Game story Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game story Uncategorized

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casanova and Huff Work Plan B:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Ratliff’s battle rewarded

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

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

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

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

Rome roaming out of runs:

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

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

Tyreque Reed’s blast:

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


Series Preview Uncategorized

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

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

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

If You Plan to Go:

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


Saturday – Crawmoms Weekend

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

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

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

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

PARKING: All parking is $3.

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

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


Probables (Rome / Hickory):

Saturday: RHP Odalvi Javier vs. RHP Jean Casanova

Sunday: RHP Drew Harrington vs. RHP Reid Anderson

Monday: RHP Huascar Ynoa vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

Tuesday: RHP Alan Rangel vs. RHP Tyree Thompson


Recent Series History:

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


About the Crawdads:

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


Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by

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

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

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

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

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


Others to watch – Hickory:

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the Braves:

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

Prospects to watch- Rome (rankings are by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Others to watch-Braves

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

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

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

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

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

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