Results tagged ‘ Scott Williams ’

SAL Championship celebration photos

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

Welcome to McCormick (Photo by Mark Parker)

Welcome to McCormick (Photo by Mark Parker)

SAL Game three lineup (photo by Mark Parker)

SAL Game three lineup (photo by Mark Parker)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clubhouse celebration (photo by Mark Parker)

Clubhouse celebration (photo by Mark Parker)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAL Championship Game 2 Story: Asheville at Hickory

For the second straight game, the Hickory Crawdads took an early lead. They then used five pitchers to shut down the Asheville Tourists 3-1 Tuesday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. The Crawdads now lead the best-of-five series 2-0. After a day off Wednesday. the remaining games shift to Asheville’s McCormick Field starting on Thursday with a game time at 7:05 p.m.

The Crawdads are seeking the club’s third SAL title, the first since 2004. Hickory also claimed the 2002 championship.

What Happened?:

Hickory put together four hits to score two in the second against Tourists starter Ryan Castellani. Edwin Garcia and Eduard Pinto sandwiched singles around a fly out. After Juremi Profar struck out, Carlos Arroyo slapped a soft liner into left to score Garcia. Castellani walked Jose Cardona to load the bases and then took a liner from Dylan Moore off the foot that scored Pinto.

In the fourth, Profar reached when Josh Fuentes’ throw short hopped Roberto Ramos at first. A sac bunt from Arroyo and Cardona’s single pushed Profar to third before he scored on Moore’s grounder to third.

Nineteen days after injuring his hip, Brett Martin returned to the hill and threw a brilliant start. He allowed just two hits and struck out four while pitching to just one over the minimum.

Facing Adam Dian, the Tourists put the first two on before a sac bunt put the runners at second and third. Cesar Galvez ripped a run-scoring single to score Roberto Ramos scoring on the play. After a mound visit by Oscar Marin, Dian got Yonathan Daza to hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

The similar script played out in the sixth for the Tourists against reliever Shane McCain. A walk and hit batter put runners and first and second with one out. Again after a mound visit by Marin, McCain got Dom Nunez to roll into a 6-4-3 double play.

That set up Luis Ortiz to enter the game in the seventh and throw two scoreless innings of relief. He struck out three and allowed one hit to earn the scorer’s decision win.

Scott Williams hurled a perfect ninth to get his third save of the playoffs.

Martinized:

After a 19-day layoff, the unknown of what Brett Martin would provide on the mound was the story line prior to the game. It is fair to say that all is well with the 20-year-old as he retired the first seven hitters of the game and 11 of the 13 he faced.

“After the first throw I had in warmups, I knew I was going to be fine,” Martin said. “Everything felt right and was going well. The hip fell great and then I got up there on the mound and just relaxed and stayed calm and did what I know to do.”

His most dominant inning came in the second when he struck out the side – the last two on six pitches. By my count, Martin finished with 52 pitches, throwing 37 strikes. He missed 11 bats with the changeup especially effective, garnering six of the swing-and-misses (4 on fastballs at 91-93, 1 curve).

“I threw it a lot more playing catch the past three weeks that probably I have all season,” said Martin. “I’m just trying to get comfortable with that pitch again. I knew I was going to need it against them to keep them off balance.”

His dominance didn’t go unnoticed by manager Corey Ragsdale, who had said prior to the game Martin would be limited to four innings.

Said Ragsdale of Martin’s outing, “Wow! Coming back and throwing like that, that’s obviously huge setting the tone.”

Middle Management:

Unused in the playoffs prior to Tuesday night, Adam Dian and Shane McCain were put into a tight ball game following Martin’s brilliant work. Their job was simply to bridge the gap to Luis Ortiz in the seventh. The two relievers shook off the rust and made big pitches to get out of jams in the fifth and sixth innings.

Dian – eight days removed from his last appearance – was shaky at the start and it seemed the Tourists line was glad to see someone other than Martin. Roberto Ramos lined an 0-1 slider to right before Dian walked Josh Fuentes on four pitches.

“It didn’t start out the way that I wanted it to,” said Dian. “But I was pretty happy the way that I was able to work out of it and at least limit the damage. It’s pretty tough to pitch when you haven’t thrown in a while, but it’s not an excuse. I thought I made some good pitches off the bat, but I was up a little bit and they took advantage of that. “

After Galvez’s RBI single, Oscar Marin made a mound visit to help Dian gather himself.

“He just told me to take a deep breath and trust my stuff,” Dian said. “He was thinking that I was kind of letting the game get to me a little bit. It was speeding up; you get two runners on right off the bat and it’s a little tough for you to calm down and stay focused on what you need to do. He just wanted to give me a breather and make sure I had my mind straight before I faced that next hitter.”

Dian served up a 2-1 fastball away to Yonathan Daza to get the 4-6-3 double play and keep the Tourists at bay 3-1.

After 11 days off, lefty Shane McCain came in and also struggled at first with fastball command and then the slider in putting two men on.

“I was a little tight,” McCain said. “It did feel a little weird to be out there. I hadn’t been out there in a week or so, or maybe more. I really just had to trust my stuff. I was having trouble keeping my slider in the zone. That’s been my best pitch. I wasn’t able to start it where I wanted to, where I needed to.”

Another mound visit by Marin brought on an adjustment by McCain with the slider.

“I knew I had to start my slider more behind the lefthanders,” said McCain. “Once I did that, I got the two ground balls that I needed and luckily I got out of it.”

Facing LH hitter Dom Nunez with one out after the mound visit, McCain’s slider away was rolled to Edwin Garcia at short for the easy twin-killing.

“Those two guys right there, they went through the heart of the lineup,” said Ragsdale. “So, those two guys were huge for us tonight.”

Dian said that although he and McCain were both out of sorts after not pitching in a regular routine, they were still expected to do their jobs in the ball game.

Dian said, “That’s what Ragsdale asks of us, to come and to our job. It’s nice when you don’t have to have somebody come bail you out and you’re able to finish your inning. Obviously, it could’ve gone a number of different ways for both of us. I thought we both did a good job. We just gutted it out. We didn’t have our best stuff today, but we were able to minimize the damage. Shane did a hell of a job getting out of that situation.”

Ortiz Breaking Down Wall:

Luis Ortiz didn’t have the sharp command of his fastball, but he didn’t need to either. Omar Carrizales was able to expose that in the seventh when he worked the count full and then drilled a high slider for a single. Ortiz got out of the inning with no further damage.

