Results tagged ‘ Yohel Pozo ’

Series Preview: Hickory at Kannapolis July 4-6

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (37-44 overall, 7-6 second half T-3rd SAL North) at Kannapolis Intimidators (Chicago White Sox) (45-35, 6-7 6th North)

The Hickory Crawdads begin a six-game road trip with a trip to Intimidators Stadium to face the Kannapolis Intimidators.

 

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Wednesday through Friday, 7:05 p.m.

PROMOTIONS:

Wednesday – Post-game fireworks

Thursday – Thirsty Thursday, Los Rapidos de Kannapolis promotion

Friday – Chicken-Fried Friday, Kids Run the Bases

 

TICKETS: Advance tickets: Adult General Admission $6.50/ Children $5.50; Adult Reserve $8.50/ Children $7.50. Add $1.50 to each ticket the day of the game.

WHERE IS IT?: From I-85 take Exit 63 (Lane Street). From I-85 South, turn left; I-85 north, turn right. Stadium Drive will be on the right.

PARKING: All parking is $3.

CONCESSIONS: Intimidators Stadium is your no-frills ballpark with traditional burgers, hot dogs, popcorn, BBQ sandwiches, etc.

 

PROBABLES (Hickory/ Kannapolis)

Wednesday: RHP Reid Anderson vs. RHP Zach Lewis

Thursday: RHP AJ Alexy vs. LHP Drew Harrington

Friday: RHP Jean Casanova vs. RHP Jhoan Quijada

 

Recent Series History:

The Intimidators are 6-4 vs. Hickory in 2018, which includes a 5-2 record at Intimidators Stadium. The Crawdads won 2 out of 3 in the last series played between the two squads last month at Hickory. Hickory won the season series in 2017 12-10, which included a 7-5 edge at Intimidators Stadium. Since the start of the Crawdads affiliation with the Rangers in 2009, Hickory is 100-69 against Kannapolis, 53-37 at Intimidators Stadium. The Intimidators last won a season series vs. Hickory in 2010 (9-7).

 

About the Crawdads:

The Crawdads won the final three games of a series vs. Greensboro… Hickory has the fewest road wins (14-23) in the SAL… Defensively, the Crawdads have gone three straight games without an error and are currently third in the SAL in fewest errors committed and fielding pct. (.975)… Collectively at the plate, Hickory remains near the bottom of several SAL’s statistical categories. However, they continue to pommel home runs (five in the last three games) and are currently third in the SAL at 70. The team .243 batting avg. is 13th out of 14 teams and they are last in doubles… Though improved in recent days, Hickory is tied for the most walks issued and is 12th in WHIP (1.34).

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):

OF Bubba Thompson (No. 6): 2018 stats: .258/.314/.400, 9 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 12 BB, 49 K, 10 SB, 1 CS. This season vs. Kannapolis: 5-for-21, 2 3B, BB, 7 K. Last series vs. Greensboro: 4-for-10, BB, 2 K, 2 SB. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL.

OF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 9) 2018 stats: .233/.291/.410, 12 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 16 BB, 70 K, 6 SB, 2 CS. This season vs. Kannapolis: 6-for-22, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 R, 10 RBI, 5 BB, 9 K. Last series vs. Greensboro: 1-for-9, 6 K. Obtained by the Rangers in 2017 from the Colorado Rockies for Jonathan Lucroy. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 16): 2018 stats: 13 games (11 starts), 57.2 IP, 47 H, 36 R (30 ER), 3 HR, 7 HB, 37 BB, 74 K, 4.68 ERA, .225 OBA, 1.46 WHIP. This season vs. Kannapolis: 2 starts, 11.2 IP, 2 H, 1 HB, 4 BB, 16 K. Last start vs. West Virginia 6/29: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R (3 ER), 3 BB, 4 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: T-3rd walks, T-5th losses (7), T-7th hit batters.

RF Miguel Aparicio (No. 17): 2018 stats: .200/.259/.310, 3 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 BB, 26 K, 0 SB, 4 CS. This season vs. Kannapolis: 2-for-13, 3B, BB, 2 K. Last series vs. Greensboro: 2-for-16, HR, K, CS. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2015. Native of San Carlos, Venezuela. Assigned to Hickory 6/29 after a two-weak stint at short-season Spokane.

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 24): 2018 stats: .238/.296/.409, 13 2B, 9 HR, 12 BB, 74 K, 3 SB. This season vs. Kannapolis: 8-for-34, 2B, 2 HR, BB, 9 K. Last series vs. Greensboro: 0-for-11, 6 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.). Named to the SAL All-Star Game.

RHP Tyler Phillips (No. 29): 2018 stats: 14 games (14 starts) 81 IP, 83 H, 34 R (31 ER), 3 HR, 3 HB, 9 BB, 74 K, 3.44 ERA, .263 OBA, 1.13 WHIP. This season vs. Kannapolis: 1 start: 5 IP, 10 H, 6 R (6 ER), 1 HR, 5 K. Last start 7/2 vs. Greensboro: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R (1 ER), 1 HR, 1 HB, 1 BB, 9 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, N.J. Native of Lumberton N.J. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 2nd walks-per-9-inning ratio among starters (1.00), 10th innings pitched. Named to the SAL All-Star Game.

 

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Reid Anderson: 2018 stats: 12 games (10 starts), 58 IP, 53 H, 30 R (26 ER), 1 HR, 3 HB, 18 BB, 48 K, 4.03 ERA, .242 OBA, 1.21 WHIP. Has not faced Kannapolis this season. Last start 6/28 at West Virginia: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R (3 ER), 2 BB, 6 K. Seventeenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville (Pa.) Univ. Attended New Egypt (N.J.) HS.

RHP Jean Casanova: 2018 stats: 17 games (5 starts), 43.2 IP, 47 H, 22 R (18 ER), 7 HR, 2 HB, 16 BB, 30 K, 3.71 ERA, .278 OBA, 1.44 WHIP. This season vs. Kannapolis: 3 games (1 start), 9 IP, 12 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 HR, 1 HB, 6 K. Last game 6/29 at West Virginia: 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R (2 ER), 1 HR, 2 BB, 1 K. Thirty-fifth round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Waukegan (Ill.) HS. Born in the Dominican Republic. Has allowed at least one HR in all four of his starts.

RHP DeMarcus Evans: 2018 stats: 19 games, 2 saves, 30.1 IP, 18 H, 9 R (9 ER), 1 HR, 21 BB, 55 K, 2.67 ERA, .175 OBA, 1.29 WHIP. This season vs. Kannapolis: 3 games, 4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R (3 ER), 5 BB, 5 K. Last game vs. Greensboro 7/1: 1.2 IP, 4 K. Twenty-fifth round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Petal HS (MS).

RHP Joe Barlow: 2018 stats: 21 games, 2 saves, 34.1 IP, 11 H, 11 R (9 ER), 31 BB, 50 K, 2.36 ERA, .106 BA, 1.22 WHIP. This season vs. Kannapolis: 3 games, 4.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R (1 ER), 3 BB, 8 K. Last game 7/2 vs. Greensboro: 2 IP, BB, 3 K. Eleventh-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Salt Lake CC. Attended Riverton (Utah) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st OBA by relievers (.106), 4th SAL among relievers Ks per 9 IP ratio (13.11), 10th walks.

RHP Samir Vivas: 2018 stats (at High-A Down East, AA Frisco and AAA Round Rock) 19.2 IP, 19 H, 15 R (15 ER), 5 HR, 1 HB, 12 BB, 18 K, 6.86 ERA, 253 OBA, 1.58 WHIP. Assigned to Hickory on 7/3 and is awaiting his debut. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. Native of Barquisimento, Venezuela.

C Yohel Pozo: 2018 stats: .252/.299/.398, 11 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 17 BB, 33 K. This season vs. Kannapolis: 12-for-34, 4 2B, 2 HR, 3 BB, 4 K. Last series vs. Greensboro: 2-for-11, HR, BB. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela. Named to the SAL All-Star Game. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 4th plate appearance to strikeout ratio (8.30).

IF Ryan Dorow: 2018 stats: .295/.363/.446, 10 2B, 8 HR, 20 BB, 64 K, 4 SB, 2 CS. This season vs. Kannapolis: 6-for-24, 2B, HR, 3 BB, 6 K. Last series vs. Greensboro: 3-for-13, 2B. BB, 2 K, SB. Thirtieth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Adrian College (MI). Attended South Haven (MI) HS.

2B-SS Yonny Hernandez: 2018 stats (Hickory only): .241/.364/.310, 6 2B, 3 3B, 31 BB, 32 K, 14 SB, 5 CS. This season vs. Kannapolis: 2-for-12, 2 2B, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 SB, 1 CS. Last series vs. Greensboro: 8-for-15, 3B, BB, K. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2014. Native of Maturin, Venezuela. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st sacrifice bunts (11), T-8th walks, T-9th stolen bases.

