Results tagged ‘ Jonas Dufek ’

Notebook: Busting slumps

Entering last night, the ValleyCats had scored eight runs in their last five games. Five games, spanning 135 outs.  On Thursday, they matched that total with only one out, as the first eight runners reached base and scored.

Entering last night, it had been more than a week since a ValleyCat drove in a teammate with a base hit. On Thursday, three ‘Cats did so in the first inning, and Matt Duffy did it again with one out in the second.

So, what happened? Why the offense?

Beyond the usual explanations of baseball being a funny game, you can look to the opposing starter for some clues. Stetson Allie entered the season as arguably the best major-league prospect in the NYPL, but he hasn’t shown it this year. The righty, who has thrown 100 mph in the past, was only around 91-93 last night, reportedly in line with his other outings this season.

Allie paired his diminished stuff with horrible command, not a good combination for a pitcher. After he got ahead 0-2 on John Hinson, Allie threw only six of his final 19 pitches for strikes, allowing a clean double to Hinson on a full count and eventually hitting consecutive batters with the bases loaded. With the ‘Cats up 2-1 and the bases loaded, Allie left the game without an out to his credit.

Manager Stubby Clapp said after the game that Allie’s wildness helped the hosts’ hitters beyond the results in the box score.

“He wasn’t really around the zone, and it gave our guys a chance to settle in and see some pitches before they needed to hit,” he said. “When pitchers attack the zone real quick, it puts the guys in swing mode, and sometimes they’re not swinging at good pitches.”

A lineup that has struggled to bring teammates home this season had no such trouble in that first inning, as the bottom of the order greeted Vince Payne with four consecutive singles. Duffy, a first-pitch line drive into left to plate two; Drew Muren, a perfectly-placed bunt single dropped down the line; Kellen Kiilsgaard, a clean line drive into left field that scored two, his first hit in nearly two weeks; and Neiko Johnson, a soft flare off the end of his bat that found green behind the first baseman, scoring Muren. Hinson, batting a second time, capped the rally with a sacrifice fly, the first of 24 outs that the Spikes needed.

Duffy floated a double into the right-field corner with one out in the second inning, scoring Brandon Meredith all the way from first with the Cats’ ninth and final run.

Will this break the ‘Cats out of their slump? Stubby wasn’t sure. “We’ll find out tomorrow,” he said. “One day’s good; let’s see if we can get it two days in a row.”

Some other notes:

-Neiko Johnson was 2-for-4 with a stolen base – he’s 11-for-13 in that department, incidentally, the only ValleyCat to steal many bases at a high rate – but may have been more impressive in the field. Playing shortstop for the first time in three weeks, Johnson was not only errorless in five chances, he made two highlight-reel plays. With two on and nobody out in the second inning, Kirk Singer hit a hard smash up the middle; Johnson dove to his left, snared the ball and flipped with his glove to Hinson, a spectacular force that nearly became a double play (pictured below). He went to the dirt for another ball to his left in the sixth inning, helping Travis Smink get out of a jam.

“It was a pretty tough play…it kind of skidded off the mound,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I was going to get there, but I did, and I just made a good flip to Hinson.”

Johnson is penciled back into the lineup at shortstop tonight. Jacke Healey had a Web Gem on Wednesday, getting a good jump on a grounder up the middle, diving to his left and adjusting to a rough hop on the fly before throwing the runner out at first.

-Jonas Dufek had another sharp outing on Wednesday, getting hung with a tough loss. He struck out a season-high five batters, throwing his curveball more often than usual to go with his usually sharp two-seamer. Both runs came in the second inning on a walk, two seeing-eye grounders and a wild pitch.

-Dayan Diaz was electric as always on Thursday, picking up Quezada in the second inning and pitching into the sixth. He was 93-94 with his fastball, blowing it by several hitters and getting a couple of his seven strikeouts with the occasional secondary pitch. Diaz is now tied for second in the league with four wins and has fanned 37 batters in 26 innings, the third-best K rate among relievers.

We hope to be back at it tonight for the rubber match; the forecast is not ideal but the tarp is off now and there’s a spot of sunlight. As always, listen live on tcvalleycats.com and follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the game.

Kevin Whitaker

Game Story: Tigers Sweep ‘Cats in Doubleheader

The ‘Cats fell to 3-11 on the road in last night’s doubleheader sweep at the hands of Connecticut. Tri-City’s averaging just over three runs per game in the 14 road games so far this season. That’s especially discouraging considering the ValleyCats averaged almost seven runs per game in the most recent five game homestand.