Ortiz then cranked up the slider in the eighth, using three straight to fan Daza. He got away with a poorly placed fastball that Rogers lined hard to second to bring up Forrest Wall, the number 4 second base prospect in the minors (mlb.com). Ortiz struck out Wall on three pitches, swinging through a changeup, fastball and slider.

Domineering Williams:

After getting Shane Hoelscher to fly to right, Williams worked through a nine-pitch battle with Dom Nunez, finally getting him to undercut a high fastball that went lazily to right. A first-pitch slider to Ramos was rolled easily to second.

Moore and Moore:

Dylan Moore continues a strong playoff run with a couple of hits and an RBI. He stayed on Castellani’s slider in the first for a single, then was able to gear up for the fastball that was lined off Castellani’s foot for the RBI hit. Moore pulled off an away fastball in the fourth, but got enough on it to score the runner from third.

Castellani’s Early Struggles:

The 19-year-old threw a fastball that ranged 93-95 mph that at times had a slider look. However, he is a pitcher that relies on keeping the ball down (1.30 GO/AO) and the inability to do that early cost him. Six of the nine hits against him were hard liners with seven of his outs coming on liners or fly outs. He dodged a bullet in the fifth when Juremi Profar ripped a line drive that went straight to Fuentes at third. The catch likely saved two runs.

Defensive Woes Continue:

A lazy throw by Fuentes to first allowed Profar to reach and score in the fourth to make it a three-run lead. In the fifth with Beras at first, Pinto lifted a bloop single to left center. Beras running on contact made it easily to third, the left fielder Carrizales threw to third anyway, which allowed Pinto to move up to second.

Small Ball, Small Expectations:

Down two runs in the fourth, the Tourists got a base hit from Wes Rogers to start the inning. Rather than taking a chance with leading base stealer (46 steals) to try and get to second on his own, Asheville chose to use Wall – the number one draft pick and No. 4 second base prospect, who had a .288/.355/.438 slash as a 19-year-old – as a bunter. The sacrifice worked, but Rogers advanced no further.

In the fifth after the Tourists put the first two runners on, they chose to use their SAL all-star leftfielder – who as a 20-year-old posted a .286/.333/.410 slash and hit into one double play all year – as a bunter. The sacrifice was successful and a run was scored, but it also proved crucial when a double play ended the inning.

It seems to me those were opportunities for the Tourists to try and siphon some momentum by letting a player make a play. But managers manage to a fault at times and this appeared to be a case of overmanaging.

Shutting down the running game:

Not enough can be said as to how well the Crawdads during the series have shut down the running game of the Tourists, who stole 258 bases this season. The pitchers have been relentless at keeping the runners close and allowing the catcher Trevino to make plays. He’s thrown out both runners trying to steal in the series, including the lone attempt on Wednesday.

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

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

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

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

What Happened?:

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

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

Defensive Brilliance:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wiles Pitches Around Trouble:

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

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

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

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

Battling 0-2 counts the difference:

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

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

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

Ortiz Unhittable:

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

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

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

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

Williams Pitches Rare Back-to-Back Outing:

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

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

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

Kudos to Trevino:

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

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

Game Story Game 2 SAL Playoffs: West Virginia at Hickory September 11

The Hickory Crawdads forced a decisive game three in the Northern Division playoffs of the South Atlantic League by taking a 6-3 win over the West Virginia Power Friday night at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory.

The Crawdads and Power return to Frans Saturday night at 7 p.m. to decide the series with the winner to play the winner of the Southern Division series between Asheville and Savannah, also to be decided on Sunday.

The win was the first playoff win since 2010 and the first home playoff win since the team captured the SAL title in 2004.

What Happened:

An intense game throughout saw the Crawdads take a 1-0 lead in the first on Edwin Garcia’s single to right after two outs.

West Virginia bounced back quickly by hitting its second homer of the series when Connor Joe took Ariel Jurado deep after a walk to Taylor Gushue.

The Crawdads evened the score in the third against Stephen Tarpley when Dylan Moore doubled and later scored on Edwin Garcia’s grounder to second.

The Power again got even in the fifth as Pablo Reyes singled with two outs, stole second and scored on Kevin Kramer’s single to chase Jurado.

After stranding eight over the first five innings, the Crawdads finally took the lead for good in the sixth. Tarpley walked Juremi Profar and Carlos Arroyo back-to-back before Jose Cardona lofted a soft liner into left to score Profar.

Hickory stranded two more in the sixth and the bases loaded in the seventh before finally getting a big hit in the eighth to pad the lead. Cardona and Jose Trevino sandwiched walks around two straight outs before Luke Tendler tripled in both.

Dillon Tate threw two scoreless innings to get the win in relief. Scott Williams pitched two scoreless innings to earn the save.

All-Star Matchup Anything But:

West Virginia’s Stephen Tarpley and Hickory’s Ariel Jurado was named to Baseball America’s Low-A All-Star Team earlier in the day, but neither pitcher was sharp on Friday.

Tarpley looked early as if he would be the same dominant pitcher he was when he three-hit the Crawdads back in August. Left-handed hitter Eric Jenkins waved past a biting slider to start the first and Dylan Moore was jammed on a 5-3 grounder. But then Jose Trevino got enough on a fastball in to reach on a short pop-up that landed between the mound and third. Tarpley shattered Luke Tendler’s bat with a change, but the ball cleared the infield for a hit. Edwin Garcia lined a fastball over the plate for a solid single. From that point, Tarpley seemed to lose control of the fastball and the slider never really had the same bite as it did early. The change he showed in his previous start didn’t have the same effect, which left his fastball for the picking. Of the nine hits Hickory had against Tarpley, eight came on fastballs.

Jurado missed with the slider earlier, getting away with a hanger on a fly out by Kevin Newman to open the game and a single from Kevin Kramer in the third. He brought out the curve in the second and that seemed to be his best secondary pitch of the night. However, when he was unable to throw his slider or change consistently for strikes, the Power hitters were able to ignore or spoil the curve and sit on the fastball. Connor Joe tagged one for the homer in the second. Michael Suchy fought out of an 0-2 count in the third before winning a nine-pitch battle on a change that stayed up. The same scenario played out in the fifth when Kramer battled for eight pitches until he ripped a fastball for an RBI single to chase Jurado. The inability to find a put-away pitch cut his outing to 4.2 innings with Jurado throwing 86 pitches (59 strikes). Six of the seven batters to reach against Jurado did so after two outs.