 

About the Intimidators:

A near shoo-in for the first-half, Northern Division title, Kannapolis lost its final five games, which shifted the playoff spot to Lakewood (N.J.). Since then, a rash of promotions has the Intimidators regrouping to start the second half. Kannapolis split a four-game series at Rome (Ga.) as a part of a 4-7 stretch.

 

Prospects to watch-Kannapolis (rankings by MLB.com):

C Evan Skoug (No. 22): 2018 stats: .208/.294/.344, 9 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 23 BB, 66 K. This season vs. Hickory: 10-for-25, 2 2B, HR, 5 BB, 4 K, 2 SB. Last series at Rome (Ga.): 1-for-7, 2B, 3 K. Seventh-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Texas Christian Univ. Native of Libertyville, Ill. Big 12 Co-player of the year in 2017. First-team All-American). Has thrown out 6-of-15 base stealers in 2018.

3B Luis Curbelo (No. 23): 2018 stats: .267/.315/.397. 10 2B, 3B, HR, 7 BB, 28 K. This season vs. Hickory: 3-for-10, 2B, 2 BB, 3 K. Last series at Rome (Ga.): 3-for-12, 3 2B, BB. Sixth-round pick of the White Sox in 2016 out of Cocoa (HS), FL. Born in Carolina, P.R.

1B Justin Yurchak (No. 28): 2018 stats: .252/.351/.338, 14 2B, 3B, HR, 34 BB, 41 K. This season vs. Hickory: 14-for-34, 4 2B, 3B, 10 RBI, 6 BB, 6 K. Last series at Rome (Ga.): 3-for-8, 2 2B, K. Twelfth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Binghamton (N.Y.) Univ. Attended Shenendehowa HS in his native Clifton Park, N.Y. Played at Wake Forest his freshman season. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-6th walks.

 

Others to watch-Kannapolis:

RHP Zach Lewis: 2018 stats: 12 games (8 starts), 53 IP, 46 H, 18 R (16 ER), 2 HR, 6 HB, 13 BB, 45 K, 2.72 ERA, .241 OBA, 1.11 WHIP. This season vs. Hickory: 3 games (1 start), 7.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 HR, 1 HB, 5 BB, 6 K. Signed a non-drafted, free-agent contract with the White Sox in 2017. Played college ball at Wabash Valley College (IL) and Wichita St. Attended St. Laurence HS, Burbank Ill.

LHP Drew Harrington: 2018 stats (at Low-A Rome (Ga.), High-A Florida, Rookie AZL White Sox, Low-A Kannapolis): 16 games (7 starts), 1 save, 45 IP, 59 H, 35 R (29 ER), 7 HR, 6 HB, 15 BB, 31 K, 5.80 ERA, .321 OBA, 1.64 WHIP. This season vs. Hickory (with Rome): 1 start, 4 IP, 1 HR, 1 HB, 3 K. Last start 6/30 at Rome: 5 IP, 2 H, 1 HB, 2 BB, 3 K. Signed a free-agent contract with the White Sox on June 18. Released by the Atlanta Braves on June 9. Originally a third-round pick of the Braves in 2016 out of the Univ. of Louisville. Attended Central Hardin HS, Cecilia, KY. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-10th hit batters.

RHP Jhoan Quijada: 2018 stats: 8 games (2 starts), 33 IP, 39 H, 18 R (18 ER), 4 HR, 2 HB, 6 BB, 20 K, 4.91 ERA, 2.98 OBA, 1.36 WHIP. This season vs. Hickory: 1 game, 3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R (2 ER), 1 HR, 3 K. Last start 7/1 at Rome: 6 IP, 10 H, 6 R (6 ER), 1 HR, 1 HB, 2 K. Signed as an international free agent with the White Sox in 2012.

RHP Jake Elliott: 2018 stats: 21 games, 2 saves, 44.1 IP, 34 H, 17 R (15 ER), 5 HR, 2 HB, 10 BB, 54 K, 3.05 ERA, .217 OBA, 0.99 WHIP. This season vs. Hickory: 3 games, 1 save, 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R (3 ER), 2 HR, 4 BB, 7 K. Last game 7/3 at Rome: 3 IP, 4 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 HR, 1 HB, 1 BB, 2 K. Fifteenth-round pick of the White Sox in 2016 out of the Univ. of Oklahoma. Attended Coppell (Tex.) HS. Named to SAL All-Star Game.

2B Tate Blackman: 2018 stats: .272/.367/.426, 12 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 35 BB, 91 K, 3 SB, 3 CS. This season vs. Hickory: 7-for-35, 2B, 3B, HR, 3 BB, 15 K, 1 CS. Last series at Rome: 1-for-13, 2B, BB, 2 K. Thirteenth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Ole Miss. Attended Lake Brantley HS (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) Named to SAL All-Star Game. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th walks, T-5th games played, 6th strikeouts, 10th OBP, T-10th RBI.

LF Craig Dedalow: 2018 stats: .269/.320/.424, 21 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 17 BB, 65 K. This season vs. Hickory: 11-for-40, 5 2B, 3B, 2 BB, 14 K, CS. Last series at Rome: 2-for-13, 2B, 2 2 K. Ninth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out Indiana Univ. Attended Munster (Ind.) HS. Named to SAL All-Star Game. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st at-bats, T-2nd doubles, T-5th games played, T-7th triples, T-9th total bases, 1st assists by an OF (11).

RF Tyler Frost: 2018 stats: .213/.283/.425, 10 2B, 2 3B, 11 HR, 18 BB, 78 K. This season vs. Hickory: 4-for-21, 2B, HR, 2 BB, 8 K. Last series at Rome (Ga.): 3-for-16, 2B, BB, 2 K. Fifteenth-round pick of the White Sox in 2017 out of Gonzaga Univ. (College teammate with Hickory’s Justin Jacobs.) Attended Greenway HS in Phoenix, AZ. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-9th HR

 

Series Preview: Hickory at West Virginia June 27-29

Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (33-41, 3-3 T-4th SAL North) at West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh Pirates) (41-30, 4-1 T-1st SAL North), Appalachian Power Park, Charleston, WV.

 

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Wednesday – Friday 7:05 p.m.

 

Promotions:

Wednesday –  Pets in the Park

Thursday – Thirsty THursday

Friday – Postgame Fireworks

 

TICKETS: Advance tickets: General Admission $6, Box Seats $8. Game Day: Friday & Saturday $9-$11, Sunday $8-$10.

 

Where is it?: From Hickory: I-40 East to I-77 North. I-64West to Capital St./Leon Sullivan Way Exit #100. Go to the 1st traffic light and turn left onto Washington St. Go to the 2nd traffic light and turn left onto Morris St. Go through 1 traffic light and Appalachian Power Park is on the left.

 

PARKING: Off-site parking at meters, parking garages, etc.

 

CONCESSIONS: Along with basic ballpark fare, there is an Italian Stand, Portable Grill with various cheesesteaks, Italian sausages, brats, etc., BBQ, etc. Click here for the menu.

http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20090212&content_id=40995192&sid=t525&vkey=team1

 

Probables (Hickory/ West Virginia):

Wednesday: RHP Noah Bremer vs. RHP Gavin Wallace

Thursday: RHP Reid Anderson vs. RHP Max Kranick

Friday: RHP AJ Alexy vs. LHP Domingo Robles

 

Recent Series History:

The Power is 9-4 this season, which included a three-game sweep at Hickory last week. West Virginia won 2 of 3 in the only series played at Charleston in May.

About the Crawdads:

Hickory swept first-half Southern Division contender Augusta (S.C.) three straight to forge a 3-3 homestand to open the second half. The Crawdads are 13-21 on the road this season, but are 10-8 over their last three road trips… Although the Crawdads are still 13th out of 14 teams in the South Atlantic League in batting average, they’ve hit well of late and raised the overall team average from .231 to .241 in the last week. Facing the team with the second-best team ERA entering the previous series, Hickory scored 21 runs in sweeping Augusta. Hickory increasingly continues to rely on power, as the team is now third in the SAL with 63 homers. Despite the dingers, the Crawdads are tenth in runs scored…. On the mound, the Crawdads have struggled with two-out rallies recently. In the last homestand, the Crawdads gave up 19 runs after two outs, 14 of those after the first two batters were retired.

 

Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):

OF Bubba Thompson (No. 6): 2018 stats: .248/.309/.401, 8 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 BB, 45 K, 7 SB, 1 CS. This season vs. West Virginia: 4-for-24, 2 2B, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 SB. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL.