Perhaps it was just a worn out team coming off the 4:40 game Tuesday, and Connecticut was just a tad better.

Manager Stubby Clapp put it simply before the team got off the bus last night, “There’s still a lot of baseball left on this road trip”.

He’s right.

Matt Appel and I will be back on the broadcast tonight from Norwich in the final meeting of the season between Connecticut and Tri-City. We’ll start the pregame show at 6:50, first pitch is set for 7:05. Euris Quezada goes for the ‘Cats, coming off his first win of the season. Below is last night’s game story.

Tigers Sweep ‘Cats in Doubleheader

NORWICH, Conn. — After it took four hours and 40 minutes to play one 13-inning game at ‘The Joe’ yesterday afternoon, Tri-City and Connecticut completed a doubleheader in just three hours and 27 minutes.

In total, it was just over eight hours to forget for the ValleyCats.

Tri-City fell in both games of Thursday’s doubleheader 4-2 and 3-2 and dropped to 13-20 on the season.

In game one, right-handed starter Jonas Dufek was spotted a 2-0 lead in the second but had his scoreless streak snapped at 21.1 innings when the Tigers touched him up for three runs on four hits in the second inning.

Second baseman John Hinson was the only ValleyCat to record a multi-hit game. The ‘Cats got the potential tying run to the plate in the seventh, but Miles Hamblin lined into a double play, ending any threat.

(Game One Box)

In game two, the ‘Cats fell 3-2 despite another solid pitching performance by lefty Kyle Hallock. The southpaw tossed five innings and allowed three runs, two earned, on six hits, three of them infield singles.

Designated hitter Jason King delivered the game-winning blow in a 1-1 game in the 5th inning. With two on and one out, King roped a two-run double down the left field line.

The ‘Cats managed to get one run back in the sixth on a Matt Duffy infield RBI single.

Trailing by one in the seventh, Zach Johnson struck out looking with the tying and go-ahead runs on base.

(Game Two Box)

With the two losses, Tri-City falls to four games out of first place. The ValleyCats face the Tigers for the final time of the regular season Friday night at 7:05 before heading to Staten Island for a three game series with the Yankees.

Erik Elken

Notebook: Quality starts

Despite a blowout loss last night, the ValleyCats’ home series against the league-leading Staten Island Yankees ended about as well as they could have expected: with two victories in three games. The biggest reason was starting pitching, as Jonas Dufek and Euris Quezada combined for 11.1 innings of one-run ball in the wins.

For Dufek, this was nothing new: with six scoreless innings on Saturday, the righty has not allowed a run in 20.1 frames, the last 18 of which have come in three wins at home. This most recent start was his best yet; in six innings against one of the league’s best offenses, Dufek allowed just two walks and two hits – both grounders, one of which stayed in the infield. In past starts, Dufek had been working in and out of frequent jams, but on Saturday he was just great.

In particular, Dufek worked out of the zone frequently, getting a lot of swings and misses. The Yankees rank near the bottom of the league in walk rate; Dufek said after the game that he knew they were going to be aggressive, and he exploited it well.

The more surprising start came from Euris Quezada 22 hours later. Up to that point, Quezada had not put together any particularly good outings; in his first five starts, he never recorded more than 12 outs and never allowed fewer than three runs.

But Quezada came out looking very sharp in the first inning on Sunday, and maintained that performance until hitting a bit of a wall with two outs in the sixth. Quezada had a tick more velocity than usual, up in the 91-93 range. But most of his damage was done with the slider, which probably accounted for more than half of his 62 pitches. The 83-84 mph offering, usually thrown over the inner half to righties, generated four or five of his strikeouts and allowed Quezada to retire 11 straight hitters during his second time through the order.

Quezada lowered his ERA nearly two runs to 7.04.

Some other notes from the weekend:

-John Hinson made a great play in the third inning of Saturday’s game, leaping to grab a high line drive and doubling off Jhorge Liccien by inches at first. He also turned a fantastic double play in the ninth inning on Monday, making a lightning-fast exchange to get Shane Brown by half a step at first.

-The ValleyCats’ outfield defense was on display again on Sunday. Neiko Johnson took a couple games to get readjusted to the outfield, but he made a great read to come in on a low line drive by Mason Williams. Three innings later, Justin Gominsky robbed Williams of an extra-base hit, flying all the way from the third-base side of center to the right-field gap to run down a high fly ball.