 

Umpires with a Tough Night: Home plate umpire Ben Sonntag caught the ire of both sides with what seemed to be inconsistent strike-zone corner to his left. The most egregious was a 3-2 curveball by Jurado in the second that Sonntag appeared to give up on early. The entire Crawdads defense had begun the trot to the dugout – Jose Trevino getting past the home-plate circle – before being called back as Tyler Gushue was awarded the walk. Connor Joe hit the next pitch, a flat fastball, over the fence to left.

Tarpley appeared to balk with runners on the corners in the third. Both Chad Comer at first and Corey Ragsdale at third gave the base umpires an earful.

To their credit,  ejections likely would have occured were the game a regular season contest. However, the umpires held their collective thumbs and probably let both sides have a longer leash.

Jurado Settles Down: With Jurado visibly upset after Joe’s homer, the catcher Trevino and the entire infield converged on the mound to console Jurado.

“I just had to talk to him,” said Trevino. “He’s a young kid. He’s got to learn how to hold his emotions in. All season he’s done a good job of doing that. I guess that happening. You saw it in his eyes, he was like, ‘Dang it, that could’ve been a strikeout… it happens.”

Crawdads Show Emotion: After the Power scored three in the fifth to take the lead in game one Wednesday, Hickory went into a funk and saw the final 13 hitters be retired. When the Crawdads lost the lead in the second on a two-run homer under dubious circumstances, the team found some fire.

They rebounded to tie the game in the third, a rally which started when Dylan Moore legged out a double with the slide kicking the ball away from 2B Pablo Reyes. From then on, the Crawdads were the aggressors in the game and never trailed again. The normally stoic Dillon Tate slapped his glove and sprinted to the dugout after Carlos Arroyo picked a sharp grounder to first to strand a runner at third in the sixth.

“I think the first game we saw a little bit of, ‘oh, here we go.’ I think today, we talked a little bit about it before the game. No matter what happens, continue to play. I think you saw that tonight. The guys stayed up. They didn’t get their heads down and they continued to battle and they answered a couple of times.”

Arroyo’s defense: Arroyo played his fourth pro game at first base – all in the past four games – but he made several defensive plays that proved to be crucial. In the second, Arroyo picked a short-hop on a sharp grounder by Chase Simpson to start a 3-6-1 double play. After Arroyo made the play behind the bag in the sixth to save a run, Kevin Newman lofted a soft liner down the first-base foul line in the seventh. Arroyo beat right fielder Jairo Beras to the ball, then turned and fired a strike to second with shortstop Edwin Garcia applying the tag.

 

Tate dominates: After serving up a single on a first-pitch, 98-mph fastball to Jerrick Suiter in the sixth, Tate settled down to get out of inning. In the seventh, he sat down both Joe and Reyes as 97-98 mph fastballs caught the outside corner at the knees for called third strikes. Joe’s K was set up by sliders at the corner.

“We knew going in that Tate had two innings that we could go to to get him into that position and perform. The first kid jumped on a fastball and (Tate) settled down and got out of it. He had some electric stuff that he was throwing up there.”

The Crawdads Open the Door:  After putting up single runs through the first game and seven innings, Luke Tendler’s two-run triple finally gave the Crawdads their first multi-run frame of the series. “We’ve had a ton of games where we just couldn’t get that big hit,” said Ragsdale. “There in the bottom of the eighth, Luke got a big hit for us and drove in two runs and kind of gave us a little breathing room and get the ballgame taken care of.”

Williams Shuts the Door:  Scott Williams continued a strong second-half with three strikeouts over the final two innings. Like Tate, he kept a 95-97 mph low and away to righties with an occasional slider mixed in.

Hickory / West Virginia SAL Playoff & Game 1 Preview

South Atlantic League Playoff Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hickory Pitching:

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

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

West Virginia pitching:

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

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

Hickory lineup:

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

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

Power lineup:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catching on at the Position: An Interview with Jose Trevino

The stat sheet will show that Hickory Crawdads catcher Jose Trevino put up a .262/.291/.415 slash in 2015. His 14 homers were one behind teammate Luke Tendler for the team lead. Generally, he put the ball in play with a manageable 60 strikeouts in 449 plate appearances, though the 18 walks could perhaps use a bump.

Behind the plate, Trevino was a steady force. He caught 87 games – the fourth most in a Crawdads single-season and the most since the affiliation with the Texas Rangers began in 2009 – and in that span he put up some remarkable defensive numbers. Trevino committed only six errors and nine passed balls this season and set the club’s single season and overall fielding pct. mark (.992, minimum 70 games). He threw out 33.7% of runners trying to steal.

Several pitchers this season have raved about his game calling ability.  In an interview with Luis Ortiz after his start on June 9, he said of his catcher, ”I thank Trevino, because he’s the one who called the game for me. I believe in my catcher. I go with him and I trust him. That’s how pitchers should be: trust their catchers.”

After Collin Wiles threw seven shutout innings against Augusta on July 18, he credited Trevino with a game plan that included only three first-pitch fast balls during the first time through the lineup.

“That was kind of Jose’s plan from the start,” said Wiles after the start. “He told me in our pre-game meeting that this is a team that likes the fastball, so stay with me. I trust him 100% and we put up seven zeros.”

Not bad for a guy who was mostly a shortstop in his junior season at Oral Roberts.

With all of the accolades of his play, it’s the relationships that he brings to the clubhouse and on the field that arguably has had the biggest impact on the 2015 Crawdads. On the various trips I take to the clubhouse, there’s little doubt that one of the guys in charge of the space is Trevino. He’s always engaged with someone, whether it’s a video from the night before, a card game, or an occasional prank. You’ll rarely see Trevino alone in the clubhouse. (Honestly, I can’t recall seeing that.)

Trevino seemingly is a second pitching coach on the team. His mound visits nearly always produce a positive outcome from the pitcher in the sequence to come.

In the interview below, Trevino talks about his first full-season work as a catcher, including his preparation for this season along with mound visits and the ability to keep pitchers relaxed. He also talks about the progress of some of the Crawdads pitchers this season.

Jose Trevino behind the plate for the Hickory Crawdads (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Jose Trevino behind the plate for the Hickory Crawdads (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

First of all, I want to talk about your season in catching where you didn’t do a whole lot of it in college. You’ve now caught 87 games, which is the most here by a Rangers affiliated catcher. How have you held up for a first full season?

