A battle between the first place teams in both the Northern and Southern Divisions of the South Atlantic League ended up as a one-sided affair, as the Hickory Crawdads fell to the visiting Savannah Sand Gnats 8-2 Sunday night to give the 'Gnats the 3-game series sweep.
Coming into the weekend the 'Dads had either won or split 14 consecutive series while posting a 40-11 record dating back to May 10th. The powerhouse Sand Gnats emerged victorious in all three games of the series however, improving Savannah's minor league best record this season to 58-26.
For the third straight night it was the 'Gnats who jumped out to an early lead, with Savannah scoring once in the 3rd and three more times in the 5th off of Hickory starting pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez for a 4-0 score. The 'Dads responded with a run in the 6th on a RBI single by Joe Jackson to cut the deficit to 4-1.
The Sand Gnats pushed the lead back out to five when they plated a single tally in the top of the 7th, but the Crawdads answered right back with a RBI single by Evan Van Hooiser to make the score 5-2. The 'Dads appeared poised to rally for more in the frame, but Michael De Leon grounded into an inning-ending double play to squelch the frame.
Savannah put the final runs on the board in the top of the 9th, scoring three times on three hits and two walks against Hickory reliever Josh McElwee for the final 8-2 score.
Rodriguez (5-3) took the loss for the Crawdads with four runs allowed on eight hits, no walks, and four strikeouts over five innings pitched. Savannah starter Robert Gsellman (7-3) earned the win with two runs given up on seven hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts over 6.1 frames.
Ronald Guzman led the Hickory offense in the defeat, going 2-3 with a walk and a run scored. Jackson finished the night 1-3 with a RBI and a hit-by-pitch, while Van Hoosier went 1-4 with a RBI.
The Crawdads (13-5) remain atop their division despite the loss, while the Sand Gnats (14-4) have now won 10-straight games. The 'Dads will look to jump back in the win column on Monday when they host the Lexington Legends for game one of a three-game series at 7:00 pm.
Mint Hill: 7
Caldwell County: 4
Series tied 2-2. The deciding game five will be played Sunday at Mint Hill.
The Hickory Crawdads found themselves in a late inning situation with a chance to take the lead vs. the Savannah Sand Gnats for the second straight night Saturday, but for the second straight night the 'Dads came up just short resulting in a 2-1 loss to the 'Gnats at L.P. Frans Stadium.
Trailing by a run in the bottom of the 8th, Hickory got consecutive singles by Janluis Castro and Evan Van Hoosier to put the tying and go-ahead runs on base with nobody out. Following a failed bunt attempt by Luis Marte that resulted in the first out of the frame and the ejection of 'Dads interim manager Casey Candaele, Ryan Cordell came through with an infield hit to load the bases with only one out for the Crawdads leading RBI man Nomar Mazara. Savannah turned to left-handed reliever Paul Paez to face the 'Dads lefty slugger, with the lefty-lefty win going to the pitcher as Mazara grounded into an inning-ending double play to squelch the rally.
Offense was at a premium for both clubs throughout the game, with Savannah being held to two runs on 10 hits, eight singles, while Hickory produced their lone run on seven hits, six of them singles. DH Matt Oberste paced the Sand Gnats offense for the second straight night with a 2-3 game that included a double, walk, and run scored. Cordell (3-4, 2B, RBI) and Van Hosier (3-4, R) single handedly tried to carry the 'Dads bats, with the tandem collecting six of the Crawdads seven hits.
The 'Gnats took the lead in the 2nd inning, when Oberste produced one of his team's two extra base hits with a double to left off of 'Dads starting pitcher Anyelo Leclerc. Two batters later, Jorge Rivero singled to right to plate Oberste for a 1-0 score. Savannah doubled their lead to 2-0 with their other extra base hit in the 5th, this time with shortstop Yeixon Ruiz lining a solo home run to right for his first long ball of the season.
The Crawdads broke up the shutout in the 6th against Savannah starter Dario Alvarez when Van Hoosier reached on an infield single to start the frame before Cordell drove him in with a RBI single to make the score 2-1. The 'Dads threatened in the 8th before coming up empty in the frame and going down in order in the 9th against Sand Gnats All-Star close Akeel Morris for the final 2-1 score.
