Results tagged ‘ Tyler Sanchez ’

Forbes HR fortune leads Crawdads Victory

Ti’Quan Forbes lined a solo homer in the sixth and a pair of relief pitchers spun five shutout innings to give the Hickory Crawdads a 4-3 win over the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws Thursday night at L.P. Frans Stadium.

With the win, Hickory (48-43 overall, 10-11 second half) salvaged the final contest of a three-game series with their South Atlantic League Northern Division rival and snapped a four-game home losing streak. Lakewood (39-51, 11-10) had won the first two games of the series and the loss interrupts a stretch in which the BlueClaws had won six of their last seven.

The Crawdads will begin the back half of the two-team homestand on Friday as they host the West Virginia Power in a four-game series.

After Hickory’s Dillon Tate and Lakewood’s Jose Taveras breezed through the first inning, both hand trouble keeping the opposing lineups in check during their remaining tenures on the hill.

The BlueClaws struck first in the second. Damek Tomscha singled to left to open the inning. One out later, Wilson Garcia sneaked a groundball through the right side before Deivi Grullon singled in Tomscha. Tate held Lakewood at bay from inflicting further damage as he got Grenny Cumana and Brendon Hayden to ground out.

Hickory answered in the bottom of the inning, as Josh Altmann doubled and scored on Tyler Sanchez’s bloop single to left-center.

Lakewood countered in the third when Tomscha’s sacrifice fly scored Zack Coppola. Sherman Lacrus quickly brought the Crawdads even again to start the bottom of the inning when he homered to left-center – his first of the season.

Grullon cracked his third homer (6) against the Crawdads in as many games in the series to put the BlueClaws up again 3-2 in the fourth. Lakewood put two other runners aboard in the inning, but Tate worked out of the inning by getting Josh Tobias to foul out to Forbes along the dugout at third.

A Lakewood error got the Crawdads even again in the fifth. With two outs, Frandy De La Rosa singled and moved to third on Dylan Moore’s bloop single to right. With Josh Altmann at the plate, BlueClaws catcher Grullon attempted a pickoff of Moore at first. First baseman Wilson Garcia allowed the throw to trickle away, which allowed De La Rosa to scamper to the plate with the tying run.

In the sixth, Forbes lined a fastball from Ismael Cabrera (0-1) just over the wall in left-center, which turned out to be the final margin of the game. That single-run margin, however, was not without peril. After Joe Palumbo (6-3) was relatively untouched from the fifth through the seventh innings, the BlueClaws threatened after one out in the eighth. Brandon Hayden walked and Zack Coppola placed a single into shallow left field.

Manager Steve Mintz brought in Garrett Brummett to replace Palumbo. Cornelius Randolph greeted Brummett with a sharp single to right that loaded the bases.

Brummett got Josh Tobias to pop up to De La Rosa at second and Tomscha followed with a popup in front of home plate. With a quartet surrounding the play, it took a diving play by first baseman Altmann to complete the out and hold the BlueClaws scoreless.

From there, Brummett retired the side in order in the ninth for his first pro save.

Game story July 13: Lakewood survives heat, Crawdads rally

After the Hickory Crawdads tied the game in the ninth, the Lakewood (N.J.) BlueClaws struck for three runs in the 11th to take a 6-3 win on a hot, muggy Wednesday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win was the second straight by Lakewood (39-50 overall, 11-9 second half) at Hickory and overall their sixth out of the last seven games.

Hickory (47-43, 9-11) dropped to 19-23 at home this season and lost its fourth straight at home. The Crawdads are assured of continuing a drought in which they have not won a home series since taking three of four vs. Lexington (Ky.) from April 29 to May 2. Since that time, the Crawdads have lost six series and tied two others (9-19 overall).

As they did in game one of the series on Monday, the Crawdads took the early lead in the second. Ti’Quan Forbes tripled just past the dive of Jose Pujols in right to score Josh Altmann, who had singled and stole second earlier.

Lakewood rebounded with a two-out rally in the fourth as Damek Tomscha singled and Pujols followed with a two-run blast to right, his South Atlantic League leading 17th of the season.

Both starting pitchers held the opposing lineups from wreaking further damage through five innings. Lakewood’s Franklyn Kilome allowed three hits and two walks, and struck out seven. His counterpart Wes Benjamin gave up five hits to go with his two runs allowed and struck out five.

BlueClaws reliever Skylar Hunter contributed to his downfall in the sixth as an errant pickoff attempt of Frandy De La Rosa at first skipped into foul territory in right field. De La Rosa moved to third and scored when Tyler Sanchez singled to left.

A controversial play led directly to a run for Lakewood in the seventh inning. With runners at first and second and two outs, Zack Coppola singled on what looked to be a routine grounder to second. Frandy De La Rosa charged the ball and as he entered the baseline between first and second, the runner, Edgar Cabral, ran into De La Rosa, knocking De La Rosa flat and sending the glove high into the air. Cabral was ruled safe at second with Wilson Garcia scoring on the play from second. De La Rosa remained in the game, but Cabral was taken out after struggling to run to third.

Crawdads manager Steve Mintz argued the call and was eventually ejected from the game.

The score remained 3-2 until two outs in the ninth. Forbes singled and scored all the way from first when Pujols mishandled a bloop single into right by Yeyson Yrizarri.

Emerson Martinez (0-2) entered the game for Hickory in the 11th and immediately walked Pujols. A sacrifice moved him to second before Martinez got Duran to bounce to short. After a wild pitch, Grenny Cumana singled in Pujols and then scored on Deivi Grullon’s second homer in as many games.

Jeff Springer struck out two of the three batters he faced to close out his three-inning relief outing and pick up the win (1-0).

Crawdads leave ducks on the pond:

As has been the case much of the year, the Crawdads missed several opportunities to add runs to their ledger and finished the game 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

A couple of stout defensive plays contributed to Hickory’s woes. Though Altmann eventually scored from third in the second, Ricky Valencia missed an RBI when second baseman Josh Tobias, who was playing in to cut off the runner at third from scoring, made a diving stab of a sharp grounder to hold Altmann and retire Valencia.

With Forbes at third, the Crawdads had a chance to take the lead in the seventh, Eric Jenkins chopped a ball to the left of the mound. Third baseman Damek Tomscha made a hard-charging play to the ball and short armed a quick throw to first to barely catch the speedy Jenkins and end the inning.

Otherwise, the Crawdads flailed away at the plate and that cost them a scoring chance in the fourth. Dylan Moore and Altmann walked to start the inning and moved up to second and third on Kilome’s wild pitch. With his fastball command perilous at times, Kilome turned to the slider to get Tyler Sanchez, Valencia and Forbes on strikeouts.

Altmann again whiffed in the sixth with a runner at third in the sixth, though De La Rosa did eventually score in the inning.

For the season with runners in scoring position, the Crawdads collectively have a slash of .239/.316/.343. With the bases loaded, it is .183/.243/.267.

Forbes fortunes continue at third:

What is becoming routine this season, Forbes showed off the leather with a couple more quick grabs of short hops in the game, including perhaps his best of the season in the tenth. On a sharp grounder by Tomscha, Forbes made a sprawling backhand pick of a short hop. Then seated with his right leg bent behind him, Forbes got enough on a throw across the diamond to get Tomscha by a step.