Trevino: Good. I think the main thing was to listen to my body. I know that off-season workouts had a lot to do with it. I had a good trainer back at home. I told him, “Now, I’m going to need my legs up under me when it comes to September and playoff time. I’m really going to need my legs and need that extra gear.” He said, “Alright, we’re just going to work your legs and we’re going to get them to where you want them to be.”

Last year, I kind of died out a little bit just because I was getting tired and my legs were getting tired from a long college season. Now, I feel good. I feel like my legs are up under me. I feel fine other than some cuts and bruises from nagging injuries from being a catcher, my legs are fine and everything’s good. I’m ready to go.

How much weight have you lost this year?

Trevino: I think I’ve dropped two or three pounds. I really try to stay on top of it, especially since that will carry you and help you out a little bit more.

What’s been the biggest challenge for you in converting to being a full-time catcher?

Trevino; When I first started catching last year, I guess it was my bat, balancing out hitting and catching. You can’t take your hitting to your catching because it’s going to affect the whole team; it’ll affect the game. If you try to square up a circle and a circle, it’s hard enough to do already. Then you go out there and you try to catch 90-plus that’s sinking and moving, it really affects you and really wears off on you.

What did you have to learn as far as dealing with pitchers? 

Trevino: Just learning how they like to pitch guys. Learning what their best pitch was. Learning what their best put-away pitch was. Learning what they like to go to when they’re ahead and when they’re behind, and in certain counts what they like to do – what every guy likes to do. So now, you can ask me what every guy likes to do and I can probably tell you what pitch they want to go to and I think they’ll agree with it.

Who did you have help you with that? Or was that something that you figured out on your own?

Trevino: I mean the Rangers go through a whole thing where you’ve got to know your pitchers. You have to know your pitches, especially if you want to play in this game, you have to know what they want and what they like. You just kind of catch onto it. Since you catch the same guys over and over and over again, I know what kind of pitches they’ll want to go to. I can see in the bullpen what’s been working. I can see throughout the game what’s been working maybe in a situation with the hitter and their best stuff. I’m going to take their (pitcher) best stuff over the hitter’s best stuff any day.

I’m going to ask an oddball kind of question. Did you take psychology in college? The reason I ask is that you are so good with mound visits. You just seem to have a sense of when to go and make a visit. Things seem to happen and you’re able to say the right things in a visit.

Trevino: I didn’t take psychology in college, but I took a class, kind of like a managing class – sports management, pretty much. It was learning how to go through things and learning what you could say to some people. Some people it’s a pat on the back and it’s fine. Other you guys it’s, “Hey, you’ve got to figure it out now, because we’ll get somebody else in here.”

You know how to handle certain guys. You know, you’re used it. You get up there and you see the look on some of their faces like, “I’ve got this. I’m fine. You’re just up here because you want to calm me down a little bit.” Other guys, there’s going to be certain guys that are like, “All right, let’s go,” and they’re hyped up. I’m like, “Calm down a little bit. You’re fine. Relax. Get this guy out. It’s easy. It’s going to be easy for you.”

I have other things I’ll say to other guys out there. You’ve just got to pay attention to their reactions. If they’re laughing, I’ll probably go out there and tell them something funny that probably didn’t have anything to do with baseball. I’ll tell them something and they’ll just be like, “Why did you just tell me that?” and I’ll just walk off.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve said to a pitcher?

Trevino: (long pause) I know, but I probably wouldn’t say it. I’ve said some funny things pretty much.

There are some clubs in development that the pitches are called from the dugout. I know the Rangers pretty much expect the catchers to make the calls from the plate. How much of a learning curve did you have in doing that after perhaps having not done it at college?

Trevino:  In college, I didn’t do it at all. Our coach gave us the signs and I put them down. And if our pitchers shook, I looked back at our coach and here we go. So, I had to learn that, too. I had to learn to call the game. I had to learn that it wasn’t to pitch other hitters the way I liked to hit or what I wouldn’t like to hit. It’s what they (hitters) don’t want to hit – what they don’t like to swing at. What they won’t swing at. What they’ll take, but have a bad swing at, and then you go from there.

If some guys are pulling off on the fastball away, you can go with another pitch there in that situation. You learn to read these things. You learn to pay attention more and that’s what I like about catching.

You’re in the game 24/7. You’re looking at everything because you come back into the dugout and you’re talking about hitters with the pitcher and the pitching coach. But then you’ve got to pay attention to the pitcher that’s pitching on the mound and you’ve got to pay attention to the situation that’s going on in the game. You’re in the game and you’re the quarterback. You call the shots.

With me, I don’t have any problem with taking the blame for a pitch that I called. I’ll turn to the dugout and say, “It’s my fault. All right let’s go, move on.”

How did it come about that you shifted from shortstop to catcher?

Trevino: I don’t know. I caught Alex Gonzalez in college on Fridays. He would come in and throw and that’s basically how much I would catch in college. I was also beat up in college. I had a messed up ankle, messed up foot. I was catching “Chi Chi”. I toughed it out and it was fine and it was good and I liked it.

People would come and talk to me and say, “Hey, we know you’re an infielder; we know you’re a third baseman and you can play anywhere.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve heard that one too.” They said, “What about catching?” And I said, “I liked it.” They’d ask me, “What do you think the biggest transition would be?” I said, “Separating my offense from my defense.”

Sure enough, you learn – and that comes from maturity – you learn to grow up real fast. I’ll rarely come in and be mad about an at-bat and take it out there. Once I get that last pitch and I say, “It’s coming down.” I’ll throw to second and that’s it. I don’t want to take the shine away from the pitcher that’s on the mound, because it’s his job. He’s trying to put money in his pocket. He’s trying to food on the table for his family, and I don’t want to be the guy responsible for not having his best stuff out there because I missed a block or I missed a fastball coming at me.

Who’s been the biggest help as far as teaching you as a catcher?

Trevino: I’d say all the catching coordinators, Chad Comer especially. He’s been with me through this whole season. He’s fixed so many things hitting wise and catching wise. He’s given me little tips.

Chris Briones, he’s also helped me a lot. He’s a guy that will instill a lot more confidence in me. He’ll just feed you confidence. When he comes during the year, it’s like, “Hey, I’m here to fill you with confidence.” You’re running a little low on gas and he’s like, “No, we’re going to refill you, you’re fine.”