OF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 9) 2018 stats: .236/.288/.408, 11 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 13 BB, 61 K, 6 SB, 2 CS. This season vs. West Virginia: 13-for-48, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 11 K, 2 SB. Obtained by the Rangers in 2017 from the Colorado Rockies for Jonathan Lucroy. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 16): 2018 stats: 12 games (10 starts), 53.2 IP, 43 H, 33 R (27 ER), 3 HR, 7 HB, 34 BB, 70 K, 4.53 ERA, .223 OBA, 1.43 WHIP. This season vs. West Virginia: 3 starts, 15 IP, 12 H, 11 R (9 ER), 2 HR, 6 BB, 20 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: 3rd walks, T-5th hit batters.

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 24): 2018 stats: .250/.312/.439, 13 2B, 9 HR, 12 BB, 64 K, 3 SB This season vs. West Virginia: 4-for-30, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 9 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.). Named to the SAL All-Star Game.

RHP Tyler Phillips (No. 29): 2018 stats: 13 games (13 starts) 76 IP, 80 H, 30 R (28 ER), 3 HR, 2 HB, 8 BB, 65 K, 3.55 ERA, .269 OBA, 1.16 WHIP. This season vs. West Virginia: 2 starts, 13.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R (3 ER), 2 BB, 8 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, N.J. Native of Lumberton N.J. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st walks-per-9-inning ratio among starters (0.95), T-8th innings pitched

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Noah Bremer: 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 24.1 IP, 34 H, 17 R (15 ER), 2 HR, 6 BB, 22 K. This season vs. West Virginia: 1 start, 4 IP, 7 H, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 4 K. Sixth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of the Univ. of Washington. Attended Berkeley (Calif.) HS.

RHP Reid Anderson: 2018 stats: 10 games (8 starts), 52.2 IP, 50 H, 27 R (23 ER), 1 HR, 3 HB, 16 BB, 42 K, 3.93 ERA, .249 OBA, 1.25 WHIP. This season vs. West Virginia: 3 starts, 16 IP, 17 H, 11 R (9 ER), 2 HB, 5 BB, 13 K. Seventeenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville Univ. (Pa.). Attended New Egypt (N.J.) High School.

C Yohel Pozo: 2018 stats: .250/.296/.397, 11 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 15 BB, 30 K. This season vs. West Virginia: 11-for-42, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 K. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela. Named to the SAL All-Star Game. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 3rd plate appearance to strikeout ratio (8.33).

IF Ryan Dorow: 2018 stats: .302/.365/.467, 9 2B, 8 HR, 19 BB, 57 K, 2 SB, 2 CS. This season vs. West Virginia: 11-for-36, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 BB, 6 K. Thirtieth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Adrian College (MI). Attended South Haven (MI) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 8th batting avg.

RP DeMarcus Evans: 2018 stats: 17 games, 26.2 IP, 18 H, 9 R (9 ER), 1 HR, 21 BB, 45 K, 3.04 ERA, .196 OBA, 1.46 WHIP. This season vs. West Virginia. 3 games, 2 H, 2 BB, 11 K. Twenty-fifth round pick of the Rangers in 2015 out of Petal HS (MS).

 

About the Power:

The Power swept Hickory last weekend and then returned home split two games with Lakewood (N.J.) in a rain-shortened series… West Virginia has been tough on the road, easily sporting the SAL’s best road record at 22-11. But the comforts of home has been anything but, as the Power are just 19-19… Offenses tend to put the ball in play against the Power’s pitchers, as the staff is next to last in strikeouts and walks allowed… Defensively, the Power are 12th in errors committed and fielding pct.

Prospects to watch-West Virginia (rankings by MLB.com):

CF Lolo Sanchez (No. 9): 2018 stats: .226/.297/.322, 11 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 19 BB, 42 K, 14 SB, 6 CS. This season vs. Hickory: 5-for-37, 1 2B, 4 BB, 11 K, 2 SB, 1 CS. Signed with the Pirates as an international free agent in 2015. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-7th steals.

SS Oneil Cruz (No. 13): 2018 stats: .311/.370/.534, 15 2B, 7 3B, 10 HR, 24 BB, 69 K. This season vs. Hickory: 16-for-47, 3 2B, 4 HR, 6 BB, 10 K, 2 SB. Traded to the Pirates last summer for former Crawdads LHP Tony Watson. Signed as an international free agent by the L.A. Dodgers in 2015. Native of Nizao, D.R. SAL Top-10 Rankings:  2nd triples, 2nd RBI, 3rd hits, 3rd total bases, 3rd OPS (.879), 5th batting avg., 5th slugging pct., 6th at-bats, 10th OBP,

C Deon Stafford (No. 30): 2018 stats: .289/.347/.457, 12 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 15 BB, 57 K. This season vs. Hickory: 11-for-28, 2 2B, 1 3B, 4 BB, 10 K. Fifth-round pick of the Pirates in 2016 out of St. Joseph’s Univ. (Pa.) Native of Hummelstown, Pa. Attended Lower Dauphin HS. Named to SAL All-Star Game.

 

Others to watch- West Virginia:

RHP Gavin Wallace: 2018 stats: 15 games (13 starts), 62.2 IP, 52 H, 27 R (25 ER), 10 HR, 10 BB, 39 K. This season vs. Hickory: 2 starts: 11.2 IP, 12 H, 5 R, 3 HR, 4 BB, 8 K. Fifteenth-round pick of the Pirates in 2017 out of Fairfield (CT) Univ. Attended Madison (NJ) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-7th HRs allowed.

RHP Max Kranick: 2018 stats: 6 games (6 starts), 29.1 IP, 31 H, 13 R (13 ER), 4 HR, 4 HB, 9 BB, 17 K, 3.99 ERA, .227 OBA, 1.36 WHIP. This season vs. Hickory: 2 starts, 9 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 5 K. Eleventh-round pick or the Pirates in 2016 out of Valley View HS in Archbald, PA.

LHP Domingo Robles: 2018 stats: 14 games (14 starts), 72.2 IP, 73 H, 46 R (26 ER), 5 HR, 4 HB, 15 BB, 59 K, 3.22 ERA, .250 OBA, 1.21 WHIP. This season vs. Hickory: 2 starts, 13 IP, 14 H, 6 R (5 ER), 2 HR, 8 K. Signed with the Pirates as an international free agent in 2014. Native of Imbert, D.R. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 9th hits allowed.

LF Chris Sharpe: 2018 stats: .282/.375/.384, 9 2B, 2 3B, 3 HH, 30 BB, 73 K, 10 SB, 4 CS. This season vs. Hickory: 18-for-46, 3 2B, 2 3B, 3 BB, 13 K, 5 SB. Fourteenth-round pick of the Pirates in 2017 out of Univ. of Massachusetts-Lowell. Attended Bridgton (Maine) Academy. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 6th walks, 6th OBP

 

Series Preview: Augusta (S.C.) at Hickory Crawdads June 24-26

Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco) (39-32 overall, 2-1 second-half T-2nd SAL South), at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (30-41, 0-3 7th SAL North)

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Sunday 5 p.m., Monday 7 p.m., Tuesday noon.

 

PROMOTIONS:

Sunday – Mascot Mayhem

Monday – Make a Difference Monday, YMCA Hit and Spin

 

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 http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

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 http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf

 

PROBABLES (West Virginia/ Hickory)

Sunday: RHP Aaron Phillips vs. RHP Tyree Thompson

Monday: LHP Joey Marciano vs. LHP Martin Perez (rehab start)

Tuesday: RHP Jose Marte vs. RHP Tyler Phillips

 

Recent Series History:

Augusta and Hickory split a four-game series at L.P. Frans Stadium in the only series played by the two teams in 2017. The Crawdads have had trouble with Augusta at home during both the current affiliation with the Rangers and during the previous affiliation with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since the San Francisco Giants hooked up with Augusta in 2005, the GreenJackets are 47-35 overall, 28-18 at L.P. Frans. Since 2009, which is the start of the Crawdads/ Rangers affiliation, Hickory has won just one series at home, that coming in April of 2011. Since then, Augusta is 15-7 at Hickory. Oddly, the Crawdads have not played at Augusta since winning 2 of 3 there in 2016.

 

About the Crawdads:

Hickory started the season 0-6 and it is in danger of starting the second half in similar fashion. The Crawdads were swept in three games by West Virginia to open the second half and have lost five in a row stretching back to the all-star break. The team is also hoping to avoid losing records in both half-seasons, which hasn’t happened since 2009… Now 10-12 in June, the Crawdads are looking to snap out of a funk on all facets of the game. This month, Hickory is last in the SAL in team ERA (4.67) and next to last in batting average (.231). Stout defensively much of the year, the team had five errors the last three games. They currently are fourth in fielding pct. Up the middle, the Crawdads shortstops and second basemen have combined for just 20 errors.

Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):

OF Bubba Thompson (No. 6): 2018 stats: .240/.307/.408, 8 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 11 BB, 40 K, 7 SB. Last series vs. West Virginia: 0-for-13, BB, 3 K. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL.

OF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 9) 2018 stats: .222/.276/.403, 10 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 12 BB, 60 K, 6 SB, 1 CS. Last series vs. West Virginia: 2-for-12 2B, BB, 3 K. Obtained by the Rangers in 2017 from the Colorado Rockies for Jonathan Lucroy. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 16): 2018 stats: 12 games (10 starts), 53.2 IP, 43 H, 33 R (27 ER), 3 HR, 7 HB, 34 BB, 70 K, 4.53 ERA, .223 OBA, 1.43 WHIP. Last series vs. West Virginia: 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 HR, 2 BB, 4 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: 3rd walks, T-5th hit batters.

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 24): 2018 stats: .240/.299/.417, 12 2B, 8 HR, 10 BB, 62 K, 1 SB Last series vs. West Virginia: 2-for-11, HR, BB, 3 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.). Named to the SAL All-Star Game.

RHP Tyler Phillips (No. 29): 2018 stats: 12 games (12 starts) 70 IP, 7-5 H, 30 R (28 ER), 3 HR, 1 HB, 7 BB, 61 K, 3.60 ERA, .274 OBA, 1.17 WHIP. Last start 6/15 at Lakewood (NJ): 6 IP, 11 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 HR, 5 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, N.J. Native of Lumberton N.J. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st walks-per-9-inning ratio among starters (0.90). Named to the SAL All-Star Game.

Others to watch – Hickory:

LHP Martin Perez: 2018 stats at Texas: 5 games (5 starts), 22.1 IP, 41 H, 25 R (24 ER), 7 HR, 12 BB, 13 K, 9.67 ERA, .398 OBA, 2.37 WHIP. Making an injury rehab start on Monday, it will be his first game action since being placed on the disabled list on April 30th with discomfort in his right (non-pitching) elbow. Perez made 22 appearances (14 starts) for Hickory) in 2009. Started a combined, 7-inning no-hitter for Hickory on 4/11/09, just one week after his 18th birthday.

RHP Tyree Thompson: 2018 stats: 12 games (11 starts), 58.2 IP, 60 H, 33 R (26 ER), 7 HR, 3 HB, 20 BB, 33 K, 3.99 ERA, .262 OBA, 1.36 WHIP. Last start 5/16 at Lakewood (NJ): 4 IP, 5 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 HR, 3 BB, 6 K. Twenty-sixth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Edna Karr HS, New Orleans.

RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 stats: 12 games (12 starts), 63 IP, 76 H, 45 R (44 ER), 11 HR, 4 HB, 17 BB, 69 K, 6.29 ERA, .298 OBA, 1.48 WHIP. Last start 6/17 at Lakewood (NJ): 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R (4 ER), 2 HR, 3 BB, 6 K. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Clemson. Attended Byrnes High in Moore, S.C. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-3rd earned runs allowed, 4th home runs allowed, 8th runs allowed, T-9th hits allowed.

C Yohel Pozo: 2018 stats: .265/.309/.420, 11 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 14 BB, 29 K. This season vs. West Virginia:7-for-30, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 K. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela. Named to the SAL All-Star Game. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 5th plate appearance to strikeout ratio (8.14).

About the GreenJackets:

Managed by Jolbert Cabrera in his first season with the team… Augusta was in the running for the first-half Southern Division title and were 3.5 games ahead of Rome (Ga.) after a win on June 1. Then the bottom fell out. The GreenJackets 11 straight as part of a 1-14 stretch and Augusta went on to finish tied for second, 2.5 games behind Rome. The GreenJackets got a minor measure of revenge to open the second half by taking 2 of 3 at home from the Braves… The offense disappeared much of the time during the losing streak and as a team they currently last in the SAL this month at .222. The GreenJackets scored just 46 runs during the 1-14 stretch, including seven games in which they scored two or fewer runs. The offense leads the SAL in strikeouts and is second in walks accepted. When the GreenJackets get on base, they are liking going. Augusta is second in the SAL in steal attempts (120) and third in successful steals (76)… For the most part, the pitching staff has held its own this season. The team ERA of 2.92 is second in the SAL and they have 10 shutouts. Augusta has allowed the second fewest hits, is second in strikeouts and have the third lowest WHIP (1.17).

Prospects to watch-Augusta (rankings by MLB.com):

CF Heliot Ramos (No.1, No. 74 overall prospect): 2018 stats: .240/.319/.384, 16 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 23 BB, 73 K, 4 SB, 6 CS. Last series vs. Rome: 2-for-12, 2B, 1 BB, 3 K. First-round pick of the Giants in 2017 out of Leadership Christian in Guaynabo, P.R. Native of Humacao, P.R. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-10 2Bs.

3B Jacob Gonzalez (No. 10): 2018 stats: .248/.305/.364, 11 2B, 6 HR, 15 BB, 61 K, 7 SB, 5 CS. Last series vs. Rome: 2-for-12, 2B, HR, 3 K. Second-round pick of the Giants in 2017 out of Chaparral HS in Scottsdale, AZ.

RHP Garrett Cave (No. 19) 2018 stats: 14 games (13 starts), 56 IP, 53 H, 32 R (27 ER), 2 HR, 6 HB, 38 BB, 59 K, 4.34 ERA, .248 OBA, 1.63 WHIP. Last start 6/22 vs. Rome: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R (3 ER), 2 BB, 6 K. Fourth-round pick of the Giants in 2017 out of University of Tampa. Also played college ball at Florida International Univ. Attended South Sumter HS in Bushnell, FL. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st walks, T-7th HB.

 

Others to watch- Augusta:

RHP Aaron Phillips: 2018 stats: 6 games (5 starts), 30.1 IP, 33 H, 19 R (13 ER), 4 HR, 4 HB, 2 BB, 33 K, 3.86 ERA, .264 OBA, 1.15 WHIP. Last start 5/23 vs. Charleston (SC): 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R (2 ER), 1 BB, 8 K. Making his first start since being place on DL June 1. Ninth-round pick of the Giants in 2017 out of St. Bonaventure Univ. Attended Cleveland Hill HS in Cheektowaga, NY.

LHP Joey Marciano: 2018 stats: 12 games (11 starts), 65.2 IP, 58 H, 22 R, 17 ER, 3 HR, 1 HB, 15 BB, 59 K, 2.33 ERA, .239 OBA, 1.11 WHIP. Last start 6/15 at Asheville: 5 IP, 10 H, 4 R (4 ER), 5 K. Thirty-sixth round pick of the Giants in 2017 out of Southern Illinois Univ. Also played college ball at John A. Logan CC (Ill.) Attended Roberto Clemente HS in Chicago. Related to boxing great Rocky Marciano.

RHP Jose Marte: 2018 stats: 13 games (13 starts), 61.2 IP, 59 H, 27 R (23 ER), 4 HR, 1 HB, 23 BB, 64 K, 3.36 ERA, .247 OBA, 1.33 WHIP. Last start 6/21 vs. Rome: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 HR. Signed as an international free agent by the Giants in 2015.

1B Ryan Kirby: 2018 stats: .228/.313/.443, 16 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 25 BB, 78 K, 4 SB, 1 CS. Last series vs. Rome: 2-for-8, HR, 3 BB, 2 K. Twelfth-round pick of the Giants in 2017 out of Univ. of San Diego. Attended Granada HS in Livermore, CA. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-5th HR, 7th Ks, T-10th doubles

RF Logan Baldwin: 2018 stats: .251/.309/.391, 12 2B, 6 3B, 3 HR, 13 BB, 76 K, 16 SB, 6 CS. Last series vs. Rome: 0-for-7, 2 BB, 6 K. Twenty-first round pick of the Giants in 2017 out of Georgia Southern Univ. Attended Ringgold (Ga.) HS. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-2nd SB, T-3rd triples, 9th Ks.

SS Manuel Geraldo: 2018 stats .277/.330/.410, 7 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 18 BB, 61 K, 176 SB, 7 CS. Last series vs. Rome: 2-for-13, 2 K. Signed as international free agent by the Giants in 2013. Native of Azua, D.R. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-10th SB.

Series Preview: West Virginia Power at Hickory Crawdads June 21-23

West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh Pirates) (37-29, 3rd SAL North), at Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers) (30-38, 6th SAL North)

If You Plan to Go:

GAME TIMES: Thursday – Saturday 7 p.m.