-Stubby Clapp put nine righties in the lineup against southpaw Evan DeLuca, who came in with the league’s fourth-best ERA. It worked out well, as the ‘Cats racked up 12 hits in the game, including five off DeLuca and two when the Yankees followed with a left-handed reliever.

-The Cats’ outburst on Sunday could have been even greater – they scored eight runs in eight innings despite having three runners caught stealing.

-Brandon Meredith has such sneaky speed. He absolutely flies from first to third, and then you look at him (6’2”, 225 lbs.) and you just think, how did he do that? He hit a gapper to right-center in the sixth inning of Sunday’s game and Stubby held up a stop sign as he headed towards second; Meredith never slowed down and slid into third without a throw for his third triple of the season.

-Though his final line was ugly, Dayan Diaz looked great on Monday. He retired the first six batters he faced in order, striking out four with even more electric stuff than usual. His fastball, usually at 95, ticked up to 96 a couple times and even hit 97 in a big spot, going up the ladder to strike out Mason Williams with the bases loaded in the sixth.

Diaz’s fastball isn’t just fast, it has some life too, most noticeably when it ran back to the inside corner to send the left-handed Williams down looking in the fourth. I wouldn’t worry too much about the rocky sixth inning; he’s thrown three innings without faltering before, and with a reliever’s frame and a reliever’s arsenal, he’s likely to have shorter and shorter outings as he climbs the professional ladder.

-Tip for any Yankees fans that read this: former first-round draft pick Cito Culver can’t hit from the left side. I’m far from the first person to say this, but his swing there is not pretty and the numbers have backed it up – he’s 19-for-113 (.168) from the left side in the NYPL in the last two years. Manager Stubby Clapp said after the game that he left a tiring Diaz in to face Culver in the sixth because he wanted to keep Culver on that side (which worked out okay for the Yankees, as Diaz issued a seven-pitch RBI walk). On the flip side, he can mash lefties (20-for-45), as Adam Champion found out when he gave up a double to the center-field wall in the first inning.

Division rival Connecticut is in town tonight and 11 a.m. tomorrow. Listen to the game live, as usual.

Kevin Whitaker

What have we learned?

The season is 30 percent complete, and the team is coming off its first official off day. So let’s step back a bit and take a look at what we’ve learned about this year’s ValleyCats so far:

The starting rotation is good. Euris Quezada has not had the best start to the season, going 0-3 with an 8.83 ERA, but the other four-fifths of the rotation has been anywhere from good to excellent. Juri Perez has the highest ERA of the four at 3.55, and this doesn’t feel unsustainable – all four of these pitchers have the stuff and command to be very good at this level. If the ‘Cats can get the fifth spot figured out, it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see this rotation go on a run like the 2010 team did last August, when all five starters had an ERA below three for the entire month. Now that players have had a few starts under their belt, Tri-City and other teams will be more willing to let their starters go into the sixth and seventh innings, which will magnify the Cats’ starting pitching advantage.

The star of the rotation so far has been Kyle Hallock, who has completed at least five innings in every start and has yet to allow more than two earned runs. Anytime you’re among the league leaders in K/9 and BB/9, as Hallock is entering tonight’s start at Batavia, you’re doing something right. The southpaw has 25 strikeouts against two walks, the best such ratio in the league so far, and ranks fourth with a 0.78 WHIP.

If there’s one candidate for regression among the Cats’ top four starters, it may be Jonas Dufek. Check out these splits: with nobody on base, opponents are hitting .410/.500/.645 off Dufek. But with men on, he becomes “Jonasty,” holding hitters to a .158/.200/.211 line. And with men in scoring position? .114/.184/.200. In a nutshell, Dufek has allowed lots of runners to reach base but has pitched extremely well under pressure. That’s great to see from a mental standpoint, but it’s not likely to be sustainable over a full season – if runners keep reaching base, hitters will eventually get lucky and have bloopers or line drives fall in critical situations, and runs will score. (Of course, leadoff batters aren’t likely to keep getting on base 64 percent of the time either, so it all may even out.)

DIPS likes the pitching staff even more. The ‘Cats have done well in all of the “three true outcome” categories – the team ranks fifth in strikeout rate (K/9), fourth in walk rate and fourth in home run rate allowed. Though they rank sixth in ERA, I have them third in the league in FIP (Fielding-Independent Pitching). The difference can be explained by a .323 batting average on balls in play, the third-highest in the NYPL.