Hector Ortiz. I talked to Hector Ortiz last year at instructs. He said, “We’ve got to work this if you really want to do this and get into it.”  I said, “I want to do this.”

Ryley Westman, he was here last year with the Rangers – he’s with the Padres now. He really got me into catching a ton.

Whenever I walk into the clubhouse, there are certain guys that are in charge, and you’re one of those. What has been the key of keeping the clubhouse together, especially in the second half when there’s been so much movement of guys in and out?

Trevino: Just having fun. You’ve just got to have fun with everybody. When a new guy comes in, you don’t want him just have him sit there on his chair. You might play a joke on him. I’m the one that plays the jokes. I’ll play a joke on him right away and I’ll get him and everybody will see how he reacts and see what kind of guy is he. If he’ll laugh and shake it off, everybody will say, “He’s a good dude.”

We have a bunch of good dudes in there and we all take everything good. They’re fun guys and they know we’re a fun club. Everybody that comes into this clubhouse and everybody that leaves and goes somewhere else, they’re like, “Man, Hickory was so fun.” I think that has a lot to do with our skip, with Ragsdale. He really likes to keep it loose, too. But when it comes game time, we’re going to play.

Let me talk about pitching a little bit. Who has impressed you the most as far where they started in April or maybe into May when they got here to now? Who’s made the biggest jump ahead?

Trevino: Brett Martin. He developed a curveball – a good curveball.

Chris Dula. He has a lot of stuff that plays in AA and AAA. I caught big league guys in spring training and Dula has some stuff in his arsenal. He goes and he keeps working, he has a chance to be really good.

Lulu Ortiz. Stuff wise, mentally wise, he’s locked in ready to go all the time. Every time he goes out there, he’s locked in and ready to go.

I can go up and down the list. I feel like every pitcher has gotten better. Nobody has taken a step back. Everybody has been going forward and forward and forward. Even if it’s a little step, it’s a big step to us.

For me it’s been Scott Williams. Your thoughts?

Trevino: Oh yeah. I caught him actually in my pre-draft workout for the Rangers when we were in Arlington together.

I have a funny story with Scott. They asked me, “Hey, do you want to get some at-bats against Williams.” I was like, “How hard do you throw?” He said, “97”. I said, “Ah, I think I’m just going to sit back here and catch for a little bit.” They were like, “Ok, that’s all right.” I got drafted and then I found out he got draft and I thought, “Sweet.”

He’s been really good and he has that kind of mentality that you can’t teach people. He’s ready to play. If you look down in the bullpen in the fourth or fifth inning, he’s out here stretching because he knows that if we get the lead in the seventh, the eighth, the ninth, he’s going to come in and he’s going to shut it down.  In his head, he’s going to shut it down. There are no negative thought in that head.

With nothing to really play for, has there been any let down as you guys get into August and think, let’s get into the playoffs?

Trevino: No. Everybody’s taking a step forward in their game mentality wise, in like they’re ready to play every day. It’s not just for themselves, but for everybody on the team. I want to do good for Luke (Tendler). I want to do good for the pitcher. I want to do good for Profar. I want to do good for Ragsdale. I want to do good for Comer. I want to do good for everybody around me. I feel like that’s what everybody has here. Everybody wants to get everybody better.

Last thing. You guys have won the championship because this happened?

Trevino: Execute. We just have to execute. We have it. We’re a good team, a really good team. No matter who you bring in, it’s going to be a good team here. We have a bunch of good players and everybody’s going to have fun doing it. If we just execute, we’ll be all right.

Jose Trevino cracked 14 homers and drove in 63 for Hickory in 2015 (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Jose Trevino cracked 14 homers and drove in 63 for Hickory in 2015 (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Learning to Pitch: An Interview with Scott Williams

There are many interesting stories that make up a minor league season. For me, perhaps the most interesting story of the 2015 is that of Hickory Crawdads reliever Scott Williams.

The native of Berwyn, PA went to Virginia as a catcher, but surgery on both hips in back-to-back seasons limited him to intersquad games as well as some fall games in the outfield.

When he found out that he would be catching at Virginia in his sophomore season, rather than missing another season, Williams transferred to State Junior College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota in Bradenton.  The Manatee catcher put up a .318/.366/.383 slash in 52 games. However, when injuries struck the team, coach Tim Hill II saw the strong arm of Williams behind the plate and used him out of the bullpen.  He allowed five runs (two earned) in ten innings and struck out 14. Despite the limited work, Williams got onto the radar of the Texas Rangers and he was selected in the 11th round by the club in 2014.

Williams, now 21, struggled in his first pro experience on the mound, which occurred with the Crawdads last summer. The right-hander struck out 14 in 17 innings, but he struggled with control and walked 16, which led to 17 earned runs allowed.

After starting this season at extended spring in Arizona, Williams joined the Crawdads and the struggles of 2014 re-occurred.  Williams finished May with six walks and five hits allowed in 6.1 innings.

However, Williams continued to make the adjustments in his delivery, as well as to the position itself and the young hurler’s work has thrust him to a closer’s role in the Crawdads pen.  In the second half of the season, the young hurler has racked up nine saves in 18 appearances and struck out 38 in 28.2 innings. He has also dramatically cut the walks to just seven in that span.

Williams repertoire features a live 94 mph fastball that has some late movement. He’s developed a slider since last season that he’s shown increasing confidence with as it misses bats. Williams had also toyed with a changeup, but has put it aside for now.

In the following interview, Williams speaks of his transition from behind the plate to the mound and what he’s had to learn along the way.

Scott Williams has taken hold of late-inning situations for the Crawdads with nine saves in the second half. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Scott Williams has taken hold of late-inning situations for the Crawdads with nine saves in the second half. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

How did it happen that you went from catching to pitching?

Williams: I went to college as a catcher and then I transferred to junior college because I had two injuries. I was catching the whole year and then our pitching staff got hurt while I was at junior college. The coach thought I had a strong arm so he asked me to close out some games. I could throw strikes right off the bat pretty well. At that level, my fastball was good enough to beat guys, which I was fortunate enough to have. That’s pretty much how it started. He just put me in there because we were a little low on pitching. He thought I could get the job done.

So you go from ten innings and suddenly you’re drafted. How wild a ride is that?

Williams: It was pretty crazy and I really didn’t know what to expect. I had a few workouts and just would go there and try to throw as hard as I could because I really didn’t know what I was doing. I know that’s what scouts like to see is some velocity, so that’s what I tried to do and everything worked out. I had a good workout in Arlington and that’s what led me to being here.