PROMOTIONS:

Thursday – Thirsty Thursday, Margaritaville

Friday – Outdoors Night, Post-game Fireworks, Science Center Night

Saturday – T-shirt Giveaway (1st 1,000 fans)

 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 http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130627&content_id=51970362&sid=t448&vkey=team4

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 http://www.milb.com/documents/3/3/4/185907334/cafe_menu_6eeko6n2.pdf

 

PROBABLES (West Virginia/ Hickory)

Thursday: RHP Max Kranick vs. RHP Noah Bremer

Friday: LHP Domingo Robles. RHP Reid Anderson

Saturday: RHP Hunter Stratton vs. RHP AJ Alexy

 

Recent Series History:

West Virginia holds a 6-4 advantage in 2018, which includes a 4-3 mark at L.P. Frans Stadium. The teams split a four-game series to close out Hickory’s home schedule for the first half.

 

About the Crawdads:

Hickory closed out the first half with a 5-4 road trip ended with two straight losses in a three-game series at Lakewood (N.J.)…The Crawdads were 17-17 at home during the first half… Offensively, the Crawdads are next to last in the SAL in hits and batting average (.238). 12th in doubles, 11th in runs scored and triples. Hickory’s .231 average in June is last in the SAL… On the mound, the Crawdads are 12th in team ERA (4.44) and overall they are 11th at 4.22. They have issued the most walks in the league and 11th in WHIP (1.37)…Defensively, Hickory is third in the SAL in fielding pct. and tied for second in the fewest errors committed.

Prospects to watch- Hickory (rankings are by MLB.com):

OF Bubba Thompson (No. 6): 2018 stats: .268/.333/.455, 8 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 10 BB, 37 K, 7 SB. This season vs. West Virginia: 4-for-11, 2 2B, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 SB. First-round pick of the Rangers in 2018 out of McGill-Toolen High, Mobile, AL.

OF Pedro Gonzalez (No. 9) 2018 stats: .226/.279/.415, 9 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 11 BB, 57 K, 6 SB, 1 CS. This season vs. West Virginia: 11-for-36, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 8 K, 2 SB. Obtained by the Rangers in 2017 from the Colorado Rockies for Jonathan Lucroy. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R.

RHP AJ Alexy (No. 16): 2018 stats: 11 games (9 starts), 48.2 IP, 37 H, 28 R (23 ER), 2 HR, 7 HB, 32 BB, 66 K, 4.25 ERA, .211 OBA, 1.42 WHIP. This season vs. West Virginia: 2 starts, 10 IP, 6 H, 6 R (5 ER), 1 HR, 4 BB, 16 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: 3rd walks, T-5th hit batters.

C-1B Sam Huff (No. 24): 2018 stats: .244/.302/.415, 12 2B, 7 HR, 9 BB, 59 K, 1 SB This season vs. West Virginia: 2-for-19, 1 2B, 2 BB, 6 K. Seventh round pick of Rangers in 2016 out of Arcadia HS (Phoenix, Ariz.). Named to the SAL All-Star Game.

RHP Tyler Phillips (No. 29): 2018 stats: 12 games (12 starts) 70 IP, 75 H, 30 R (28 ER), 3 HR, 1 HB, 7 BB, 61 K, 3.60 ERA, .274 OBA, 1.17 WHIP. This season vs. West Virginia: 2 starts, 13.1 IP, 8 H, 4 R (3 ER), 2 BB, 8 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Bishop Eustace HS, Pennsauken, N.J. Native of Lumberton N.J. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 1st walks-per-9-inning ratio among starters (0.90), 10th innings pitched

Others to watch – Hickory:

RHP Noah Bremer: 2018 stats: 5 games (5 starts), 20.1 IP, 27 H, 11 R (10 ER), 1 HR, 5 BB, 18 K. Has not faced West Virginia this season. Sixth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of the Univ. of Washington. Attended Berkeley (Calif.) HS.

RHP Reid Anderson: 2018 stats: 10 games (8 starts), 46.2 IP, 44 H, 22 R (19 ER), 1 HR, 2 HB, 14 BB, 39 K, 3.66 ERA, .249 OBA, 1.24 WHIP. This season vs. West Virginia: 2 starts, 10 IP, 11 H, 6 R (5 ER), 1 HB, 3 BB, 10 K. Seventeenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2016 out of Millersville Univ. (Pa.). Attended New Egypt (N.J.) High School.

RHP Alex Eubanks: 2018 stats: 12 games (12 starts), 63 IP, 76 H, 45 R (44 ER), 11 HR, 4 HB, 17 BB, 69 K, 6.29 ERA, .298 OBA, 1.48 WHIP. This season vs. West Virginia: 1 start, 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 8 K. Fourteenth-round pick of the Rangers in 2017 out of Clemson. Attended Byrnes High in Moore, S.C. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-3rd earned runs allowed, 4th home runs allowed, 7th runs allowed, T-8th hits allowed

C Yohel Pozo: 2018 stats: .261/.308/.411, 11 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 14 BB, 28 K. This season vs. West Virginia:7-for-30, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 K. Signed with the Rangers as an international free agent in 2013. A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela. Named to the SAL All-Star Game. SAL Top-10 Rankings: 5th plate appearance to strikeout ratio (8.00).

About the Power:

Managed by Wyatt Toregas in his second season (106-96) with the club… The Power made a late-season run at the Northern Division title four-game sweep at Southern Division contender Augusta (Ga.). They went on to win the first two at home vs. Delmarva (Md.), but lost the first-half finale and finished 2.5 games behind Lakewood (N.J.)…Offensively, the Power is 12th in hits, but what hits ring up often go for big results. West Virginia is third in the SAL in triples, fifth in doubles and homers… On the mound, West Virginia’s team ERA of 3.42 is fifth in the SAL. Teams tend to put the ball in play against the Power, as evident by the stats. The Power has issued the second fewest walks in the SAL but have struck out the third fewest hitters. That can be a detriment at times as the Power has committed 90 errors in 66 games, the third most in the SAL.

Prospects to watch-West Virginia (rankings by MLB.com):

CF Lolo Sanchez (No. 9): 2018 stats: .211/.278/.308, 10 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 16 BB, 40 K, 12 SB, 6 CS. This season vs. Hickory: 4-for-28, 1 BB, 9 K. Signed with the Pirates as an international free agent in 2015. Native of Santo Domingo, D.R. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-10th steals.

SS Oneil Cruz (No. 13): 2018 stats: .303/.363/.516, 36 R, 14 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 22 BB, 64 K. This season vs. Hickory: 8-for-33, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 BB, 9 K, 1 SB. Traded to the Pirates last summer for former Crawdads LHP Tony Watson. Signed as an international free agent by the L.A. Dodgers in 2015. Native of Nizao, D.R. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-1st triples, 4th RBI, 4th total bases, T-6th hits, 6th slugging pct. 7th OPS (.879), 8th at-bats,

RF Calvin Mitchell (No. 15): 2018 stats: .316/.379/.504, 17 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 22 BB, 61 K. This season vs. Hickory: 10-for-33, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 11 K. Second-round pick of the Pirates in 2017 out of Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) HS. Native of San Diego. SAL Top-10 Rankings: T-4th doubles, 4th batting avg., 4th OBP, 5th OPS (.883), T-6th hits, 7th total bases, 9th slugging pct. Named to SAL All-Star Game.

C Deon Stafford (No. 30): 2018 stats: .286/.345/.449, 11 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 14 BB, 53 K. This season vs. Hickory: 7-for-19, 1 2B, 3 BB, 8 K. Fifth-round pick of the Pirates in 2016 out of St. Joseph’s Univ. (Pa.) Native of Hummelstown, Pa. Attended Lower Dauphin HS. Named to SAL All-Star Game.

 

Others to watch- West Virginia:

RHP Max Kranick: 2018 stats: 5 games (5 starts), 25.1 IP, 29 H, 13 R (13 ER), 4 HR, 4 HB, 7 BB, 17 K, 4.62 ERA, .290 OBA, 1.42 WHIP. This season vs. Hickory: 1 start, 5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K. Eleventh-round pick or the Pirates in 2016 out of Valley View HS in Archbald, PA.

LHP Domingo Robles: 2018 stats: 13 games (13 starts), 65.2 IP, 68 H, 43 R (24 ER), 4 HR, 4 HB, 15 BB, 55 K, 3.29 ERA, .257 OBA, 1.26 WHIP. This season vs. Hickory: 1 start, 6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 1 HR, 4 K. Signed with the Pirates as an international free agent in 2014. Native of Imbert, D.R.

RHP Hunter Stratton: 2018 stats: 10 games (8 starts), 40.1 IP, 44 H, 34 R (28 ER), 6 HR, 3 HB, 22 BB, 42 K, 6.25 ERA, .282 OBA, 1.64 WHIP. This season vs. Hickory:4 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 HR, 3 BB, 3 K. Sixteenth-round pick of the Pirates in 2017 out of Walters State (TN) CC. Attended Sullivan East (Bristol, TN).