Benjamin money:

Wes Benjamin continued a steady progression through the 2016 season on Wednesday night. Coming off Tommy John surgery, the goal was to steer the lefty through good health and thus far it is working. Of his 12 starts, Benjamin has completed five or more innings in ten of them. In those ten starts, he has given up more than three runs just once and has walked more than one batter in just two of his 15 overall appearances (13 walks overall in 71 innings)

Benjamin is a guy that spots his fastball (90-91) well around the strike zone. He’ll mix in a change and a curve for show and used both to good effect today. Benjamin was especially tough in a couple of long battles with Phillies No. 5 (mlb.com) prospect Cornelius Randolph, who fouled off several pitches in both appearances against Benjamin. After Benjamin spun a high-and-tight fastball to the lefty in the first, he spotted a 92 mph pitch on the corner at the knees to get the out. In the third, it was a change on the inside corner that got the job done for a caught looking K.

Benjamin has 26 Ks over his last 20.1 innings of work.

Martinez a one-trick pony:

Emerson Martinez had his second tough outing in a row in a win/lose situation and has been tagged for the loss in both.

On Saturday at Rome (Ga.), it was two walks and two wild pitches that led to two runs scored in the ninth for a Braves walkoff win. On Wednesday afternoon, it was the inability to throw the curve for strikes that did him in. By my count, all five of them were well out of the strike zone, staying up and well to the 3B corner side of the plate. With that info in hand, the BlueClaws hitters were able to pick out a fastball to their liking and went to the attack. Cumana’s RBI single and Grullon’s homer were both on fastballs down the middle.

Moore joins the club:

Dylan Moore stole his 30th base of the season when he swiped second in the fourth inning. He joins teammate Eric Jenkins in the 30-steal club, as the outfielder already has 39. The two become the sixth duo in club history to steal 30 or more in a season, the first since Odubel Herrera (34) and Christian Villanueva (32) turned the trick in 2011.

Yrizarri stays hot:

Yeyson Yrizarri had two more hits on Wednesday and he now has multi-hit games in six straight (11-for-22). Currently in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak, the 19-year-old has 11 RBI and 0 strikeouts in that span.

Crawdads Send 4 to SAL All-Star Game

The South Atlantic League announced the all-star rosters for the annual mid-season exhibition game that will take place on Tuesday, June 21 at Lexington, Ky. Included on the Northern Division roster will be four members of the Hickory Crawdads.

The lone starter from Hickory is shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri. In 51 games this season (through June 8), Yrizarri, 19, has posted a .256/.278/.387 slash with 16 extra-base hits and stolen 12 bases. The native of Puerto de Ordaz, Dominican Republic will be a part of his second straight league all-star game. Yrizarri was also picked on the Northwest League All-Star team that played against the Pioneer League in an exhibition game in 2015. He has also been adept in the field, as Yrizarri has committed just eight errors in 273 chances. He is the first Crawdads shortstop to start a SAL all-star game since Hanser Alberto was tabbed to do so in 2012.

Yeyson Yrizarri hittinng

Yeyson Yrizarri is the 1st Crawdads SS to go to the SAL All-Star game since 2012. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

The other position player from the Crawdads to make the Northern Division squad is catcher Tyler Sanchez.  The native of Port St. Lucie, Fla. has posted a .265/.374/.412 slash in 39 games with four homers and 23 RBI. Sanchez, 23, was the Texas Rangers 17th round pick in 2015.

Tyler Sanchez hitting

Tyler Sanchez has four homers in 39 games for the Crawdads in 2016 (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt) 

 

Two of the Crawdads starting pitchers will be a part of the Northern Division roster, as Pedro Payano and Erik Swanson parlayed strong first halves in to an all-star spot.

Payano, 21, is second in the SAL in ERA (1.47), opponent batting average (.182) and is seventh in WHIP (1.04) over 55 innings. The native of San Pedro de Macoris, D.R. threw a one-hitter earlier this season against Greensboro and has struck out 57 to just 22 walks.

Payano 1-hitter Lin

Pedro Payano is second in the SAL with a 1.47 ERA (through June 8)  (Photo by Crystal Lin/ Hickory Crawdads)

Swanson, 22, is fifth in the SAL in WHIP (1.01) and tenth in ERA (2.45) in his first pro season as a starter. The native of Terrace Park, Ohio has struck out 48 and walked 12 over 51.1 innings of work.

Erik Swanson 2

Erik Swanson has a 1.01 WHIP in 51.1 innings (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Crawdads SAL All-Stars

2016 SAL All-Stars (L to R) Tyler Sanchez, Yeyson Yrizarri, Pedro Payano, Erik Swanson

Interview with Mike Daly Part 2: Jenkins, Yrizarri & the Crawdads Hitters

This is part two of a lengthy interview I did with Texas Rangers Senior Director of Minor League Operations Mike Daly during the last homestand.

In part one, we talked about two of the higher profile prospects, Hickory Crawdads second baseman Andy Ibanez and starting pitcher Dillon Tate.

Part two is a look at the Crawdads hitters, with a longer look at 2015 second round pick, outfielder Eric Jenkins, as well as at shortstop prospect Yeyson Yrizarri.

 

Eric Jenkins struggling now. The speed doesn’t go into a slump and he’s been able to use that some, but a bit of a work in progress at the plate. We’re noticing sometimes he’s having difficult in fastball counts being able to be ready for those pitches. He seems to be seeing the breaking ball a little bit better. How is his progress as you see it at this point?

Daly: Any time that a young player, especially a high school kid, comes out and plays his first full season here in the South Atlantic League, it is a challenge. It is a grind of 140 games. It’s something that these guys have never gone through before. So understand that each and every night, no matter if you’re in a slump or if you’re hot, you have to be ready to play at 7:00 in front of fans with the scoreboard on. That’s a great challenge.

Eric’s got tremendous speed. He has a game-changing type speed. He’s a plus defender in the outfield. But these guys, as they start to play teams, professional pitchers that know how to attack hitters, that have scouting reports on Eric and other players it becomes like a big challenge for these guys. Eric, Yrizarri (Yeyson), (Ti’Quan) Forbes, they need to make adjustments and understand  that when the league adjusts to you, you need to adjust to the league.

So where Eric’s at, we think that it’s just him going through the first year of playing each and every day. His speed tool is great. It allows him to bunt. It allows him to put the ball on the ground and make some of the infielders really hustle in terms of having to throw to first base. Frankly with that speed, it should never be a prolonged slump, but I think with Eric, the fact that each and every day he’s healthy, he’s on the field and getting through that first year grind here in Hickory.

 

I have some people asking, “Why are they keeping him at the top of the order, why not drop him down?” And my response has been he’s got to learn how to hit lead-off and this is the place to do it. Have the Rangers basically wanted to see that through. at least at this point?

Daly: Most definitely, I mean it’s game-changing type speed. He’s a guy that had some success last year when we drafted him right away out in Arizona and was a part of the championship team here last year.  We’ve got a lot of confidence in Eric. He’s going to have some struggles, but Eric needs to work through that and he needs to know that the organization is behind him and he has the confidence to go up there and try to set the table for the meat of the lineup.

We want him to feel that pressure, if you will, batting leadoff. We want him to go up there and find a way to get on base and identify what the pitcher is throwing that night. So, we think it’s really good for Eric and he’s going to be at the top of the lineup here for some time to come.

 

 

I’ve enjoyed watching Yeyson Yrizarri play. I love defense. I loved watching Michael De Leon play shortstop the last two years. You guys have run some guys through the last two years that can flat out play defense and (Yrizarri) is certainly at the top of the list for me. He’s very well put together for a 19-year-old and does some things well for his age and his level. Let me ask you about his progression.

Daly: He’s a strong and durable young man. Obviously, he’s got some strong blood lines there, being the nephew of Deivi Cruz. He was a guy that had a really strong body when we signed him. It’s been step-by-step. He started out in the Dominican Summer League and he earned his way to Arizona. Last year, he played under the lights out there in Spokane.