Were you surprised as little as you threw in college, or was the velocity such that scouts said, this gets our attention?

Williams: I always had a good arm growing up, especially behind that plate. That’s actually why I turned into a catcher when I was younger. People always told me that I had a potential to be a pitcher because I pitched a lot in little league. I know that doesn’t mean anything now because that’s a whole different level of baseball. I’ve just always had a good arm growing up and I guess that’s what scouts are paid to do is to find certain tools that guys have that can make them a professional player.

I went to talk with Danny Clark (Rangers minor league pitching coordinator) a month ago and one of the things he said working with you, and Oscar (Crawdads pitching coach Oscar Marin) did as well, was getting you to throw like a pitcher instead of a position player. How did that transition come about for you? What were the adjustments you had to make to go from a position player to a pitcher?

Williams: I’d probably say the biggest adjustment was in the offseason being able to long toss. As a catcher, you’re supposed to be short with your arm action and get rid of the ball quickly, so I was a little tighter with my arm action.

I am still pretty short as a pitcher, I’d say, but being able to long toss and not have to go glove to hand as quickly and have to be on a timer trying to get rid of the ball I’d say has helped me a lot. And just getting used to pitching on a slope which is a lot different than throwing on flat ground all the time. It changes the angle, which changes how your arm works too. What Danny and Oscar have done is help me be a little bit looser and more fluent with my actions as far as throwing.

Obviously, you are more comfortable this year, what has helped become more comfortable? Even the first part of the year, you hit something in May that appeared to make you more comfortable to where you were going after the hitters.

Williams: I’d say it’s more getting used to the position. When you play a certain position, you find different cues that work for you – little coaching cues. Like hitting, I had a few things that I used to use. Just pitching more, I’ve been able to develop certain things in my mind that I go back to that help me stay consistent with what I do.

I always keep the same routine before games and each day I go out for stretch. Just my throwing routine and what Oscar has been able to do;  he’s been able to coach me well with working on my slider and my fastball and just being fluent with everything and being looser, which has helped me a lot and it helps me repeat everything a lot better. I’m just trying to practice that as much as I can because you’ve got a bunch of reps when you play catch. Being able to use that every day helps you to get a little bit better as you go on.

Did you develop the slider more this year? I don’t remember you using it that much last year?

Williams: It was more of a slurve. It wasn’t as hard but it’s definitely gotten a little bit tighter this year and I’ve been able to throw it more as an out pitch, or at least set up my fastball. I’ve kind of gotten rid of the changeup just to focus on that and they eventually I’ll go back to working on a third pitch. I realize that when you work on two things at once, you’re not really getting better at one significantly. So, it’s better to focus on one and make that better and then have two good ones and then teeter along with a third. It’s been a big help as well. Watching (Adam) Parks and (John) Fasola helped me a lot with that because I saw them. They were big slider guys and they had a lot of success here.

Do you feel like you were able to get more into an attack mode this year? Is that a fair assessment?

Williams: I think it’s a lot more of just having confidence in the position I’m playing and being used to being in the middle of the field instead of behind the plate. Especially when you’re used to playing in college and you don’t have a lot of people watching you.  Not that you get nervous, but it’s a different feeling when you’re in the middle of the field as opposed to behind the plate.

The hitter has to react to you instead of you reacting.  When I was a catcher, I’d react to what the pitcher was doing. I think of pitching as a position where you control everything. So, it’s more of a mindset of no matter what you do, they have to react to you, which is a different mindset and takes a little getting used to.

How wild would it be for you to pitching ten innings in college and then go on to pitch in the major leagues?

Williams: It’d be pretty cool. My whole life goal has been to play in the major leagues. At first, I thought it was going to be as a catcher. I still plan on doing it, but a pitcher. It’d be pretty cool for sure.

Do you approach pitching from the mindset of a catcher, or is there a combination of pitcher and catcher?

Williams: There’s definitely a combination, but I do still try to look at it the same way. I actually almost go back to a high-school type approach with it because in college, everything gets kind of cookie-cutter and guys try to over coach. I think once the ability levels get so good, it turns back more into a simple game where you throw hard in, soft away and just stay with basic sequences and things like that.

As you guys get ready for the playoffs with a couple of weeks to go, you’re starting to get a lot of looks at the back end of the bullpen. How have you embraced that role?

Williams: I love it. As far as my mentality goes as a person, it kind of fits right in. I really enjoy coming in that type of situation and attacking guys and going right after them and seeing if they can beat me instead of having to finesse it. It’s really enjoyable, especially when you get the adrenaline going. It’s a lot of competitiveness, which I love.

Williams, who threw only 10 innings in college, has 38 Ks and walked 7 in 28.2 innings in the second half of 2015. (Tracy Proffitt.)

Williams, who threw only 10 innings in college, has 38 Ks and walked 7 in 28.2 innings in the second half of 2015. (Tracy Proffitt.)

Game Story Charleston at Hickory August 29

Jose Trevino cracked a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth and then Jairo Beras threw out the game-tying run at the plate to end the game as the Hickory Crawdads held on to defeat the Charleston RiverDogs  5-4 in front of 3,423 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium

What Happened:

Charleston got off to a quick start against Crawdads starter Brett Martin when Devyn Bolasky started the game with a single and Angel Aguilar homered (3) to left to give the RiverDogs a 2-0 lead.

Hickory took the lead after scoring three in the second against RiverDogs hurler David Palladino.  Beras started it with his ninth home run of the season. After the Crawdads loaded the bases, Michael De Leon’s single scored Juremi Profar and Eduard Pinto.

An error helped the RiverDogs get even in the fifth. Ryan Lindemuth doubled, stole third and scored when catcher Jose Trevino’s throw went into left. Martin left the game in the inning with a hip injury and his replacement Shane McCain retired nine of the first ten hitters he faced going into the eighth.

But in the eighth, the RiverDogs pieced together three hits after two outs with Isisas Tejeda’s run-scoring single bringing in Austin Aune to put Charleston ahead 4-3.

Hickory retook the lead when Edwin Garcia lined a single to right and Trevino delivered a towering homer (14) to left on a fastball by Brady Koerner.