 

The Fire to Win: An Interview with Sam Huff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Said Trevino about Huff:

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

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

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

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

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

Sam Huff fist pump

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

 

Here is the interview with Sam Huff:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Sam HUff hitting

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Who are the leaders to you?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Huff Jaimes Mendez mound visit

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

Catching the Wave: An interview with Texas Rangers catching coordinator Chris Briones

I will not be partial here. I love catchers. For me, the position is greatly undervalued. The good ones not only swing the bat and play the position almost flawlessly, but they are also full-time field generals and part-time psychiatrists. Most World Series teams have a guy behind the plate that is the heart, the soul, the pulse, the lifeblood, etc. of the team: Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Jorge Posada, Salvador Perez to name a few.

When the Texas Rangers were in the midst of their 2016 playoff run, they chose to give up prospects Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz – both former first-round pics – and Ryan Cordell to the Milwaukee Brewers for catcher Jonathan Lucroy. It was hoped that Lucroy would play a big role handling the pitching staff and bring another consistent bat into the lineup and put the Rangers in World Series contention.

Part of the need for Lucroy was because the Rangers had not developed their own catcher. A possible starter, Jorge Alfaro, was used in a trade in 2015 to get pitcher Cole Hamels. The lack of a homegrown catcher is something that Rangers catching coordinator Chris Briones wants to see rectified.

Since joining the club in 2015 as the catching coordinator, Briones is helping the Rangers build a stable of young catchers in the minor-league system that may one day put “THAT GUY” in the forefront of leading the team. According to MLB.com, among the Texas Rangers top-30 prospects six are catchers at least part-time.

Crawdads catcher Sam Huff is a part of that top-30 group, but two others that started the season at Hickory are perhaps not far behind the list. Yohel Pozo hit .338 for Hickory in the second half of 2017 and Melvin Novoa showed good defensive skills (threw out 5 of 6 base stealers with Hickory) with a bat that was quickly deemed too good for this level and his now at high-A Down East. The three started the year at Hickory and rotated catching duties, then played first or DH’ed when not behind the plate, so as to keep the bat in the lineup.

Briones was in the area this week to check on his pupils and, as he calls his visits, to refill the tanks. I had a chance to talk with him about the Hickory catching situation, but also touch on the state of the Rangers catching prospects.

 

You had a three-headed monster here and now it’s down to two. I know it wasn’t the perfect scenario for what you wanted, but you had to get guys at bats. The three of them that were here, Novoa, Huff and Pozo, how did you see them working through that together?

Briones: It was a really unique situation to where you had three young catching prospects that are the same age and they needed to play. Like you said, the three-headed monster were going to get 45 games apiece for the season, rotate through at first base, rotate through as the designated hitter, and days they weren’t catching they were going to get the extra work with (coach) Turtle (Thomas). It was a challenge. As you think about it, was it going to be enough to consider really developing three catchers? And it was working out well.

The fact that Melvin came out swinging the bat really well, it created an opportunity to move him up and the opening up at Down East was there for him to basically slide in and split some time up there with Matt Whatley. In my opinion, it just creates a better opportunity for Sam and Pozo to get more reps. The more that they’re back here, I think the more opportunity there is to develop.

The game action is the most important thing to get versus the drills and all the practice. The more games and innings that they can add to that line, that’s where they get to develop – the game action.

 

I’ll just go through one at a time. Sam Huff, who I just talked to. He seems like a kid that just wants to win, period. He mentioned several times ”I just want to win, I just want to win.”

Briones: Absolutely. He actually gets that from Jose Trevino. He has a really good relationship with Jose. Jose’s bottom line is to win. He won here and Jose won at the next level. They spent a lot of time together in spring training. If that’s the goal, to win, then everything else will take care of itself. The way that Trevino went about his business, Sam is trying to follow in his footsteps.

Huff Jaimes Mendez mound visit

Catcher Sam Huff (r) during a mound visit with pitcher Sal Mendez and pitching coach Jose Jaimes (photo courtesy of Tracy Proffitt)

 

What are some of the examples that Trevino set that Sam and some of the other guys are trying to follow? Are they the intangibles or other areas?

Biones: Definitely the intangibles, paying attention to the opposing team. Everything that we ask of the catchers, Trevino did: From taking care of the pitching staff, knowing the opposing hitters, just knowing everything that he could possibly know. From a catcher’s standpoint, that’s what I’m asking them all to do. Pay attention to all the little things, and create relationships, and have good communication with his pitching staff, have good communication with his manager and pitching coach. I always looked at the catcher as another part of the coaching staff, to where they need to know everything that is going on.

Jose Trevino catching

Catcher Jose Trevino during a 2015 game against Hagerstown (Tracy Proffitt)

To have the opportunity to have Trevino my first year and to see what he was like, he set the bar for all the young catchers extremely high. I use him as the example for the Pozos, the Novoas, the Sam Huffs, the Matt Whatleys. It’s like, this guy does it the way that you want to do it. Watch how he does it. He’s got his second Gold Glove a couple of weeks ago. In a short period of time, he’s got a tremendous resume and Sam looks at that. All of the other kids look at that and see how he does what he does. He’s got a great game plan and recipe for success.

 

What is Sam working on now? What do you see him working on for the remainder of year? Well, let me refocus, this is such an evolving position, what is he working on at this point?

Briones: From the defensive standpoint, just getting the innings and playing.

It’s the first time that he’s out of the complex. He’s an Arizona kid. He had the ability to go home every evening. Every Saturday, he could jump in his car and drive 40 minutes to go home and see Mom and Dad. This being his first opportunity to be away from home, I’m constantly checking on him to make sure he’s not homesick.

What is he working on the field? Every aspect you could possibly think of: running a pitching staff, learning to communicate, learning to pace himself with the grind of playing every single day and having one or two days off a month. This is something that he’s never done. In Arizona, they play 10:30 games and then they have the rest of the day off. Here, he’s got to learn how to time manage and know how to get everything that needs to be done in a day done, and be ready to play. We try to keep an eye on his workload, and keep an eye on his fatigue, and keep an eye on his diet and hold him accountable to do all of that also, and make sure he shows up ready to play every day.

Pozo. He came here and had a tremendous second half with the bat. A little slower to start this year, is part of that was, last year he was catching a lot in the second half last year, where as this year he is having to split more of that time?

Briones:  He’s splitting the time but he’s still in the lineup with the innings at first base and the innings as a designated hitter. So, he’s getting his at bats. It’s a little harder to get the rhythm defensively. The defense for me has been fine.

Offense, that’s a tricky one. It comes and goes. He’s getting his at bats. It’s not like he’s catching and hitting, and then getting two days off, and then catching and hitting, and then getting two days off. He’s still getting the consistent at bats. That’s how this game goes with scouting reports to where, they have last year’s scouting reports to go off of and they have an idea on how to pitch him. Whether you are in A-ball or AA or AAA, they’re going to find out what your scouting reports are – whether you are aggressive, if he chases. Repeating this level, they have notes on him and what he can do and what he looks for. That’s what scouting reports are for.

Yohel Pozo catching

Yohel Pozo during a 2018 game vs. Columbia (Tracy Proffitt)

What is he working on at this point?

Briones: Learning to love the work of defense. That’s where Turtle Thomas comes in on a daily basis. The kid loves to hit. He loves to hit. We’d love for him to get to where he loves the defensive side and the practice that goes into it. Running a staff and just working like Sam did last night – work his but off for nine innings and be able to separate the offense from the defense. Pozo, we’re trying to get him to where he loves the defensive side as much as he loves the offensive side.

 

What are the biggest intangibles that catchers at this level have to pick up on? Catching is such an intangible position beyond the defensive and offensive skills?

Briones: The biggest one is building the relationships and learning the pitching staff. Having the consistency of 12 to 15 pitchers to work with on a daily basis and to know who are the ones you have to wrap your arm around and who are the ones you have to kick in the butt. That’s something that Sam and Pozo and Novoa, when he was here, that’s not a physical thing that we can practice, but that’s something that’s highly important.

That’s something with which Trevino did a great job. When you build that relationship, you’re going to build trust. When you have that trust and you get out on the field – last night there was trust built between Casanova and Huff. It started off shaky, but they fed off of each other and it was a beautiful game. That’s something that Sam’s gotta learn. When you’re in Arizona as a catcher, there’s fifty pitchers there and it’s hard to build trust and a relationship when you have a pitching staff that’s huge.

