of 1.18 is a tick (1.17) behind West Virginia and the Crawdads are second in strikeouts… The starting pitchers have not allowed a homer in 16 games, spanning 83.1 innings (since May 11).

Like Hickory, the Rome Braves (22-24) are in the midst of a five-game winning streak, which includes a three-game sweep at Charleston, S.C. The Braves are in fourth place in the Southern Division and trail Greenville (S.C.) by five games…Like the Crawdads, Rome burst out of a recent offensive funk (nine runs in six games) with 29 runs on 47 hits over the last five games…As a group, the Braves are patient at the plate and have the ability to wait for their pitch. Rome leads the SAL in walks, lead the league in OBP, and have the third fewest strikeouts. However, the power is nearly non-existent. The Braves have just ten homers this season, are last in doubles, and next to last in slugging (.336)…On the mound, the pitchers have allowed just ten earned runs in five games with 18 walks allowed and 51 strikeouts…Rome trails only Hickory in hits allowed, but has hit the most batters and given up the second most walks.

Players to watch – Rome:

SS Ozhaino Albies: No. 4 Braves prospect ( and No. 96 overall. The 18-year-old native of Curacao is the third-youngest player currently in the SAL (one week older than Hickory’s Michael De Leon). He is at .288/ .353/ .359 as the R-Braves’ leadoff hitter with 19 steals. Albies has a hit in seven of his last eight games. In the field, he leads the SAL in games played at short (42), assists and double plays.

RF Braxton Davidson: No. 7 Braves prospect was the first-round draft pick out of Asheville TC Roberson last June. Entering the series with a slash of .246/ .393/ .370, he leads the Braves with four homers and has shown a patient approach at times (33 BBs/ 49 Ks in 173 PAs). Was drafted as a first baseman, but moved to right field to make use of a strong arm.

3B Jordan Edgerton: Played at South Point High in nearby Gaston County, he leads the team with 31 RBI and is second in hits (50) behind Albies (53). Edgerton is the SAL leader in putouts and assists at third. He played his college ball at UNC Pembroke.

C Tanner Murphy: No. 27 Braves prospect was the fourth-round selection by the Braves out of Maiden (MO) High in Poplar Bluff. Has struggled with the bat this season (.153/ .280/ .189), but enters the series with a mini-hitting streak of three games. Has thrown out 22 of 69 (31.9%) of runners attempting to steal.

SP Alex Grosser: No 13 prospect, selected in the 11th round in 2013 out of TC Williams High in Alexandria, VA. Has shown control issues with 25 Ks/ 25 BBs in 44.2 innings, but keeps the ball on the ground (2.13 GO/AO in his career). Has surrendered one pro homer in 137.2 innings.

SP Chad Sobotka: No. 27 prospect, taken in the 33rd round in 2014 out of USC-Upstate. Expected to make only his fifth start this season. Suffered a stress fracture in his back in his junior season in college.

SP Max Provse: Braves third round pick in 2014 out of UNC Greensboro, pitched at Green Hope High in Cary, NC. The 6-8 hurler has a 2.43 ERA and 28 Ks in 29.2 innings.

Players to watch – Hickory:

SP Ariel Jurado: Winners of seven out of eight starts, the sinkerballer has walked only five (40 Ks) in 44 innings. The 19-year-old threw two-hit ball over five innings his last time out against Delmarva. His 0.92 WHIP is the second lowest in the SAL, as is his BB-per-9 inning ratio (1.00).

SP Collin Wiles: He continues to mix speeds to the frustration of SAL hitters, which have batted .219 against him this season. Wiles struck out a season high six during a six-inning start his last time out at Kannapolis. He is third in the SAL in ERA (1.37) and eighth (1.02) in WHIP.

RP John Fasola:  Has become the closest thing to a closer that Hickory’s had in a while. He leads the league with ten saves and has not allowed a run since giving up one at Greensboro on April 29 (9 games, 10.1 innings). Overal,l Fasola has 24 Ks and given up just three walks in 16 innings.

3B Josh Morgan: Continues to mash in May (.318/ .383/ .412). Enters the series with hits in ten of his last 11 games (15-for-39). Other than a double-error on a play at Kannapolis on May 17, Morgan has been errorless in the field in May.

CF Jose Cardona: Went 6-for-10 in the two games he played against Delmarva in the previous series.

2B Travis Demeritte: Has reached base 10 of the last 21 trips to the plate. Curiously, has crushed RH pitching (.302/ .377/ .509) this season with four of his five HRs against them. Facing southpaws, Demeritte is .108/ .292/ .216.

C Jose Trevino: Is 7-for-19 in his last four games to show signs of coming out of his month-long slump. Has not homered since April 26 (24 games), after hitting six in a 12-game stretch.

LF Eduard Pinto: Has two three-hit games since returning from a short DL stint on May 23 (7-for-23 overall).