Facing closer Scott Williams, the RiverDogs threatened to retake the lead in the ninth. Collin Slaybaugh singled and went to second on a passed ball. Ryan Lindemuth walked and Bolasky’s sacrifice moved the runners to second and third before Aguilar was walked to intentionally walked to load the bases.  Billy Fleming hit a fly ball to Jairo Beras in medium-shallow right. Beras backed up and made the catch before firing a strike to Trevino at the plate to nail Slaybaugh and end the game.

The Good:
Jurickson Profar
had a single in four trips to the plate with the lone single coming on a change up and away in the first. He was hit by a pitch in the second, bounced to second in the fifth and struck out in the eighth.

Jairo Beras jumped a first-pitch, 95-mph fastball by Palladino and lasered a rope off the batter’s eye. The only question was would the liner be high enough to clear the fence. In looking to make the play, centerfielder Bolasky jogged three steps back before the ball found its target. His throw to end the game was directly on target to Trevino, who had plenty of time to tag Slaybaugh.

Shane McCain used a low-70s change, curveball and an upper 80s fastball to keep the RiverDogs off-balance, as he struck out four of the first six batters he faced. He found a little bad luck with two outs in the eighth when Austin Aune’s soft liner found open grass in center. McCain got away with a fastball up to Vicente Conde that was singled in front of Pinto in left. Tejeda’s seeing-eye single past McCain and second baseman Arroyo scored Aune for the brief lead.

Michael De Leon started a brilliant double play in the third that allowed Martin to complete a shutdown inning and hold the lead for the moment. With runners on the corners and one out, Joey Falcone hit a sharp grounder to De Leon’s right. De Leon made the backhanded grab, quickly fed the ball to Carlos Arroyo at second, who then made the fast turn and throw to nab the speedy Falcone. (Falcone left the game following the game with an undisclosed injury.)

Juremi Profar had a couple of singles and scored a run in the second. However, a key defensive play in the eighth kept the RiverDogs from extending their lead. After Tejada’s single scored the go-ahead run, Profar cut off the throw from Jose Cardona in center and caught Conde in a rundown trying to go to third.

Brett Martin gave up seven hits in 4.2 innings, but many of those were of the bad-luck variety. Bolasky’s leadoff hit in the first was a high chopper to third. The homer by Aguilar and his double in the third appeared to be pitches down and away that Aguilar went after and golfed to left. Tejeda added a broken-bat bloop single in the fourth. Martin retired seven in a row at one point (four grounders and a K) and finished with 63 pitches (45 strikes).

The Not-So-Good:

Jose Trevino had a rough night behind the plate committing two throwing errors on steal attempts and a passed ball. Both off-target throws appeared rushed in order to catch runners that took big jump against Martin.  His passed ball in the ninth may have been on a pitch from Williams in which he was crossed up, as the two had a meeting following the play.

Carlos Arroyo stuck out three times on Friday after a two-K game on Thursday. He appears to be expanding the strike zone and unable to catch up to fastballs in the zone.

Scott Williams gave up a ground single to Slaybaugh on a fastball down and in. However, he compounded the inning with a four-pitch walk to number-nine hitter Lindemuth. His slider didn’t have the usual bite and was ignored by hitters.

The Opposition:

Angel Aguilar, as stated earlier, went down to get a couple of pitches and hit both hard for extra bases. He had four straight hits over a two-game span and his hot streak clearly played into Charleston’s decision in the ninth to have Bolansky sacrifice with no outs after a four-pitch walk and Hickory’s decision to intentionally walk Aguilar.

David Palladino struck out three and gave up eight hits (four in the eighth), but showed good stuff throughout. His fastball hovered around 94-95 much of the game, but it was a tight slider that missed bats and often kept the Crawdads off stride with walk contact.

Philip Walby had the best stuff of any pitcher on both sides when he threw a 1-2-3 seventh. His fastball stayed 98-99 with a high 80s, biting slider. As dominant as he threw (10 pitches, 8 strikes, 4 missed bats), I was surprised that he didn’t come back out for the eighth.

Brody Koerner, the native of nearby Concord, changed speeds well with a leadoff strikeout of Jurickson Profar in the eighth. However, two straight fastballs up to Edward Garcia (single) and Trevino (homer) turned out to be the decisive point of the game.

Game story: Hagerstown at Hickory July 31

The Crawdads posted an 8-2 lead before hanging on late to a 9-6 win over the Hagerstown (Md.) Suns Friday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

Hickory (63-39 overall, 19-15 second half) has now won 7-of-8, while the Suns (50-51, 15-19) have lost 12-of-18.

What Happened?:

Here is my game story from the pages of the Hickory Daily Record.

http://www.hickoryrecord.com/sports/crawdads-stave-off-hagerstown-rally-pick-up-home-victory/article_fc3c0642-37fb-11e5-b4ed-6331b48def09.html

The Good:

The lineup: All nine hitters had at least one hit with Jose Trevino and Juremi Profar getting at least two. Hickory, especially the right-handers, continues to be pitched to on or just off the outside corner of the plate. For the most part, the hitters have been able to discern balls/ strikes –and attack or lay off appropriately – or it pitches up the middle or away.

The few pitches that made their way over the inner half of the plate were hammered hard. None of the Suns trio of pitchers (Dave Van Orden, Luis Torres or Andrew Cooper) were able to present breaking pitches often enough to keep Crawdads hitters off stride, so it was easy pickings at times.

 

Jairo Beras: Read this.

https://crawdadsbeat.com/2015/08/01/jairo-beras-is-figuring-it-out-and-its-exciting/

 

Xavier Turner: His first two games with Hickory have certainly had its moments. In his first game last week at Asheville, he reportedly dislocated his shoulder on the first play of the first inning.

Returning from the disabled list, Turner crushed a fastball to medium left-center. Thinking triple out of the box, he caught sight of Corey Ragsdale’s stop sign after rounding the bag at second. As he put the brakes on, he slipped and stumbled. With the throw coming into the second behind him, Turner made it to third and slid around the tag of 3B David Masters.

At 6-1, 205 the Rangers 19th round pick showed good speed on the basepaths. He handled both plays in the field without concerns.

Juremi Profar: Had a pair of doubles, both on off-speed pitches away, and would’ve had a third if not for a brilliant catch in right by Dale Carey on a leaping dive on the track.

7th inning ABs: Facing reliever Luis Torres, Josh Morgan spoiled fastball after fastball away before succumbing on a fastball low and in on the tenth pitch. Eduard Pinto then worked a nine-pitch AB into a walk, again spoiling a bushel (correct term?) of fastballs. Able to watch this sequence, Jose Trevino spit on a fastball off the plate and then crushed the next one out of the park in left.