Now, a major caveat here: when discussing major-league pitchers, BABIP has been shown to have very little predictive value for pitchers – that is, what happens to a ball in play is mostly due to factors that are outside the pitcher’s control. This is not necessarily true for minor-league pitchers. Minor-league players – especially at a low level such as the NY-Penn League – are very different than major-league pitchers, and it would be reasonable to think that some minor-league pitchers consistently throw pitches that are more likely to go for base hits. (These pitchers would usually be weeded out before reaching the majors.)

In short: while the strong fielding-independent statistics and the high BABIP do suggest that the pitchers have been unlucky (and/or that the defense behind them has been poor), the evidence for that is not as strong as similar major-league numbers would be.

The offense needs improvement. This isn’t as clear-cut as you might expect: the ‘Cats actually rank eighth in the league with 4.43 runs per game, though they’re closer to eleventh (Brooklyn) than seventh (Hudson Valley). What’s not obvious is how exactly they’re doing it. Tri-City ranks 12th in batting average (.236), 12th in slugging percentage (.326) and tied for 10th in on-base percentage (.319), a profile that doesn’t usually lead to a league-average offense.

Only one team has left fewer runners on base than the ‘Cats. You could make a convincing argument that the ValleyCats are one of the better baserunning teams in the league, and generally good lineup construction has helped, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that some of this simply comes down to the team getting timely hits at a rate that may not be sustainable.

Plate discipline is not the problem. It feels like batters have watched a lot of third strikes go by at Joe Bruno Stadium this year, and fans of every team feel like their hitters strike out too much, but the ValleyCats’ problem is not their pitch recognition. The ‘Cats are striking out in a tick under 18 percent of their plate appearances, one of the best marks in the NYPL and well below the league average of 20 percent. They have drawn 83 walks against 155 strikeouts, the third-best ratio in the league.

But the ‘Cats just aren’t doing enough when they make contact. Despite playing in Joe Bruno Stadium, recently the league’s best home run park, Tri-City ranks dead last in the league with six dingers, even after hitting three in its last two games. I’d expect a better showing than that in the final 53 games – powerful hitters like Brandon Meredith and Kellen Kiilsgaard will hopefully return to the lineup, and guys like Zach Johnson and Miles Hamblin have shown the potential to hit for more power than they have so far – but this isn’t an offense that will be having too many one-swing rallies.

These outfielders can throw. Okay, we knew that from the start. Drew Muren leads the league with five outfield assists, and Justin Gominsky is tied for second with four. As a team, the ‘Cats have a league-best 11 outfield assists in 23 games, which the pitching staff must love.

Guess what? The ValleyCats have been unlucky. At this time last year, the ValleyCats were 9-14, but they had scored roughly as many runs as they had allowed. I argued that they would play better for the rest of the season, and sure enough they did, greatly surpassing even my expectations.

Well, it’s a year later, and the ValleyCats are 9-14. And guess what? They’ve only been outscored by two runs (104-102). Run differential is a better predictor of future performance than wins and losses. It certainly doesn’t mean another miraculous playoff run is coming – and a slew of difficult opponents in the next two weeks won’t make it easy for the ‘Cats to make a charge soon – but it means we should expect them to play more like a .500 team for the rest of the season than a .400 team. (14-8 Vermont, incidentally, has outscored its opponents by only one run, meaning the Lake Monsters could come back to the pack in the Stedler Division.)

So although 2011 hasn’t started the way the ValleyCats and their fans would have liked, we could still see some good baseball at “The Joe” over the final seven weeks of the season.

Kevin Whitaker

Notebook: Hit parade

Manager Stubby Clapp, on last night’s victory:

“It’d be nice to put up 14 hits every day. We’d win a lot of ballgames.”

Of course, 14 hits don’t quite guarantee a victory, as the Lowell Spinners found out last night. The visitors matched the Cats’ hit total but committed four errors, including three in a costly fifth inning, as the ValleyCats jumped above .500 for the first time with a 12-8 victory.

I thought Zach Johnson summed up the crazy game pretty well in his first response after the game, saying, “We got down early, came back, got back down, came back and then we pushed through at the end with some extra runs … it was a good win.”

Both teams hit 14-for-39, a .359 clip, despite what looked like a very wide strike zone. Between well-hit line drives, soft shots that found holes and bad plays, lots of runners reached base – neither defense converted even half of the balls in play into outs (Tri-City was 13/28, Lowell 15/32).

We’ll likely be playing in similar conditions tonight. Rain fell heavily about an hour before the game and will slightly delay the start, and there is a small front of light storms that is scheduled to pass through during the game. As a getaway day for Lowell, the visitors probably hope for more outs and a quicker game than last night’s season-long 2:59.