You’re right, he’s here in a long line of shortstops that we’ve been lucky enough to send here to Hickory. It’s a cannon. It’s a bazooka over there at shortstop. He loves to play. I think it’s the same kind of thing that Eric Jenkins is going through – the grind of playing each and every night, playing against teams that have seen him multiple times and have an idea of how to pitch you and have an idea what some of your weaknesses are. It’ s a great challenge for Yeyson to make some adjustments with the bat. But he shows some power at the plate. He’s a plus shortstop with an absolute bazooka.

 

He seems like at the plate to be somebody that is a little bit more advanced than a Jenkins or a Forbes or other 18, 19 year olds. He’s able to work deeper into counts. He may eventually strike out or hit a week groundball, but he seems to have a better idea of how to go about an at-bat at this point.

Daly: Definitely, and I think it’s a credit to him. Yeyson has a very good aptitude and he’s also in a situation in where he signed in July of 2013, where Eric signed in June of 2015. So, Yeyson’s had a little bit more at-bats. He’s been in the organization almost two years longer. He’s been through more games in Arizona and Spokane, so I think that might be a little bit of a difference in terms of just a little bit more experience for Yeyson Yrizarri versus a guy like Eric Jenkins. But I think both those guys have great aptitudes and it’s exciting to see them go through their first full season here together. Yeyson has a clear idea of what he’s trying to do at the plate and it’s exciting to see.

 

Who is somebody at the plate that is maybe under the radar that a fan might want to pay attention to that is otherwise not being talked about?

Daly: I say, it’s like a few guys. I think it’s been a really good catching tandem with Chuck Moorman and Tyler Sanchez. I think those guys have really invested in our pitchers. They’ve done a really good job behind the plate and put together some really nice at-bats.

Dylan Moore playing first base, second base, shortstop and third base as been a really good player right in the middle of the lineup there for Steve Mintz. He’s a guy that brings a lot to the table and is able to bring lots of versatility for Steve Mintz every night to be able to play him at a lot of different positions.

I think Ti’Quan Forbes over there at third base is another guy that played next to Yrizarri last year at Spokane and the year before that in Arizona. He’s a guy that continues to get bigger and stronger and put together good at-bats and he’s been real exciting.

Eduard Pinto is a guy that certainly the Hickory fans have had some experience with and they see how he’s come back from the tragedy that was going on in his life. He’s a guy that’s been in the organization for four or five years, but always puts together a good at bat.

LeDarious Clark is an interesting guy that really lit it up last year in Spokane and is as athletic as they come, and has tools, and just being able to see how he’s gone about it each and every game and how he’s continued to get more and more experience and he’s starting to tie in his physical attributes with what he’s learned here on a daily basis.

I think all of the position players are very interesting at this point for the Crawdads.

 

Do you like how the team is developing with the speed game?

Daly: Definitely. I think it’s a credit to Steve Mintz to push our guys to run and to give a lot of them green lights and not to hold them back. I think it’s about development and how these guys are learning what they’re capable of doing and to see them have a lot of success. We have some speed on the team and it’s good to see these guys be aggressive and to take chances on the base paths and to see the success that they’re having.

It’s a dog fight. Hagerstown is a really good team and this whole South Atlantic League is really good. It’s good to see these guys compete and battle to try and win the first half.

Game Story May 12: Rome 3 Braves 0

Entering the game with the worst record in the South  Atlantic League, the Rome (Ga.) Braves shut down the Hickory Crawdads Thursday night 3-0 in front of 2.402 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.

Hickory entered the game with the SAL’s best record (22-11) and remains there in spite of the loss. The Crawdads are 1 ½ games ahead of Hagerstown (Md.) in the Northern Division.

What Happened?:

Rome put out one of the Atlanta Braves top prospects on the mound Thursday night in pitcher Mike Soroka. The 2015 first-round pick out of Calgary did little to disappoint as he held the Crawdads to one hit and two walks over 5.1 innings and struck out five. Trevor Belicek entered the game and gave up a double over 2.2 innings before A. J. Minter wrapped up the two-hitter with a perfect ninth.

The Braves scored an unearned run against Crawdads starter Jonathan Hernandez (4-2) in the fourth. After second baseman Andy Ibanez botched a potential inning-ending double play ball from Lucas Herbert, Alejandro Salazar later in the inning picked up the RBI with a sacrifice fly.

The lone earned run of the game came in the seventh when Herbert doubled in Juan Yepez. The final run came in the ninth as shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri’s error on another inning-ending double play ball. The Braves cashed in the miscue when Leudys Baez scored on Austin Riley’s RBi single.

The sticks:

As a group: The team had a more difficult time solving the Braves starter than in his previous start when they touched him up for six runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks over four innings. On Thursday, Soroka spotted a fastball 90-93 around the plate and then whipped out an effective curve that kept Crawdads hitters honest. There appeared to be an occasional change around 83-87 that served to break up the fastball/ curve sequence. Off the 17 outs recorded, 13 came on strikeouts or grounders.

Eric Jenkins: After nine strikeouts in 11 ABs, a day off seemed to be what Jenkins needed.  The only Crawdads hitter to solve Soroka, he showed good patience in the first before turning an inside fastball for a lined single to right. In the third, an 8-pitch AB went for a walk. Only a great play by 2B Luke Dykstra kept Jenkins off the bases for a third time. He saw 26 pitches in 4 at bats, 14 of those in the first two ABs.

Andy Ibanez: Has cooled off since a blazing April, currently at .143/.265/.250 for May. Since this was only the second home game of May – the first since May 2, there’s not a lot I can say as to what he has been or not been doing. He is seeing a good many more breaking balls than I recall him seeing in April and he is having to adjust and could be a bit impatient right now. In the first inning, he was able to lay off Soroka’s curve the first time before flailing at one low and away for a strike out.

Tyler Sanchez: A tough night at the plate as Soroka got him looking at a curve in the second. Then, as he appeared to be looking for a curve on a 2-2 count in the fourth, he was late for a fastball off the plate. Against the lefty Belicek in the seventh, it was a fastball outside looking for strike one, swinging through a similar pitch for strike two, then looking at a curve for the out.

The Mound:

Jonathan Hernandez: Didn’t pitch that poorly, but wasn’t on the same level as Soroka. Unfortunately on the stat sheet, he gets the loss. Hernandez ran out a fastball in the 94-96 mph range, but his control was iffy, especially to the catcher’s arm side. Changeup (83-85) did miss some bats, but it too was left up on occasion.

Omarlin Lopez: Through a quirk, this was only the second time Lopez has pitched at home and I missed the first one. The righty runs a fastball in the low 90s that at times caught a lot of the plate, and the Braves were able to time for hard hit balls. However, Lopez threw a sharp curve that missed 3 bats by my count and another for a called-third strike to retire Jonathan Morales.

Blake Bass: Fastball 91-93, a couple of curves that missed bats and change. Pitched “backwards” to his first hitter Morales, getting him to swing through a pair of curves, but then left an 0-2 fastball over the plate that Morales lined to left.

Fielding:

Josh Altmann: Arriving at the clubhouse a couple of hours prior to game time, he certainly made a first impression with fans in Hickory in the opening inning. Altmann ended the first by slipping on the wet grass in right, then went back and to his right to make a lunging catch of Justin Ellison’s liner to complete the inning. In the third, Altmann showed a bullet of an arm by running down Luke Dykstra’s bloop single along the line in right, then fired a bullet to Yeyson Yrizarri at second than was easily ahead of Dykstra.