Alvarez (6-0) earned the win for the 'Gnats with one run allowed on three hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts over 5.1 innings pitched. Leclerc (1-2) was the hard luck loser for the 'Dads with only two runs allowed on seven hits, one walk, and six punch outs during his five innings on the mound. Morris (8) earned the save for the second straight night after striking out the side in the 9th.
The loss guarantees the Crawdads (13-4) a series loss for the first time since being swept by Hagerstown in the first week of May. The 'Dads will look to hop back in the win column and salvage their series with the Sand Gnats (13-4) in the third and final game Sunday night at 5:00 pm.
Caldwell County: 14
Mint Hill: 10
Caldwell County Post 29 leads the series 2-1. The best of five series continues Saturday with game four at MS Deal Stadium in Granite Falls.
Alexander County: 5
Hickory Post 48 wins the series 3-1. Post 48 advances to the quarterfinals to take on Asheville in a best of five series beginning Sunday.
The Hickory Crawdads made a valiant attempt at a major comeback Friday night with a 4-run rally in the 8th, but ultimately the 'Dads bats came up just short in a 9-7 loss to the Savannah Sand Gnats in front of a 4th of July crowd of 4,793 fans at L.P. Frans Stadium.
An 8-1 deficit through four innings threatened to turn the battle of first place teams into a one sided affair, but the never-say-die-'Dads plated two in the sixth and four in the 8th to put the tying run on second with nobody out. The Sand Gnats were able to escape the inning however and hold on for the win, as 'Gnats All-Star closer Akeel Morris left the tying man on base in the 8th and shut down the Crawdads in the 9th to end the game at 9-7.
Joe Jackson and Travis Demeritte helped ignite the Hickory rally with both batters going 2-5 with a solo home run, while Ryan Cordell ended the game 1-4 with a double, two RBIs and a walk. Jairo Beras also posted a multi-hit game, going 2-5 to extend his hit streak to eight games.
The first four frames of the game belonged to Savannah, as the Sand Gnats built their early 8-1 lead off of Crawdads starter Tyler Smith with three runs in the 1st and two in the 2nd, before plating three more tallies on Smith and Felix Carvallo in the 4th. The 'Dads defense didn't help matters, with four team errors in the first four innings resulting in an unearned run. The lone Hickory tally over that stretch occurred in the 2nd, when Demeritte singled and eventually scored on an error by 'Gnats shortstop Yeixon Ruiz.
Down but not out, the Crawdads bullpen trio of Carvallo, Kevin Pucetas, and Jose Valdespina combined to keep the 'Dads in the game with 5.2 solid innings of relief that included two runs allowed on two hits. With the Savannah offense held at bay, Hickory got back in the game with a pair of solo home runs by Jackson (4) and Demeritte (17) in the 6th to cut the score to 8-3.
The rally continued two innings later in the 8th, when the first five Crawdads batters reached base and scored four runs to pull the 'Dads within a run with an 8-7 score. A combination of a walk to Kellin Deglan, singles from Jairo Beras and Ronald Guzman, a pair of run-scoring wild pitches by Sand Gnats reliever Bret Mitchell, and another single from Luis Marte brought in the first two runs, while Cordell delivered the major blow with a 2-RBI double to left.
The comeback stalled there however, as Mitchell induced popups from Michael De Leon and Jackson before a diving stop by Savannah second baseman Jonathan Johnson took a game tying hit away from Nomar Mazara and ended the threat. The 'Gnats scored one last run in the top of the 9th for the game's final 9-7 score.
Smith (4-2) took the loss for the Crawdads with seven runs allowed, six earned, on 10 hits over his 4.1 innings pitched. Savannah starter Ricky Knapp (3-5) earned the win after allowing three runs, two earned, on six hits during his 5.2 innings on the mound. Morris earned his seventh save of the year after recording the final four outs of the game.
The Crawdads (13-3) will try to bounce back and snap the Sand Gnats (12-4) eight-game winning streak in game two of the three game series Saturday night at 7:00 pm.