Yohander Mendez: Fastball command was a bit spotty, but he showed good arm action with the changeup that baffled the Suns hitters all night. Had 12 missed bats in 4.2 innings, all but two by my count coming on offspeeds. Didn’t use the curve as much on Friday, and what he did use was a bit loopy. But the change was definitely on. Finished at 77 pitches (49 strikes).

Scott Williams: For me the pitcher that has taken the largest step forward in the second half is Williams. Friday night was mostly fastballs with an occasionally slider mixed it. Fastball 94-96 has life but the biggest thing is simply confidence to attack hitters with it.

The Not-So-Good:

Chris Dula: A hit batter on the first pitch of the eighth, a single and two walks made Dula’s night a short one. Fastball is 94-96, but there is no control as to where it is going. Have to wonder if it at some point he makes a trip to Arizona.

 

Ariel Jurado: Just never looked comfortable all night. He usually is a get the ball and let’s go kind of pitcher, but on Friday there was much more walking around the mound than I recall. Fastball seemed a tick down and did not have the usual precision, as he walked two in an appearance for only the second time this season.

Game Story: Notes and Quotes Augusta at Hickory July 20

The Augusta GreenJackets behind a strong start from pitcher Sam Coonrad shut down the Hickory Crawdads 3-1 Monday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The two teams split the four-game series with Hickory (56-37 overall, 12-13 second half) taking the first two games before the GreenJackets (46-48, 13-12) won the final two games.

What Happened?:

The right-handed Coonrad (6-3) – currently the 27th-ranked prospect of the San Francisco Giants by mlb.com – struck out six and allowed just one unearned run over eight innings. He retired the first 14 batters before Jairo Beras legged out a chopper behind the mound. Coonrod needed only 92 pitches before turning the game over to Carlos Diaz, who needed only eight pitches to retire the side for his second save.

The GreenJackets scored all they needed in the fourth against Nick Gardewine (5-7). Aramis Garcia crushed his 14th homer of the season, a solo blast over the fence in left.

Jonah Arenado then singled to center and scored on Skyler Ewing’s double to the wall in center.

An odd series of sequences led to the GreenJackets final run of the game in the fifth. With one out, Richardo Rodriguez hit an 0-2 fastball from Kelvin Vasquez to right. Johneshwy Fargas squibbed a slow roller behind the mound. Second baseman Brallan Perez fielded the play and made the quick throw to first for the out with Rodriguez going to second. The next batter, Travious Relaford, hit a sharp comebacker to Vasquez, who deflected the ball to shortstop Juremi Profar. Relaford beat the play at first with Rodriguez coming all the way home to score.

Hickory’s lone run came after two were out in the eighth. Profar bounced a single just over the glove of Jonah Arenado at third and then scored when first baseman Chase Compton misplayed Rock Shoulders’ roller for an error.

The Good:

Luke Tendler: Was the lone Crawdads hitter to square up Coonrad when he turned on a fastball and sent it to the rightfield corner. Had the best battle of the night with a 9-pitch AB in the second that ended in a flyout to center.

Scott Williams: Struck out three in the ninth, missing four bats – three on fastballs – in the inning. Pounded the strike zone at 94-96, struck out Compton on a slider.

Erik Swanson: Pitched a scoreless eighth inning, with a seeing-eye single to Jonah Arenado. Fastball 91-92 with a slider that Skyler Ewing tried to pull, which ended in a 5-3 grounder.

Juremi Profar: The second-straight, strong defense game. Showed a quick glove-to-hand transfer when he fielded a quick short-hop of the bat of Johneshhy Fargas and turned it into a 6-4-3 double play.

The Not-So-Good:

Lineup: A tough night for the lineup against Coonrad. Only three balls went to the outfield before Tendler’s rope in the eighth.

Nick Gardewine: The Crawdads right-hander actually had a groove at times. Lost command of the fastball briefly in the first, then settled in to a comfort level in the second and third. Garcia attacked a get-me-over fastball from Gardewine for the homer. Gardewine then left back-to-back sliders up that Arenado and Ewing punished.

Kelvin Vasquez: Threw 95-97 during his three innings of work. Let an 0-2 fastball catch the plate that Rodriguez dunked into right to set up the final insurance run.

 

The opposition:

Sam Coonrod: Methodically kept the Crawdads off balance throughout the night. Threw mostly 4-seamers in the opening innings that were 94-96, touching 98. The second time through the order was reserved for a two-seamer (91-93), or what Coonrod called a short-slider. Both pitches were kept down, which the Crawdads hitters – unable to time either pitch selection – beat into the ground. Coonrad offered a couple of sliders, but he didn’t really need to pull out much in the way of secondaries. Tendler saw a good many of the sliders in his second AB – a 9-pitch appearance that ended when he sent a 95 mph to center.

Coonrod finished with 92 pitches (65 strikes), but started to tire in the eighth as he started leaving pitches up.

Aramis Garcia: Crushed a fastball middle-in for the solo homer. Showed a willingness to take pitches the other way, as the Crawdads pitchers kept the ball away from him throughout the night.

Jonah Arenado: Made a couple of tough short-hop plays to keep Coonrod’s fledgling perfect-game bid alive. Spanked a slider up from Gardewine for a single and showed good speed coming around to score from first on Ewing’s double to right-center. Didn’t have the best luck at the plate this weekend, especially on Sunday when he lined hard to third and to the mound in back-to-back ABs. Showed quick hands throughout the series.

Quotes:

Coonrod when asked about using the two-seamer the second time through the order:

“I started thinking they might have been cheating a little bit with the fastball, so I threw a few more sliders.”

Coonrod when asked about whether he could’ve pitched the ninth.

“I was definitely hoping to get through the ninth, but whatever they say is best.”

Coonrod on Beras’ infield single in the fifth that ended a possible perfect-game bid.

“It aggravated me a little bit but it’s like you’ve got to move on.”

Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale on Coonrod:

“He was pretty good, but we didn’t really help ourselves or come out. It didn’t seem like we came out ready to play, to be honest. Not a lot of energy tonight. It didn’t look like we had a lot of fight, to be honest. We kind of challenged them there after the game moving forward. Obviously, he did have good stuff going on and that made it for easy work when we didn’t put up much of a fight.”