Middle infield: Errors on what should’ve been inning-ending double plays proved costly. Ibanez in the fourth was unable to make a play to his left. Yrizarri at short got to a roller up the middle in the eighth, but in his haste to make a play at second, he booted the ball.

Davis & Company Set Down Legends to Cap 6-1 Homestand

After a see-saw affair through the first four innings, the Hickory Crawdads bullpen restored order and snared the team an 8-4 win over the Lexington Legends in a Monday morning game at L.P. Frans Stadium.

With the win and a split by Hagerstown (Md.) in its home doubleheader with Rome (Ga.), the Crawdads (17-8) now sit one-half game behind the Suns in the South  Atlantic League’s Northern Division. Lexington dropped to 10-15 and is now in sixth in the Southern Division, seven games out of first and one game ahead of last place Rome.

The Crawdads took three of four in the series and wrapped up a 6-1 homestand.

The teams exchanged leads three times before Hickory scored two runs in the fifth to keep the lead for good.

The bullpen was the story of the afternoon for Hickory as a quartet of relievers held the Legends to two hits over the final 4.1 innings and posted six strikeouts.

Tyler Davis picked up for starter Brett Martin with two outs in the fourth and struck out five of the seven hitters he faced. Adam Choplick gave up two hits after two were out, but got out a break when catcher Chuck Moorman threw out Marten Gasparini trying to steal third to end the inning. Johan Juan and Jeffrey Springs each pitched perfect innings to close out the game.

Jose Almonte hit his team-leading fourth homer of the season to tie the game in the fourth. In the fifth, Moorman singled in the go-ahead run and then Tyler Sanchez scored when Lexington botched a run-down play of Moorman between first and second. Yrizarri’s RBI double in the seventh and Dylan Moore’s run-scoring single in the eighth tacked on insurance runs for Hickory.

The Crawdads posted 13 hits on the afternoon and scored in six of eight innings. All nine batters had at least one hit with Eric Jenkins, Moore, Sanchez and Yrizarri collecting two each.

Yrizarri knocked in three runs and finished the series 7-for-12 with 3 runs scored and six RBI.

Yeyson Yrizarri hittinng

Yeyson Yrizarri had two hits and three RBI to finish off a 7-for-12 series against Lexington. (Photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

Bullpen Legen—wait for it – dary in Win:

The outing for Tyler Davis didn’t start well when he entered the game in the fourth. With two outs in the inning and DJ Burt at first, Burt took off for second and reached safely when Davis was called for a balk, as he attempted to turn and throw to second. However, Davis recovered to get Marten Gasparini looking on a changeup to end the inning.

“When Davis came in, he came in and pounded the zone with his fastball and was able to get some breaking balls and changeups in there,” said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz. “He really went after them and I think that gave us some momentum to start scoring a little more then without people all over the bases.”

Tyler Davis

Reliever Tyler Davis struck out five of seven hitters to get the win (2-0) for Hickory on Monday (photo by Tracy Proffitt)

 

The right-handed Davis – the Texas Rangers 23rd round pick in 2015 out of Washington – pounded the arm-side corner with an 89-91 mph fastball. But it was his ability to change speeds along that corner which that kept the Legends hitters off stride. In the fifth, Chase Vallot spoiled a fastball on the corner and then swung through a change in the same spot. Amalani Fukofuka was the one batter that seemed to solve Davis through a nine-pitch at-bat before whiffing on a slider off the plate to end the inning.

“I have to give Chuck (Moorman) a lot of credit,” said Davis. “He had a good plan behind the dish all day today. I was just pounding the strike zone with fastballs early and getting ahead of batters. Obviously, when you’re ahead of batters, it makes everything a lot easier. You can do a lot more with the at-bat; you can do a lot more with what you can throw. You’re basically in the driver’s seat.”

In the sixth Davis got Ben Johnson to swing through a slider off the plate before blowing an 89 mile an hour fastball by him. He used a similar plan to Xavier Hernandez, getting the first two strikes on off-speed pitches before painting the corner on a fastball to get him looking.

“I’m not an overpowering pitcher and I know that,” Davis said. “I really try to focus on keeping the ball down and getting ahead of batters and then mixing it up, getting them off balance a lot and keeping them off balance constantly with off-speed stuff and with fastballs as well. Being able to do that is huge and makes life a lot easier for me and the catcher and the coaches.”

Six-foot-eight lefty Adam Choplick used a 94 mph fastball and a biting curve to handle Lexington in the seventh. He left a pair of heaters over the plate that were struck into the outfield.  Overall, a good outing that was helped along when Gasparini was thrown out stealing third.

Johan Juan had little trouble in the eighth, sporting fastballs in the 92-94 range. Jeffrey Springs closed out the ninth on just six pitches.

A comedy of errors:

Whether it was the 10:30 a.m. start, or getaway day prior to an off-day for both teams, fundamental plays were difficult to come by.

In the first, the Crawdads had a chance to get out of the inning unscathed for starter Brett Martin. With runners at first and second, the slow-footed Samir Duenez hit what looked to be a routine double play ball to Frandy De La Rosa at second. However, he and Yrizarri and short were slow in getting the play in motion and Duenez beat out the play. Burt scored on Vallot’s single.

Lexington returned the favor defensively in the bottom of the inning. With runners at second and third with no outs, Moore rifled a shot that Jecksson Flores snagged at third. Instead of taking the sure out at first, Flores gambled and lost when he tried to tag Chris Garia scrambling back to third. Garia beat the play and the bases were loaded. Hickory then traded two outs for two runs in the inning.

The Crawdads appeared to add to its early lead in the second when Garia lifted a fly ball to right that scored Ti’Quan Forbes. However, Lexington successfully appealed the play and Forbes was ruled to have left third early.

A leadoff error by 2B Frandy De La Rosa led to a pair of unearned runs in the third that gave Lexington a 4-2 lead.  Then in the bottom of the third, a single and a double, a walk and another single led to only one Crawdads run as Eric Jenkins was picked off first.

“It took us a couple of innings to get together and then everybody pulled their heads back out and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got something to do here,’” said Mintz. “For the most part, we did what we had to do. We could’ve helped ourselves a little bit better early.”

Lexington appeared to get a break from Hickory in the fifth when Moorman was caught off first after Emilio Ogando’s pitch in the dirt was corralled by Vallot behind the plate. However, Bart’s throw during the rundown got away and Sanchez scored.

The Legends last chance to stay in the game came in the seventh. Down 6-4 in the seventh, Gasparini and Duenez both singled. But with Vallot at the plate at a 1-1 count, the runners took off for a double steal with Moorman easily throwing out Gasparini at third as Gasparini appeared to injure his left leg during the play.

Eric Jenkins reached on an error at short in the eighth with two outs and scored on Moore’s RBI single.

Martin looking for go-to pitch:

Crawdads starter Brett Martin needed 90 pitches to record 10 outs and it was partially his inability to finish off hitters that was his undoing.

An omen as to what was to come occurred in a lengthy battle between Martin and Gasparini. Martin continually stayed away from the right-handed hitter with a series of fastballs on and off the outside corner. Gasparini spoiled several fastballs and was then able to read a changeup in the same area and laid off a curveball away. On the tenth pitch of the plate appearance, Gasparini served an outside-corner fastball into right.

Martin had difficulty with throwing his secondary pitches consistently for strikes, leaving him without a trusted out pitch. On two-strike counts against Martin, Lexington went 6-for-12 with a walk. The botched double play ball and the De La Rosa error also hampered things for Martin.

“Martin threw okay,” Mintz said. “Just his execution today on some pitches when he was ahead on counts and different things, the execution wasn’t there. Obviously, he ate up some pitches, but we didn’t help him in the field there a couple of times.”