A few more thoughts:

-Who leads the NYPL in runs scored right now? I posed this question to Erik and Dave this morning, and even after they figured out that it was a ValleyCat, it still took six or seven guesses for them to correctly identify Brandon Meredith. I was shocked when I saw him atop the leaderboard, but his eight runs are best in the league. He’s only hitting .227 and has usually been in the lower half of the lineup, but he’s drawn seven hits in as many games and the ‘Cats have been productive behind him.

-Starter Jonas Dufek just didn’t have a good night. He wasn’t wild, not walking anyone until the final batter and going to three balls only once (in a ten-pitch at-bat), but his secondary stuff wasn’t particularly sharp and he missed a couple spots. Balls in the air will eventually kill you in this park, especially when the wind blows out – though there wasn’t much doubt about either homer – and he should be better in his next start.

-Have I mentioned yet that Drew Muren has a good arm? He chased a line drive to the right-field wall, maybe 20 feet from the line in the corner, and didn’t pick it up very cleanly, but still was able to gun down Travis Shaw at second base. The throw was right on a line, didn’t bounce and hit Hector Rodriguez perfectly to get the out by a step.

-I may have missed a pitch, but I had Travis Smink with 17 strikes and zero balls in two innings.

-One day after being pinch-hit for in the ninth inning, Joantoni Garcia pinch-hit for Roberto Ramos in the eighth. Ramos was 2-for-3 on the night, though both hits were bunt singles; I suppose Lowell didn’t think he could get away with a third. Garcia hit into an inning-ending double play – on a beautiful turn at short by Rodriguez – so the Spinners might have been better off with Ramos’s speed.

-Matt Duffy scored from first on a double in the third inning, which probably won’t happen very often. He was running on the 3-2 pitch (with two outs) and Miles Hamblin hit a perfectly-placed grounder that rolled all the way to the right-field wall.

-The ‘Cats hit three triples in the game, as Kellen Kiilsgaard, Johnson and Meredith each had three-baggers. That was the first three-triple game for Tri-City going back to 2005, the earliest year for which we have easily-accessible stats.

-Duffy, by the way, was 4-for-5 and leads the league with a .483 batting average, keeping the tradition of success for Houston’s 20th-round draft picks alive and well.

Kevin Whitaker

Notebook: First W

Next time Stubby Clapp plays the lottery, he might want to consider choosing the numbers 6 and 18.

On June 18, 2011, Clapp earned his first win as a manager as the ValleyCats downed Vermont, 10-0. The victory came ten years to the day after another, even more memorable milestone: his MLB debut.

Clapp pinch-hit in the bottom of the eighth inning for the Cardinals against the Cubs, a game the Redbirds won 6-2.

“I struck out, and I remember walking back to the bench and not even touching the ground,” he said. “I was so excited to be there, it didn’t even matter what happened.”

(AUDIO: Clapp remembers major league debut)

Clapp also recalled that it was Father’s Day, and that he couldn’t find his dad (Stubby II) because, “he was putting a tile floor in my sister’s house and had the radio playing while they were working.”

Today, of course, is Father’s Day, and we appreciate all of our fathers and everyone else who has helped make their children’s lives better.

Saturday night’s lineup, surprisingly, featured only one change from the first game – on Opening Day weekend, teams usually shuffle their players so team scouts can get a look at everybody; across the field, Vermont’s lineup featured five new faces. Tri-City has a thin bench for this level – just four position players (and now three for tonight’s game*) – but I still expected some more turnover.

*Jacke Healey sprained his ankle while running out a close play at first in the third inning and collapsed on the grass behind first base for a few minutes. He walked off on his own and is said to be day-to-day, but is not on the active roster for tonight’s game.

That one change, of course, was a big one – Kellen Kiilsgaard was the designated hitter, playing his first professional game. Kiilsgaard struck out swinging in his first at-bat, but made up for it in his final three appearances, hitting a home run, a deep sacrifice fly and a double.

The home run – the first of what will likely be many this year at Joe Bruno Stadium, the best park for homers in the NY-Penn League – was a low line drive that got out of the park quickly, clearing the roughly 370-foot fence in right-center. His double was also well-hit, a hard liner into the right-field corner off a left-handed reliever.

Kiilsgaard was drafted in the 30th round of last year’s draft and did not play last summer while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He was asked about that after the game.

“I always looked at that and thought, ‘If I was healthy, I would have been drafted higher,’ so I just go out and try to prove that every day when I’m on the field,” he said.