Novoa Huff.jpg

Melvin Novoa (left) congratulated by Sam Huff after scoring (Tracy Proffitt)

 

You look at almost every World Series team they have that catcher, the Poseys, and Yadier Molina, and Varitek and Posada. For the average fan, and probably for the average me, what is the thing behind the scenes that most fans don’t see that really goes into that position to make a major league team successful?

Briones:  The fact is that all the names that you mentioned, they are homegrown. I think that is something that is a key for a championship team. You mentioned the Buster Poseys, the Posadas, the Yadis, they all came through the system. They’ve known the system from the first time that they signed a professional contract. That’s something that we need to develop.

I look at the wave of catchers that we have from Trevino to Chuck Moorman to Novoa to Matt Whatley, who is the newest one in the mix. We have five, six, seven, eight guys that are in the system that are all homegrown. Now, we just need to graduate one and the first one, that hopefully we’ll graduate, will be Trevino. Actually Brett Nicholas was one of the first homegrown ones, but we need to create that. They know the system. They know what we’re looking for. They know they’ve got that trust with all their pitchers throughout the organization. We have waves of it. Every age bracket, we have them coming.

 

Trevino ready to take the next step forward?

Briones: Behind the plate, for me defensively, absolutely. Defensively, he can do the job. In the industry, the way he’s swinging the bat, he’s a backup catcher. He just came back from the disabled list and in his first game back he went 2-for-2 with two homers.

Pitching has gotten better as he got to AA. It’s going to get better at AAA and it’s better in the big leagues. I think he can hit. I’ve seen him hit and we’ve just got to keep him healthy and get his bat right. If his bat is correct and it improves, he’s a front line, every day catcher. If the bat doesn’t improve, he’s a really good backup catcher.

 

Who’s behind him in your system right now?

Briones: Josh Morgan, who you saw as an infielder. He’s like the sleeper because it took a couple of years for him to agree to do the job and put the gear on and get there.

A guy who’s already in the big leagues who could do it, who I would love to see, is Kiner-Falefa. Kiner-Falefa, I mean, I could name 10 names right now of catchers that are in the wave. But Kiner-Falefa is 23-years-old, he’s two years younger than Trevino. If he gets the opportunity to catch, he’s going to hold his own and it would be wonderful. And he swings the bat.

You’ve got Trevino, 25, Kiner-Falefa, 23, Josh Morgan, 22, Chuck Moorman, 24, all these guys, given the opportunity, they can catch. So, there’s a lot of “next guy’s up”.

isiah Kiner-Falefa

Isiah Kiner-Falefa, a Crawdads shortstop in 2014-15, is possibly among the future mix of the Texas Rangers catching corps. (Tracy Proffitt)

Scoreless third changes Crawdads fortunes: Columbia wins 8-3

The Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies rallied back from an early deficit and salvaged the final game of a three-game series with an 8-3 win Friday night over the Hickory Crawdads at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The Fireflies (18-16) snapped a three-game losing streak and now return home to face Delmarva (Md.) in a four-game series. Meanwhile, the Crawdads (11-20) host Rome (Ga.) for four games starting Saturday night.

The Crawdads put up single runs in the first and second to build a 2-0 lead. Tyreque Reed singled in Miguel Aparicio and Sam Huff popped his second home run in as many games.

However, Columbia put together four straight hits to start the fourth. Scott Manea’s infield hit broke up a fledgling no-hit bid by A.J. Alexy. Gio Alfonzo followed that with a single and both runners scored on Hansel Moreno’s triple into the corner. Raphael Gladu singled in Moreno.

Matt Winaker blasted his second home run of the season in the first before Austin O’Banion got the run back by tripling in Reed to make it 4-3 Columbia.

Hickory missed a chance at a double play and that contributed to a two-run seventh. Quinn Brodey singled and then Jeremy Vasquez hit a grounder to Huff at first. Huff quickly fed a throw to Cristian Inoa who relayed the throw to the pitcher Joe Kuzia covering at first. Kuzia caught the ball but he was unable to find the bag behind him with his foot. Winaker walked before Rigoberto Terrazas and Manea each singled with Manea’s hit scoring Vasquez. A wild pitch scored Winaker and the Fireflies led 6-3.

Columbia added the final two runs on Brodey’s run-scoring double and Vasquez’s single.

 

The game’s turning point:

I didn’t get to see the dominant performance of Alexy at West Virginia last Friday, but if it was anything like the first inning on Friday, it must have been special. Alexy overmatched the Fireflies in the first, needing 11 pitches to get through the inning. The big right-hander threw all fastballs in the 93-95 mph range before he capped the first with a high-heat 96 that Brodey couldn’t catch up to.

The second inning gave clues as to the direction the remainder of Alexy’s start would go. A first-pitch curveball missed and then another one hit Vasquez. The fastball settled into the 92-93 range and began to miss spots. Winaker flew out to deep center and Terrazas drove a pitch to deep left. Both were outs, but both were squared up well. Manea was hit by a curveball – the umpire ruled he didn’t attempt to get out of the way – and then was walked on four straight. Alexy rebounded to paint the corner with a fastball to fan Alfonzo.

Though the Fireflies didn’t score, the third inning had much to do to foul up Alexy’s night. With one out, Gladu and Blake Tiberi both walked, as Alexy started to bring in the changeup for the second time through the order. Brodey joined them after he was hit by a pitch. Alexy completed the 28-pitch inning by striking out Vasquez and then Brodey. The Brodey strikeout seemed to charge the Crawdads battery as Yohel Pozo gave an emphatic fist pump when he left his crouch and ran to the dugout, while Alexy strutted resolutely from the mound.

Up to that point, the Crawdads hitters had the chance to feast on the offerings of Joe Cavallaro. Using a three-quarter delivery that occasionally dropped lower, the right-hander had trouble getting his slider to bite and the flat, middle-in changeups he served to Reed and Huff were punished accordingly. Combine that with an 87-88 fastball that Cavallaro had trouble spotting. With the Crawdads sending up hot hitters in the bottom of the third, the game seemed ready for the taking facing an ineffective pitcher that had thrown 41 pitches already. A long inning like the previous two would give Alexy a chance to regroup and give him a bigger cushion with which to work.

Reed grounded to short on three pitches. O’Banion struck out on four. Pozo lined to right on the first. Eight pitches total and a wearied Alexy was back to the mound.

The fourth started well as Alexy fanned Terrazas. However, an 0-2 breaking ball was beaten into the ground. Third baseman Ryan Dorow valiantly tried to make the run-and-grab throw to first but bounced it on what was ruled Columbia’s first hit of the game. The small leak in the dam became a steady flow as Alfonzo, Moreno and Gladu each squared up Alexy’s pitches that turned into three runs.

The Fireflies and Crawdads traded runs, but Columbia never trailed again and put the game on ice with the runs in the seventh and eighth.

Crawdads Cap Tough Month with a Walk-off Win

On the brink of another loss to Delmarva (Md.) to end a dreadful homestand on the final game of a tough month, the Hickory Crawdads on Sunday erased a five-run deficit over the final three innings, which was capped by a wild pitch that scored a runner from second base to end a three-run, ninth-inning rally and beat the Shorebirds 7-6 at L.P. Frans Stadium.

The win for Hickory (8-14) ended both its four-game losing streak and the Shorebirds (16-8) four-game winning streak. The Crawdads also avoided the first sweep by the Shorebirds at L.P. Frans Stadium since July 2008.

The walk-off win was the first by Hickory since defeating the Shorebirds on July 9, 2017 on a solo homer by Blaine Prescott. It was also the first walk-off win by a wild pitch for Hickory since May 23, 2013 when the Crawdads capped a five-run 12th innings as Jordan Akins scored against Kannapolis.

The Crawdads entered the game with a total of six runs over the first five meetings with Delmarva and it looked like they would be snake bit again. After Seamus Curran put Delmarva ahead with a two-run single in the third, the Crawdads cut the deficit in half when Melvin Novoa doubled in Miguel Aparicio. Novoa went to third on the throw home and it appeared he would score the tying run when Sam Huff lined a single up the middle. However, Huff’s liner struck the base umpire and Novoa was sent back to third. Yohel Pozo then fouled out to right to end the inning.

Delmarva’s 2-1 lead increased by four in the seventh when the Shorebirds put the first four on base against reliever Dario Beltre. Jean Carrillo homered, Branden Becker and TJ Nichting both singled and scored on Mason McCoy’s triple. Josh Advocate entered and struck out the first two he faced before Will Robertson lined an RBI double to make it 6-1.

Hickory cut the lead by a run in the seventh but missed a chance for more after loading the bases with one out. The Crawdads settled for an Eric Jenkins RBI grounder.

In the eighth, Scott Burke walked Novoa and Huff to open the inning. Both runners advanced on Pozo’s deep fly to right and scored when Tyler Ratliff got enough on a soft liner to left for a single. Reliever Alex Katz entered and induced Kole Enright to ground into a double play.