 

Running, running, running:

The Crawdads stole 19 bases during the four-game series, getting caught just three times. Nine different players stole a base in the series with Jenkins leading the way with five. Yrizarri and De La Rosa each had three, while Dylan Moore had two.

Series Preview: Greenville at Hickory April 18-20

The Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers affiliate) host the Greenville Drive (Boston Red Sox) for a three-game series Monday through Wednesday at L.P. Frans Stadium to close out a seven-game homestand.

If you plan to go:

Games Monday and Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. with Wednesday’s tilt at 10:30 a.m.

Persons can get into the game free on Monday by bringing an item to support the Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry. Items needed are diapers, socks, men’s undershirts, light bulbs, batteries, paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning products, or air fresheners. Item(s) must be $5 or more in value.

Tuesday is Dollar Dog Day. Dogs are admitted for $1 each and hot dogs are $1 each at the concession stand. The Crawdads will have 16 oz. craft pints and 22 oz. Pepsis for $2.

Wednesday is the first Education Day of the year.

Concessions are basic ballpark fare with a wider selection of items at the Crawdads Café, which is located above the 1B stands. New this year is a mac-and-cheese footlong hotdog and an updated version of the CLAWlossal

 

Where is it?:

L.P. Frans is located on Clement Blvd., approximately 1 mile west of U.S. Hwy 321. From I-40 east or west, take exit 123 B and follow the signs to U.S. 321 North. The left turn for Clement Blvd. is at the light that houses Pizza Hut, CVS, RaceTrac gas station and Peak Motors.

From the north, take Hwy 321 South to Clement Blvd. and turn right.

From downtown Hickory, take 3rd street NW to the west and follow it until it turns into Clement Blvd. past the U.S. 321 intersection.

 

Probables (Greenville/ Hickory):

Monday: RHP Anderson Espinoza vs. RHP Peter Fairbanks

Tuesday: LHP Logan Boyd vs. LHP Brett Martin

Wednesday: RHP Roniel Raudes vs. RHP Dillon Tate

 

Recent Series History:

Hickory and Greenville split a four-game series at LPFS last season in the only meetings between the clubs. The Crawdads have taken 9-of-12 the last two seasons. Since 2009, which is the start of the Rangers-Crawdads affiliation, Hickory is 34-29 overall, 23-21 at home. Overall, since the Drive began play in 2005 after moving from Columbia, Greenville holds the series lead 52-49, including a 28-24 mark at LPFS.

 

Entering the series – Hickory:

The Crawdads are 9-2, which is their best 11-game record to open a season since at least the 2000 season. (There are no game-by-game records available prior to 2000.) They are tied with the West Virginia Power for first in the South Atlantic League’s (SAL) Northern Division… Hickory took the final two games of the four-game series with Kannapolis and have won 6-of-7 overall.

At the plate: the Crawdads are tied with Greenville with a .423 slugging pct., trails only Greenville in OPS (.760) at .758 and are second in batting avg. at .265. The Crawdads lead the SAL in total bases and are second in hits.

On the mound, the team ERA of 2.00 is second in the SAL and as a group have allowed the fewest HRs (2) in the league. Despite the number of errors, especially early on, Hickory has given up just six unearned runs

In the field:  After eight errors over the first four games of the season, the Crawdads have just five over the last seven.

On the bases: Hickory has a SAL-high of 35 steal attempts with 15 caught stealing. Eight different players have at least one steal with six putting up two or more. Dylan Moore leads with five and has yet to be caught.

 

Entering the series –Greenville:

The Drive are 7-4 after taking the final three games in their series at Columbia (S.C.) this weekend and sit two games behind first place Charleston (S.C.) in the SAL’s Southern Division. Greenville is in the midst of a stretch of games in which it had a three-game winning streak, a three-game losing streak, and now its current three-game winning streak.

At the plate: After scoring 25 runs over the first eight games of the season, Greenville exploded for 24 over the final three games, which included nine home runs against Fireflies pitching. That explosion has put them into the SAL lead with 13. They have more homers than doubles (12) and trail only in Hickory in total bases.

On the mound: As a group, the Drive is around the middle of the pack in most statistical categories, though their 2.66 ERA is fourth in the league. That ERA may need to be given more weight as to its excellence, considering that their home ballpark in Greenville is a hitter’s park. The relief pitching in many cases have been nearly lights out. Bobby Poyner, Jeffrey Fernandez and Kuehl McEachern have combined to strike out 18 and walk one over 16.1 scoreless innings.

In the field: Next to last fielding pct. (.957), Greenville has 17 errors on the season, eight of those in the last five games. Infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe has four.

 

Players to watch- Hickory:

RHP Peter Fairbanks: The 22-year-old was the Rangers 9th round pick in 2015 out of Missouri. Allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks over five innings with four Ks in his first start at Greensboro last week.

LHP Brett Martin: The 2015 SAL All-Star returned for a tune-up of his repertoire and it has worked well out of the gate for Hickory in 2016. Unrattled after a rough first inning during opening night at Kannapolis, the native of Morristown, Tenn. has allowed one earned run over nine innings with 12 K and four walks. He is prone to hits, as Martin sports a .264 OBA in his career, including ten hits allowed this year. Martin is the Rangers No. 11 prospect according to MLB.com, No. 18 by Baseball America.

RHP Dillon Tate: The Rangers No. 4 prospect by MLB.com, No. 5 by Baseball America. He is also MLB.com’s No. 35 overall prospect and the 8th best RHP. In his opening start of the season, Tate allowed an unearned run on five hits with a walk and six strikeouts over 4.2 innings at Kannapolis. He returned for the home opener last Thursday to strike out ten Intimidators over six innings and allowed four hits. Possesses a fastball/ slider combo with a developing changeup.

LHP Joe Palumbo: Has been tough to face in his two outings, as he has struck out 12 over 6.1 innings. That ratio of 17.05 K’s-per-9 innings is tops among relievers. Palumbo was the Rangers 30th round pick in 2013 out of St. John the Baptist in N.Y.

2B Andy Ibanez: Has arguably been the best hitter in the SAL over the first week-and-a-half of the season. Ibanez leads the SAL in hits (18), doubles (7), batting (.439), slugging (.732), extra base hits (9), total bases (30) and is third in OBP (.489). Baserunning has been a problem area early on as he has been caught stealing five times with three pickoffs. The 23-year-old Cuban native is the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America has him No. 16.

CF Eric Jenkins: At 19 on opening day, he is Baseball America’s No. 6 Rangers prospect, while MLB.com has him at No. 7. Had 13 strikeouts during the opening week-long road trip, but has adjusted for now with just three over the weekend. Has blazing speed with which he uses well to track down balls in the gaps. On offense, Jenkins will lay down effective bunts, but has the ability to pull the bat back and slap the ball around the field. Has shown emerging power as of later, with his first pro homer at Greensboro and a double to the track in CF vs. Kannapolis.

SS Yeyson Yrizarri: He is the No. 12 Rangers prospect according to MLB.com, No. 27 by Baseball America. Thus far, he has not appeared overmatched as a 19-year-old in his first full-season league. Yrizarri is errorless at the position and has shown good range. The cannon of an arm that was advertised ahead of his arrival has proved to be true. At the plate, he has a six-game hitting streak during which he is 9-for-25, including three two-hit games. Also has a streak of four games with at least one RBI. Showed promising power when he homered to LCF on Friday.

IF Dylan Moore: He began to get well at Greensboro last week, but had a six-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday vs. Kannapolis. Went 8-for-20 during the stretch. Has settled down at first after he made two errors opening night; gone errorless since and seems to look more comfortable there.