The Texas Rangers announced that Hickory Crawdads center fielder Lewis Brinson has been promoted to the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans, becoming the fourth 'Dad this season to move up in the Rangers organization.
Replacing Brinson on the Crawdads active roster is infielder Nick Urbanus from the Arizona League. Urbanus played 23 games with the 'Dads earlier this season, batting .181 with five doubles and five RBIs before going on the disabled list on May 13th. Urbanus also spent time in Hickory in both 2013 and 2012.
Brinson, 20, had been on fire for the Crawdads in the 2nd half, batting .439 with seven home runs and 12 RBIs in 11 games played since the All-Star break. A first round selection by the Rangers in the 2012 Draft, Brinson missed more than five weeks of the season due to injuries, but compiled a .335 average with 10 homers, 28 RBIs, and seven stolen bases in his 43 games played. Brinson was also a member of the record breaking 2013 Crawdads, where he became the first 'Dad in team history to finish with a 20/20 season after hitting 21 home runs and stealing 24 bases.
Brinson joins fellow 2014 Crawdads Nick Vickerson, Abel De Los Santos, and Kevin Torres on the Pelicans roster.
The Hickory Crawdads combined solid pitching and two more home runs for yet another victory Thursday night, as the 'Dads defeated the West Virginia Power 6-1 at Appalachian Power Park to complete the three-game series sweep.
The sweep pushed the Crawdads current winning streak to seven straight games while also improving the 'Dads South Atlantic League-best record to 13-2. The two Hickory homers by Ryan Cordell and Jairo Beras gave the Crawdads at least one long ball in 11-consecutive contests, and raised the team's SAL-leading total to 83 for the year.
Prior to the home runs the 'Dads took advantage of a dropped pop up by West Virginia All-Star second baseman Erich Weiss in the 3rd to score a pair of unearned runs and take a 2-0 lead. Michael De Leon started the rally with a one-out walk, followed two batters later by a popup into shallow right field by Nomar Mazara. The would-be final out instead fell behind Weiss and allowed De Leon to score all the way from first. Lewis Brinson followed next with a RBI single to right to plate Mazara for the inning's second run.
The score held all the way until the 7th, when Cordell led off the frame with a line drive, solo shot down the left field line for his eighth homer of the year and a 3-0 Hickory advantage. The Power finally got on board in the bottom of the frame when Reese McGuire's infield, RBI single snapped a 14 innings scoreless drought for the Power and made the score 3-1, but the 'Dads put the nail in the coffin in the 9th when Beras crushed a 3-run home run to left for the final 6-1 score.
Cordell finished the game 2-5 with a homer, while Beras went 1-3 with his 4th big fly of the year. Travis Demeritte also had a big night in his first game played since June 27th, going 1-1 with three walks and a hit-by-pitch.
The offensive support was more than enough for Hickory starting pitcher Akeem Bostick (5-3) who earned the win after shutting out the Power on three hits, two walks, and four strikeouts over five innings pitched. West Virginia starter Dovydas Neverauskas (4-7) took the loss after allowing two unearned runs on three hits, five walks, the three strikeouts over four frames on the mound.
The Crawdads will now return home to take on the Savannah Sand Gnats in a 4th of July battle between the SAL's two first place teams. First pitch Friday night is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
Mint Hill, ppd. lightning
The series is tied 1-1. Game three of the best of five series is Friday at Independnce High School in Charlotte.
Alexander County: 1
Hickory Post 48 leads the series 2-1. Game four of the best of five series is Friday at Henkel Alley Field.
Burke County: 1
Shelby Post 82 wins the series 3-0.
Appalachian State University softball picked up more accolades with four student-athletes earning North Carolina Collegiate Sports Information Association (NCCSIA) University Division all-state honors.
The Mountaineers garnered the second-most first-team honorees with two, while also posting two second-team honorees.
Junior outfielder Dani Heichen (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Pembroke Pines Charter) and junior second baseman Cynthia Gomez (Oxnard, Calif./Pacifica) were both honored as first-team selections.