The Shorebirds had a chance to increase the 6-4 lead in the ninth as they worked two walks and a hit batter. However, Grant Zawadzki started a 1-6-3 double play during the inning and he struck out Ryen Ripken to get through unscathed.

Delmarva entered the game statistically as the best defensive team in the South Atlantic League but it was its defense that played a hand in the decisive ninth. With one out, Yonny Hernandez and Jenkins walked. Aparicio chopped a bouncer back to Katz on what appeared to be a game-inning double play. Katz initially dropped the ball but recovered and threw to second on time only to have the shortstop McCoy drop the ball allowing Jenkins to reach to load the bases.

Reed Hayes was brought in to face Novoa, who lined a hard single to left to bring in Hernandez and Jenkins to tie the game. On the play, Delmarva missed a chance for an out as when the throw from left fielder Zach Jarrett skipped away past home, Novoa was caught between first and second as Aparicio remained at second on the overthrow. A throw to first from Hayes, who had backed up the play, was in plenty of time to get Novoa, but Ripken never turned to apply the tag as Novoa sneaked by.

With Huff at the plate, a wild pitch by Hayes skipped away from the catcher Carrillo. With the runners taking off, Novoa was caught in a rundown on his way to second. Though he was tagged out after the fourth throw of the play, Novoa stayed in the rundown long enough to allow Aparicio to sprint from second to home to score the winning run.

 

Novoa’s day: The 21-year-old returned behind the plate for the first time since taking a pitch off the right knee in a game against Greensboro on Wednesday. He certainly played a big part of the outcome on Sunday in the batter’s box and defensively.

Novoa went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a walk. (The one out was a hard liner to short.) He had two of the four hits allowed by Hall, including a run-scoring hit in the third.

“He’s a good pitcher,” said Novoa. “But when I go up to home plate and I make good contact I can have a good moment. I want to help my team for at bat and every pitch. It was a good moment for the team and we want it to continue.”

Novoa threw out McCoy attempting to steal in the fifth, the fifth runner nailed out of six trying to steal this season. Manager Matt Hagen said that Novoa blocked seven balls in the dirt as well.

On the game’s final play, Novoa said, “When I got into the rundown, I think I was able to cause some confusion and Miguel was able to score and win the game. “

Crawdads Bats Heat up: Have a Legendary Night

Winter-like weather here on the east coast has held some plants at a dormant stage in this area. The Hickory Crawdads bats could be included on that list much of the early season.

With more seasonal temperatures last night, the Crawdads bats stirred and had their biggest scoring output in eight seasons at L.P. Frans Stadium as they overwhelmed the Lexington (Ky.) Legends 18-6.

The 18 runs were the most scored by the Crawdads at home since putting up 18 against Lexington on June 6, 2010. Overall, it was the most runs since scoring 19 in a road win at Lexington on August 4, 2016.

Eight of the nine players scored, seven coming across the plate at least twice. Hickory collected 14 hits – eight for extra bases – walked six times and were hit by four pitches.

Melvin Novoa led the way with three extra-base hits (a homer and two doubles), four runs scored and three RBI. Along with Novoa, Eric Jenkins and Yohel Pozo each hit their first homers of the season.

After the Crawdads put up four in the first, they put the game away with nine in the third. Miguel Aparicio’s three-run triple and Novoa’s two-run blast were among the highlights.

The Legends cut their deficit to 13-6 after bringing in four in the sixth. However, the Crawdads answered with four of their own to squelch any hopes of a comeback. Jenkins’s three-run triple was the big hit of that inning.

Tyree Thompson (1-1) was the beneficiary on the mound for Hickory. The right-hander gave up five runs (two earned) on five hits over 5.2 innings with two strikeouts. Jean Casanova threw two scoreless innings of relief and Sal Mendez struck out two during a scoreless ninth.

Thoughts:

***I wanted to write a little bit about Eric Jenkins on Saturday, but time constraints worked against me there. I’m certain the Rangers would like to see the youngster finally put together the natural tools he has and take a step forward in 2018. Contact can still be an issue (15 Ks in 47 PAs), but, at least to me, it seems on this home stand that he is willing to battle more rather than give up ABs. The 21-year-old is in the midst of a mini five-game hit streak and has multi-hit games the last three.

The game that got my attention was Saturday’s contest at West Virginia. After taking off Friday following a three-K effort the night before, Jenkins had one of those games were his natural ability stood out. He just missed reaching on a bunt in the first. One inning later, he turned on a 0-2 offering and ripped it into the corner for a two-run triple. In the third, a bunt single plus a steal of second. In the fifth, a walk and a steal of second. Defensively, he made arguably his best catch of the three seasons with Hickory, a leaping catch in left to rob Dylan Busby of a homer.

Eric Jenkins HR rob

With a plethora of center fielders in the Texas Rangers system, Jenkins, who was the Crawdads starter at that position in 2016, has been taken out of the conversation for now. But if he puts together those natural tools of speed and occasional power, the mentions of him by others could return.

Power Cruzing: West Virginia takes early lead, evens series

In similar circumstances to game one of the series, the West Virginia Power took advantage of an error in the first to score three times and never trailed during a 6-4 win over the Hickory Crawdads in front of 2,925 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium Friday night.

The Power (4-5) snapped a three-game losing streak with the win and evened the series with the Crawdads (1-7).

In game one of the series Thursday, the Crawdads used a first-inning error to score four unearned runs on the way to a 6-2 win. On Friday, the roles were reversed.

After Crawdads starter Jean Casanova (0-1) retired the first two batters in the first, Dylan Busby hit a high pop-up near home plate. Catcher Sam Huff settled under the ball, which carried to the fair side of home plate and ticked off the glove for the error. The Power made Hickory pay with a double by Mason Martin and a three-run homer by Oneil Cruz.

Miguel Aparicio cut the deficit to 3-1 with his first homer of the season, a high drive off the top row of billboards in right. Ryan Dorow added his first blast of the season in the second.

The Power regained their initial three-run lead in the third. Cruz walked and Kyle Watson reached on an infield hit that chased Casanova. Sal Mendez entered and recorded two straight grounders, the second by Ryan Peurifoy scored Cruz. Chris Sharpe blooped a single into short right to bring in Watson and the Power led 5-2.

From there, the Crawdads threatened several times with runners scoring position in five of the last seven innings. Melvin Nova singled and scored on Tyler Ratliff’s double to get Hickory back within 5-3. However, Yohel Pozo grounded to third and Gavin Wallace fanned Huff to strand the runner.

Dorow doubled with one out in the fourth, but never advanced. Pozo double to start the sixth, but he, too, never moved.

Cruz’s second homer of the night in the seventh pushed the Power ahead 6-3 before Pedro Gonzalez tripled and scored to create what turned out to be the final margin.

The Crawdads loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but reliever Evan Piechota struck out Gonzalez to end the attempted rally.

Piechota then worked around a two-out single in the ninth to record the three-inning save (1).

Wallace got the win (1-0) with six innings of work during which he gave up three runs on eight hits.

 

Thoughts:

***This felt like a game that Hickory would win. The Power stranded seven over the first four innings and the Crawdads responded each time West Virginia scored. However, the inability by Hickory to capitalize on presented opportunities ultimately doomed the team. The Crawdads went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position for the game and left 10. Through 7 games with RISP, the team is at .190/.239/.206. It feels like the pitcher has the advantage rather than the other way around.

***First home appearance for Alex Speas and it looked sharp. Cruz touched him for the second homer, but the pitch appeared to be a fastball that was down and away. Cruz lined it opposite field, down the line in left. Otherwise, Speas brought a live fastball (sorry, no speed gun readings) with a change and breaking ball (looked like a slider) that kept hitters honest. He fanned four of the last five swinging.

***Wallace didn’t appear to have his best stuff. Was told by the Power radio guy that keeping his sinker down was the key to his success. Wallace left a good bit up that Hickory hit hard. But Wallace mixed in the secondaries well until he could find the touch on the sinker and he went on to record nine groundball outs. While fastball command wasn’t there, the control was as he issued no walks. He seemed poised when in troubled and never panicked. After the Power pulled their starter after the first on Thursday, Wallace’s outing was a balm to the Power’s staff.

***Casanova should have been out of the first with just six pitches, but the error started a chain of events from which he never recovered. Like Wallace, he also had command issues with the fastball and it was punished. One wonders what his evening would be like had the error not happened. However, he seemed to panic and was never the same.

***The first “Wow” moment for me this season was Gonzalez’s triple in the seventh. He took a Piechota offering and lined it hard into open grass down into the right field corner. Gonzalez was in full stride between first and second… and then accelerated. It was another gear!