C Tyler Sanchez: At this point, Sanchez has worked himself into a few more at bats. Was the first catcher to work back-to-back games this season when he did so on Friday and Saturday, then played first on Sunday. Sanchez has shown patience at the plate with seven walks over his last four games.

Players to watch-Greenville:

RHP Anderson Espinoza: At 18, the native of Caracas, Venezuela is already the Red Sox No. 4 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com, which has him at the No. 37 overall prospect and the 10th-best right handed pitching prospect. Comes armed with a fastball that has touched 100 and an advanced curve and change. He shut down Asheville on two hits over five innings in his first start before West Virginia touched him for four runs (three earned) on six hits in his last start. Has nine Ks and no walks in 10 innings. Likely slated for around 75 pitches.

LHP Logan Boyd: The 22-year-old out of Sam Houston St. was the Red Sox 19th round pic in 2015. Gave up a hit per inning in his short-season tenure at Lowell (Mass.), has a 1.50 WHIP in two starts this season. Gave up two runs on four hits over three innings in his last start at Columbia.

RHP Roniel Raudes: From Nicaragua, the 18-year-old is MLB.com’s No. 14 prospect, No. 24 by Baseball America. Skipped short-season level after making his stateside debut in the Gulf Coast League last summer. Entered the season with 79 Ks and nine walks over 74 innings, is already at a 9/1 ratio in 10 innings this year. He four-hit Asheville to start his season and then allowed a run on three hits at Columbia in his last outing. Has a low-90s fastball with curve and change. Like Espinoza, will also likely top out at 75 pitches.

RHP Anyelo Leclerc: A member of the 2014 Crawdads squad, the Red Sox acquired him in the offseason during the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Has 10 Ks in 8.2 IP over 4 relief outings thus far in 2016. Gave up two runs in back-to-back outings before bouncing back on Sunday with a scoreless 1.2 innings at Columbia, though he gave up two walks and a hit.

CF Luis Alexander Basabe: The 19-year-old from El Vigia, Venezuela is listed as MLB.com’s No. 8 prospect, 9th by Baseball America. Is already in his fourth pro season after having signed with Boston in 2013 at 16. Evaluators have noted his speed and bat speed. A patient hitter at the plate for his age, has 126 walks in 867 plate appearances (15%). Has struggled at the start of the season (.176/.222/.353) with hits in only 3 of his 9 games. He is the twin brother of Drive infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe.

3B Michael Chavis: The Red Sox first-round pick (26th overall) in 2014 is in his second season with the Drive after a .223/.277/.405 season in 109 games last year. Still just 20, the native of Marietta, Ga. is the No. 10 prospect according to Baseball America and MLB.com. Won the home run derby at the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic and cranked out 16 homers with the Drive last year. But his 144 Ks derailed his season (31% K-rate). Has improved in that area early on in 2016 with just eight in 43 appearances. Is at .350/.395/.500 to start this season.

1B Josh Ockimey: The Red Sox 5th round pick in 2014, out of Sts. Neumann and Goretti High in Philly. Signed away from a commitment to Indiana. Already 6-1, 215, some evaluators have given comparisons a young Ryan Howard with his potential power.  Had four homers and 20 extra-base hits in 56 games at short-season Lowell last year. Coming off back-to-back homers at Columbia and is third in the SAL in slugging at .676). MLB.com ranks him as the Red Sox No. 16, while Baseball America pegs him at No. 23.

C Austin Rei: The Red Sox No. 25 prospect, according to MLB.com was their third round pick in 2015 out of the University of Washington. Struggled at the plate at short-season Lowell (.179/.285/.295 in 130 plate appearances), has started just 4-of-28 at Greenville. Caught 4 of the 6 runners attempting to steal this season.

Notes of Interest:

Both teams have yet to lose a game when having the lead after five innings. Hickory is 7-0, while Greenville is 5-0. Both are undefeated (4-0) when scoring first. The Crawdads have won six of seven games decided by more than three runs…Drive catcher Roldani Baldwin went to the 7-day DL and was replaced on the roster by C Jhon Nunez. It is Nunez’s first stint at low-A… Drive RHP Michael Kopech (No. 5 prospect) is on the DL…The lone Crawdads DL casualty is pitcher Jacob Shortslef (cut finger).

Game Story April 17: Hickory 2 Kannapolis 1

The Hickory Crawdads scored twice in the first inning and the tandem-pitching duo of Wes Benjamin and Erik Swanson made it stand up for a 2-1 win over the Kannapolis Intimidators Sunday afternoon at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win improves the club’s record to 9-2, which is the best mark through at least the 2000 season (no game-by-game records are available prior to 2000). Hickory completed a 3-1 series win over the Intimidators (4-7) and is now 6-2 against its in-state rival this season.

What happened?:

With two outs in the first, Tyler Sanchez shot a groundball between the first-base bag and 1B Corey Zangari to score Andy Ibanez and Eduard Pinto, who had walked and double respectively.

That turned out to be enough for Benjamin and Swanson. Benjamin completed the first five innings, as he allowed one run on six hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

His only speedbump came in the third. With two outs and the bases empty, Benjamin walked Tyler Sullivan. Grant Massey (3-for-4) doubled and Landon Lassiter walked to load the bases. The run scored as Zangari reached on an infield hit to third, which allowed Sullivan to score. Benjamin then got Cody Daily to ground out to second.

“They started to get rolling as soon as I hit a little hiccup there and I had to adjust with my arm side,” said Benjamin. “I was turning up a little bit too much and throwing a lot more balls than I expected. My defense made some good plays and we worked out of it.”

Kannapolis had an opportunity to score in the fifth as it put together two singles and a double. But Benjamin picked off Daniel Mendick at first. Massey got a sun-aided double and Lassiter singled. However, Benjamin struck out Zangari to set down the threat.

Eric Swanson pitched the final four innings and allowed just one walk and struck out one.

Luis Martinez took the loss for Kannapolis, allowing both runs on just four hits, two walks and striking out five over five innings.

 

The sticks:

Tyler Sanchez had the lone run-scoring hit of the game for Hickory has he put an inside-out swing on a 1-2 fastball and had enough to shoot it into right.

As indicated by the score, Hickory didn’t put up much at the plate after the first innings, as the Crawdads had only four baserunners after the first.

Martinez was a one-pitch pitcher in the early going, as he was unable to get either the changeup or slider over the plate. However the Crawdads were unable to take advantage. Just 4 for the first 16 secondary pitches found the strike zone through the first 1.1 innings. One that did in the first – a hanger up and middle – was fouled off by Dylan Moore, who went on to strike out.

After Chuck Moorman doubled with one out in the second, Darius Day battled through a 6-pitch AB before striking out on a slider in. LeDarious Clark down 1-2 spoiled a breaking ball that appeared to be off the plate and then swung through the next.

Andy Ibanez had his six-game hitting streak snapped, but his first-inning at bat was a key part of the rally. With the count 2-2, Ibanez laid off a slider that just missed off the plate. He eventually worked a walk and scored the first run.

Eduard Pinto had two hits and a walk, and hit .571 in the series.

 

The mound:

The tandem of Wes Benjamin and Erik Swanson has been a good one over the first two turns through the rotation. They have combined to pitch all 18 innings of their turn and allowed one run on nine hits, five walks (four by Benjamin) and strike out 12.

“Obviously, the starter that goes in, you try to go as deep as you can,” said Swanson of the first two outings. “And it’s obviously it’s nice if you can go in, like we have the first two times, and keep them to either one or no runs and have that guy come back in in back end and finish up the game and save our bullpen, too.”