The game really dragged through the early and middle innings; 2:55 for a 10-0 game is not unusual, but we were at about two hours and seven minutes through six full innings when the score was just 4-0. Vermont’s catchers come out to the mound frequently, and the first two pitchers for both teams worked somewhat slowly, giving plenty of looks and throws to runners on first base.

The hosts broke the game open in the seventh inning – thanks in no small part to former ValleyCat Jeiler Castillo, who did his best Randy Consuegra impression, walking three batters on 13 pitches, most of which were nowhere near the plate – on Matt Duffy’s three-run double, which was smoked to center field and two-hopped the wall. Hector Rodriguez, who entered the game for Healey, joined the fun with a stand-up triple that took two bounces to the wall in right-center an inning later.

The ‘Cats will run mostly the same team out there again tonight, making only one change from last night’s closing lineup: Ryan McCurdy will catch, with Miles Hamblin DH’ing and Justin Gominsky the odd man out. 5 p.m. start, listen live on tcvalleycats.com.

To the notebook:

-Jonas Dufek, on the early-season-college-rookie pitch count (he threw 51), looked solid in his first professional outing. The radar gun was back last night, and while I don’t know that it’s accurate, it generally aligned with scouting reports last season and did so again last night for Dufek, who sat 88-91. He showed a tight slider but went more frequently to his curve, fanning a left-handed hitter with one off the outside corner. Dufek only retired four batters on his own in the first while allowing two hits and two walks, benefitting from two baserunner kills (though he would have been out of the first earlier if not for an error), but he settled down after hitting a batter in the third to get a strong 1-2-3.

-The hardest thrower of the night was righty Dayan Diaz, who allowed just one hit in his three innings of work. Diaz sat 92-94, hit 95 on the stadium gun a couple times (including one on the outside corner to freeze Jacob Tanis in the fourth) and touched 96 once. He went to a slider for his secondary pitch, sending lefty Jeff Bercume down looking with a backdoor slider to end the fifth.

-Travis Smink walked none in three innings, throwing 22 strikes against just nine balls and facing the minimum, thanks to two double plays. But aside from Smink, the ‘Cats again struggled to find the zone at times – though they threw a shutout, the hosts actually walked more batters (five) than they struck out (four), hitting another. That makes 11 walks and four hit batsmen in two games, a long way from the control-freak 1-2 of Carlos Quevedo and Bobby Doran last year.

-Vermont starter Argenis Paez took the loss, but he did a great job of keeping the ball on the ground – he induced nine groundouts in 4.2 innings, all to the left side, and did not give up a single fly ball to the outfield. There were a few line drives, however, leading to five hits, and he only notched one strikeout.

-The Lake Monsters have been letting their starters go further than most NYPL teams do for their first appearance, at least that I’ve seen. Seth Frankoff threw 81 pitches on Friday and Paez reached 77 last night.

-For the second consecutive night, both teams were aggressive on the basepaths. The ‘Cats helped out Paez in the fourth and fifth, as Johnson and Rodriguez were caught stealing in a three-batter span, but Hinson, Muren and Gominsky were all successful on attempts. On the other side, Vermont again had success testing Miles Hamblin, swiping second twice (once on a delayed steal, the first time I’ve seen that play) and being caught only when a runner left early on a first-and-third pickoff play.

-Outfield defense: again solid. Gominsky ran down a couple balls in the gaps and Kiilsgaard moved well to cut off a line drive to his left. Gominsky threw out Bercume at the plate on a two-out single to end the second inning; the ball was in short center field and Gominsky didn’t release it fast, but the throw was on a line and perfectly on target to get the runner by a step.

-The infield defense was much-improved, as well; the ‘Cats committed two errors, but one was a pickoff throw that went straight through the webbing of Zach Johnson’s glove. Rodriguez looked very smooth at shortstop, showing nice footwork on a couple double-play turns.

-The ‘Cats executed a perfect hit-and-run in the sixth, when Johnson singled behind a running Hamblin.

-Vermont catcher Dan Pettiti did great work behind the plate, blocking numerous wild offerings from Castillo and others.

-Drew Muren had another terrific game, going 2-for-3 with two walks, two runs and another stolen base. Through two games, he has looked like the best baseball player on this team.

Here’s Travis Blankenship and Adam Champion signing autographs for young fans before the game. Check out last night’s post for more pictures.

Adam Champion and Travis Blankenship sign autographs

Kevin Whitaker

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