Hickory lefty faces the minimum through 6 shutout innings
By Aaron Cox
Hickory, NC - The Hickory Crawdads received a stellar pitching performance from left-hander Yohander Mendez Friday night, as the Venezuela native tossed six shutout innings while striking out 10 to lead the 'Dads to a 7-2 win over the Asheville Tourists at McCormick Field.
Mendez was perfect through the first four innings of the game, with the southpaw fanning eight of the first 12 batters he faced while not allowing a single Asheville base runner. It wasn't until one out in the 5th when the Tourists finally broke up the perfecto with an infield single from first baseman Correlle Prime. Undaunted, Mendez promptly turned a double play to escape the inning before erasing another one-out single in the 6th with a twin killing to finish his six shutout frames by facing the minimum of 18 Asheville batters.
The six innings pitched and 10 Ks are both season highs for a Crawdads starter, with the strikeout total also serving as a career high for the 19-year-old Mendez.
The Crawdads offense made sure to give their dominant starter plenty of offense support, as the 'Dads struck for one run in the first and five tallies in the 6th to jump out to a 6-0 lead. The first inning run came as a result of four Hickory hits in the frame, culminating in an RBI single by Nick Vickerson that scored Nick Urbanus for a 1-0 lead.
Jump ahead to the third, and the 'Dads took a page out of Thursday night's script when they took advantage of two Asheville errors to score three unearned runs and five total runs for a 6-0 lead. The big blast in the frame came from right fielder Nomar Mazra who drove in a pair of runs with his double to left. Lewis Brinson and Jairo Beras also each brought in a run in the breakout frame.
That was more than enough support for Mendez and the Crawdads bullpen. The Tourists would finally get on the board with single runs in the 7th and 8th off of Hickory reliever Collin Wiles, but 'Dads first baseman Kevin Torres capped the scoring in the 9th with a solo homer to right for the final 7-2 mark.
The Crawdads finished the game with seven runs on nine total hits, the most the 'Dads have scored in a game since their 7-3 win in Greensboro on April 5th. All nine Hickory batters reached base at least once in the contest, led by Beras who went 2-4 with an RBI. Torres finished the night 1-4 with a solo homer, Mazara went 1-4 with a double and two RBIs, and Vickerson ended the game 1-3 with an RBI, a walk and a run scored.
Mendez (2-0) earned the win with his overpowering performance while Asheville starter Alex Balog (1-2) took the loss after allowing six runs, three earned, on seven hits during his 6 innings pitched.
With the win the Crawdads (8-8) have taken the first two games in their 3-game series against the Tourists (8-8). The 'Dads will go for the series sweep Saturday, with a 6:05 pm first pitch.