 

Benjamin:

Benjamin showed a fastball that stayed in the 89-91 mph range, and on Sunday that was his best pitch as, for the most part, he was able to spot it effectively for strikes. Of his six strikeouts on Sunday, three were on fastballs that were called-third strikes on the catcher’s glove side. Another was swung through by Corey Zangari.

“I had a set game plan and I knew what I was going to do from the get go. We established the fastball down and then it worked really well for us today.”

His most-used secondary was his change (81-83), that hit the zone for strikes, but other than Zangari’s whiff in the first, it enticed very few hitters to swing. Benjamin admitted that the pitch, normally his best he said, wasn’t on.

“I had to make a couple of adjustments, especially from the stretch. I was rushing a little bit too much and the ball was kind of flying up in the zone. So, I made some adjustments later on and got the ball down.”

Benjamin did break out the curve later on in the outing and Corey Schroeder to swing through one for a strikeout in the fourth.

 

Swanson:

Erik Swanson was impressive from the very start as his 95 mph sinker to his first batter splintered the bat of Cody Daily for a 6-3 grounder.

“The ball ran in a little bit more than I wanted it to. It was supposed to be on the outer half, but I mixed in a slide step there and it kind of bull-rushed him and caught him off-guard and got in on his hands a little bit.”

It didn’t get much better from there for the Intimidators as Swanson allowed just a walk with two outs in the eighth.

Seven of the 12 outs recorded came on groundouts as he established the sinker and mixed in a 90 mph slider (I think, slider?) that was enough to keep the hitters off stride.

“The plan going in there was to pound fastballs and get in on them a little bit and get some quick outs and hold it where we’re at.”

 

The gloves:

Battling the sun on a clear afternoon was job-one for both sides. Crawdads outfielder Jose Almonte was the lone casualty as he lost a fly ball by Grant Massey that fell 10 feet in front of him.

3B Ti’Quan Forbes nearly cut off the Intimidators only run of the game as he cut off a grounder in the hole by Zangari. He stumbled a bit as he fielded the ball, which cost him as he throw to second for the potential final out was late.

 

The bases:

Almost a clean game but in the eighth, Pinto was caught leaning towards second by left-hander Matt Ball and it turned into an easy pickoff. Pinto did get a good jump on the slow delivery of Taylore Cherry for a steal in the sixth.

Storming the Pros: An Interview with Hickory Crawdads Tyler Sanchez and Kannapolis Intimidators Alex Katz

Hickory Crawdads catcher Tyler Sanchez and Kannapolis Intimidators pitcher Alex Katz were teammates during the 2015 season at St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y. The Red Storm captured the Big East regular season title last year and then went on to capture the tournament title as well, which was played at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb, home of the College World Series.

St. John’s reached the final of the NCAA regional at Stillwater, Okla., – knocking out the host Cowboys in the process – before bowing to Arkansas.

From the team that finished 44-10, the Red Storm had six players drafted in baseball’s 2015 first-year player draft out of the 11 total that were taken from Big East Conference. From among that group, Sanchez was taken by the Texas Rangers in the 17th round, while Katz was selected in the 27th round by the Chicago White Sox.

Both Katz and Sanchez credit long-time head coach Ed Blankmeyer for running a pro-style type of baseball program that helped them and their teammates to be selected by major league clubs. The six taken last June continued a long line of success since Blankmeyer took over the head coaching duties of the Red Storm in 1996. According to baseballreference.com, 58 players have been selected in the June draft while Blankmeyer has led the program.

Sanchez and Katz faced each other for the first time last Saturday (April 9) in a game at Kannapolis. In the eighth inning of that game, Sanchez lined a first-pitch fastball over the fence in left. It was the first homer that Katz had allowed since his sophomore year in 2013.

In the interview below, Sanchez and Katz talked about the 2015 draft-day experience and beyond, as well as the homer hit by Sanchez against his former teammate.

 

What was draft day like for all you guys at St. John’s?

Sanchez: I’m sure it was a good time. Personally, I really wasn’t expecting to get drafted. I was more getting prepared for summer ball for that upcoming season. We ended up getting six guys drafted, five signed. It just showed how good our team was, at least pitching wise. We were pretty successful and hopefully we’ll all have pretty good careers.

Katz: I‘d say I was pretty nervous. I was the last one taken out of the six. It was definitely great seeing all my teammates get drafted and then see my name pop up. So that made it even better. Like Tyler said, it just showed how great the program is.

 

You had a head coach that has been around a good while. What did he do to prepare you guys for the pros? What are some things that you learned that you’ll carry into this part of your baseball careers?

Katz: I’d say that college ball and pro ball are pretty similar. It’s a daily grind, definitely. The day is pretty much similar, besides the fact that you go to school every day. I learned that because Coach Blankmeyer of St. John’s runs it pretty much like a pro style of baseball program.

 

Tyler, in talking about that, what maybe does your program do that perhaps other college programs do not do that prepares you guys?

Sanchez: I can’t really speak on other programs. But I know that at St. John’s, Blankmeyer doesn’t baby anybody. He tells you how it is and if you don’t like it, so be it. I think that prepares a lot of guys for pro ball.

 

So you guys that have started pro ball last June, do the six of you banter back and forth or text back and forth on how things are going?

Sanchez: We’ve got a little group chat going on. We get together and talk about it like once a month, maybe, just to see how everybody’s doing.

 

What, Alex is something that the six of you have talked about in your chat to each other about pro ball and adjusting to that? Maybe the mental side of it?  Is there something that is consistent to all of your experiences?

Katz: I think it’s pretty similar, no matter where you are in the country, no matter what organization or what team you play for. It’s pretty much the same experience. You’re basically getting there at 1:30 for a 7:00 start and playing ball all day and all night….so we could definitely relate to one another.

 

Did you two talk before you faced each other last weekend? Was there a little trash talk going on?

Katz: Actually a lot. We said hi to each other during batting practice. The last time we saw each other was a couple of months ago at St. John’s when we were working out in the offseason. After he hit that home run off of me, I texted him and said, “You’re welcome.” I’ve probably given him less credit than he deserves because, I told him that he knows me better than any player in the country.

 

As a catcher you’ve seen his stuff and you probably have an idea as to what was coming?

Sanchez: I wouldn’t say I had an idea. I knew he wanted to get ahead. I faced him a lot in the past, but I hadn’t really had very good success, like at intersquads and stuff. I was lucky to get a ball that I could hit.

 

Any thought of bat flipping?

Sanchez: No

 

Was there any sort of chitter-chat as you rounded the bases?

Sanchez: Nah, there was nothing like that. I try to keep it classy.

Katz: I told the shortstop he should’ve tossed his glove up because it was a line-drive missile right over the fence. He hit it good, but it was almost eye level.

 

Was there any chit-chat after?

Katz: Give credit to him, he hasn’t had much success off me in intersquads, but when it counts, I guess that’s all that matters. I’m probably going to face him a few more times this season, so I can’t tell him my game plan.

 

One year you’re teammates and the next year you’re enemies, as that’s what happens in baseball. Do you discuss, “hey watch out for Alex’s stuff.”, or do you say, “watch out for Tyler and what he does? Is there any sort of banter back and forth on that scale?

Sanchez: Not really. Once you’ve been around long enough, you’re going to see guys and you’re going to see what they’ve got. I let people do their own thing. I don’t want to say something and give them the wrong thing. So, I just let everybody do their own thing.

 Katz: I go along with what Tyler said. It’s a little different for him, he’s a position player. He’s in the dugout and he’s talking to the hitters. I guess I’m in the bullpen and I’m talking to all the relief pitchers. We’re going to face the guys many times throughout the year and you just have to make adjustments quickly… Every pitcher’s different, so it’s really hard to tell, based on scouting reports and things like that.