Junior pitcher Alissa Schoelkopf (Sewell, N.J./Washington Township) and freshman shortstop Cara Parker (Lake Park, Ga./Lowndes) both earned second-team honors.
Heichen had a career year during the 2014 season and was selected as a Southern Conference first-team outfielder. She finished with career-highs in batting average (.333), total bases (51), slugging percentage (.347), on-base percentage (.368) and stolen bases (18). The 18 stolen bases gives her 48 for her career and places her eighth all-time in program history.
The Pembroke Pines, Fla. native, also reaped SoCon Player of the Week honors on April 14th after a week in which she batted .650, while finishing 13-for-20 at the plate. Heichen led the Mountaineers in average during league play. The junior outfielder also carried a 17-game hitting streak into the SoCon tournament – the longest hit streak in program history, which dates back to 2001.
Gomez also finished with a career-high in batting with a .328 average. The Oxnard, Calif. native drove in 11 runs – including her first career home run against Georgia Southern on April 6th. Gomez hit .367 in conference play, which contributed to 12 multi-hit games and seven stolen bases.
Schoelkopf helped pace the pitching staff for the Mountaineers in 2014 while contributing almost a strikeout per inning ratio. The Sewell, N.J. native, pitched 97 innings and struck out 95 batters in 26 appearances. The 95 strikeouts place Schoelkopf fifth on the all-time strikeout list with 253 in two seasons as a Mountaineer. Schoelkopf made 16 starts and finished the year with a 3.68 earned-run average.
Parker garnered all-freshman team honors from the SoCon after one of the best seasons from a freshman in program history. Parker finished the regular season with a team-high 10 homers, 29 RBIs, 28 runs, .659 slugging percentage and 19 walks all while hitting .326 at the plate.
The Hickory Crawdads hitched their wagon to the long ball Wednesday night and rode it all the way to yet another 2nd half victory, as the 'Dads clubbed five solo home runs in a 5-1 win over the West Virginia Power at Appalachian Power Park.
The five homer performance marked the most long balls hit in a single game by the Crawdads this season, and pushed the 'Dads South Atlantic League-leading dinger total to 81 for the year. Both Lewis Brinson (10) and Nomar Mazara (12) went deep twice in the contest, while Ryan Cordell (7) chipped in with a solo shot as well. The Crawdads have now clubbed a home run in 10 straight games, sending 21 total big flies out of the yard during that stretch.
It was the Power who struck first in the game however, as West Virginia scrapped across a run in the 1st inning off of Crawdads starting pitcher Cole Wiper for a 1-0 lead. The inning could have been much worse for the 'Dads, but Wiper was able to minimize the damage by stranding the bases loaded.
The top of the 2nd inning brought the first of the Hickory homers, as Mazara and Brinson went deep in consecutive at-bats against West Virginia starter Buddy Borden to put the Crawdads ahead 2-1. Mazara's big fly sailed well past the right field wall and on to the adjacent street, while Brinson's prodigious blast flew over the video board and clock in left-center field.
The lead grew to 3-1 in the 4th when Brinson connected off of Borden again, this time sending another solo blast off the video board in left-center. Fast forward to the top of the 6th, and the 'Dads connected on back-to-back homers for the second time when Cordell and Mazara crushed the first two pitches from Power reliever Shane Carle over the fence to give Hickory a 5-1 lead.
The Crawdads bullpen would take it from there, as Ryne Slack and Jose Monegro combined to shutout West Virginia on just one hit and five strikeouts over the final five innings of the game. Slack (6-1) earned the win for the 'Dads with three scoreless frames out of the bullpen. Borden (3-6) took the loss for the Power after giving up three runs on five hits, no walks, and eight strikeouts over five innings pitched.
Both Mazara and Brinson finished the game 2-4 with two solo home runs, while Cordell ended the night 1-4 with his big fly. Luis Marte led the non-homer portion of the Hickory offense, going 3-4 with three singles.
The Crawdads (12-2) have now won six straight while jumping out to the best 2nd half record in the SAL. The 'Dads will go for the 3-game sweep over the Power (8-6) Thursday night, with first pitch scheduled for 6:05 pm.