 

Has Blankmeyer talked with the two of you since you were drafted?

Katz: Both of us have worked out together in the offseason in the weight room. We actually help out some of the guys on the current St. John’s team… As far as calling during the season, we’re both kind of busy, so we don’t always get together on the phone. In the offseason we talk a lot.

 

What is the biggest memory from the Big East Championship?

 Sanchez: Taking it home and winning it, of course. Having our Saturday guy go down to the pen without anybody telling him to and coming in  the last inning and close it out for us.

 

And closing it out on the College World Series field?

Sanchez: A great atmosphere. Obviously, not as packed as we’d like it, but as a playing surface, you can’t get much better than that.

 

Sanchez Katz

Former college teammates P Alex Katz (L) of Kannapolis and C Tyler Sanchez of Hickory

 

 

Game Story April 16: Hickory 10 Kannapolis 2

After Kannapolis put up the first two runs, Hickory scored the final ten of the game and blasted the Intimidators 10-2 at L.P. Frans Stadium.

What Happened?:

Kannapolis (4-6) needed took the lead in the first inning when Tyler Sullivan doubled and later scored on a wild pitch by Crawdads starter Jonathan Hernandez.

The Intimidators made it 2-0 in the third after Corey Zangari lifted a fly ball over the fence in left for a solo homer (2).

After Johnathan Frebis retired nine of the first 12 hitters of the game, he walked back-to-back hitters after two were out in the fourth. Frandy De La Rosa then sent a fastball over the fence in left-center for a three-run blast (2) which, as it turned out, gave Hickory the lead for good.

The Crawdads (8-2) blew open the game with seven runs in the sixth. Yeyson Yrizarri reached on an infield hit and after stealing second, Dylan Moore joined him with a walk. That chased Frebis from the game and brought in Jaider Rocha.

The key at-bat early in the inning came when Tyler Sanchez hit a chopper up third base line that Cody Daily fielded cleanly, but threw wide of first. Yrizarri scored with Moore going to third. After De La Rosa whiffed, Eduard Pinto’s RBI single scored Moore. Jose Almonte loaded the bases when catcher Seby Zavala was called for catcher’s interference.

Rocha walked Darius Day for a run and Eric Jenkins’ grounder brought in Pinto. The final blows came on a two-run double by Andy Ibanez and an RBI single by Yrizarri.

Hernandez completed six innings – his longest outing since 2014  – and allowed two runs on four hits, two walks and struck out three to even his mark at 1-1. Johan Juan picked up a rulebook save with three scoreless innings, as he allowed three hits and one walk with three strikeouts.

The bats:

Hickory put up nine hits in the game with Yrizarri, Moore and Pinto each getting two. The team struggled with the softer-tossing, left-hander Frebis (87-89 fastball, 80-82 CH, Curve) and at times were anxious.

Frebis struggled with command (89 pitches, 47 strikes, 42 balls), but Hickory helped him out by chasing pitches out of the zone.

In the second, after Moore singled and Tyler Sanchez walked on four straight balls, De La Rosa – originally looking for the sacrifice – took the first two fastballs that were low. A mound visit by Kannapolis ensured, followed by another fastball off the plate that De La Rosa tried to pull and it went for a double play.

“It took them a little bit to get that lefty figured out,” said Crawdads manager Steve Mintz. “He was kind of mixing it and keeping it down and was really throwing a lot of balls off the plate that we were chasing a little too much early.”

Sanchez had the key at-bat in the fourth, as he worked the count 2-2. He laid off a fastball just off the outside corner for ball three that both Frebis and the catcher Zavala wanted for strike three. Ball four was another fastball well off the plate. That allowed De La Rosa to come up to the plate for the homer.

De La Rosa’s homer was a first-pitch fastball that strayed over the plate and it wasn’t missed.

The decisive sixth inning wasn’t so much a lineup mauling as it was the Crawdads putting the bat on the ball and seeing what happens. Yrizarri’s single was just to the right of the 2B Mendick. Moore put together a good AB to walk. Sanchez got enough on the ball to work it up the 3B line (Arguably, it could’ve been a hit). Pinto got enough on the ball to sneak it just past Rocha and the middle infielders. The only ball of the 12 batters that was well struck was Ibanez’s double off the wall in LCF. Said Mintz of the inning, “They got going and we started hitting it and we got of soft hits where we just hit it out of reach and a couple of hits that kind of finished it off. It was a good inning.”

The lineup will have their moments of being low-A players, but as a group, they show good bat control and are able to put the ball in play and allow their speed to force the issue.

Mintz said, “The guys, they just feed off of one another and have that, ‘I don’t want to make the last out mentality.’ It’s fun to watch and seeing the guys run around the bases.”

 

The mound:

After a bit of a rough start, Jonathan Hernandez settled in nicely over the final five innings. His fastball sat 93-94 with a top speed of 97. The best use of that pitch came against Zangari, who swung through three straight heaters in the first. However, Zangari got the best of him on a first-pitch fastball (95) in the third. The control was iffy at first, but got progressively better as time went on. His used the Changeup and slider more as the outing continued and used them both almost exclusively to strike out Micker Adolfo to end the sixth.

“Hernandez, tonight, was very, very good,” said Mintz. “He struggled in that first inning, but then he got going and started throwing his fastball over the plate and started getting some of his offspeed stuff going a little bit better and was able to hold them to two runs. It obviously gave us a chance to get back into the ballgame.”

The most noticeable thing I noticed with Hernandez this time in comparison to his start at Kannapolis was the ability to be more in control on the mound. Whereas before, Hernandez appeared to overthrow his pitches and was seen falling off to the grass on the first base side of the mound, on Saturday, he seemed more compact and reserved with his delivery.

“Definitely from the first start to the second start, he had a whole different demeanor and was very in control of himself out there,” said Mintz. “His mound presence was very good, even after a couple of mistakes.”

I had hoped to pay attention to Johan Juan’s outing, but Gameday issues messed that up. What I did get to see, Juan brings a lively 92-93 mph fastball to the plate with a slider and change. He froze Zangari with a fastball to strike him out in the 7th, It was a slider that did the trick against Grant Massey in the ninth.

 

The gloves:

A pretty routine night a field. Jenkins made a nice catch after a long run in RCF to nab a ball on the run.

Ibanez made a nice, sliding grab of a hot grounder after Hernandez flicked it on the mound.

 

The bases:

The adventure that is Crawdads baserunning added to their ledger on Saturday. With Eric Jenkins on first in the first, Andy Ibanez flew out to medium center. Jenkins did not pick up the ball and briefly fell for a decoy by second baseman Daniel Mendick. When Jenkins realized that Mendick didn’t have the ball, he took a few steps toward third, but then realized the situation and retreated to first. Unfortunately for Jenkins, he forgot to retouch second and was doubled up.

Moore, Yrizarri and Jenkins all stole second in the game. The first two were off Frebis and the final by Jenkins against Rocha. Both pitchers took their time to deliver a pitch home, and so Hickory was able to read the moves of both and take advantage. Jenkins steal against Rocha came as he was nearly a third of the way down the line to second as the pitch came home.

Other notes of importance: Something that could bear watching -Hernandez took a liner off his right arm in the sixth. The field and training staff took a look at Hernandez and after throwing a couple of pitches, they were satisfied enough to let continue. Mintz relayed that Hernandez nearly lost a nail on the play…

Kannapolis DL’d  SS Johan Cruz, the White Sox No. 16 prospect (mlb.com). The White Six then assigned OF Micker Adolfo  (No. 9) to Kannapolis.