augusta free press news

Minors Roundup: ‘Cats sweep two, Squirrels’ bats quiet in loss, Salem splits two with P-Nats

‘Cats sweep two The Hillcats were on the right side of the scores today sweeping the Keys by a score of 3-2 and 4-1.

Game one was highlighted by three first inning runs for the ‘Cats despite only two hits–the only two hits for the entire game by the offense–and Aaron Baker stealing a base and walking off it thinking it was a foul ball to end the game. In game two, the offense clicked for four runs and 12 hits, but Lynchburg starter, Aaron Northcraft, was dominate in his first career complete game. He retired 20 of the last 22 batters he faced.

The Keys jumped on the Hillcats early for the third straight game. It was Cody Martin on the hill who had the rough start for the ‘Cats. A double and single by the Keys started things off, but Aaron Baker was the only person to register an RBI.

Lynchburg stormed back in the bottom of the first thanks to some help from starter Scott Copeland. Three walks and a hit batter highlighted the three-run inning for the Hillcats.

The ‘Cats offense was stifled the rest of the game with their sole hits coming in the first.

Frederick would threaten in the top of the second inning. They put the first two runners on by walk and double. Michael Rooney then grounded a ball to Chris Garcia at first. Garcia touched first and Garabez Rosa, who was at second, broke for third, Garcia realized he was too far off the bag and fired the ball to the shortstop Nick Ahmed. Rosa was now in a pickle and the man on third, Michael Mosby, broke for home. Ahmed realized this and threw it catcher Braeden Schlehuber at home. Schlehuber chased down Mosby and tagged him out before he got back to third. Meanwhile Rosa never advanced to third. Bobby Stevens would end the inning swinging just one batter later.

It wouldn’t be until the seventh that the Keys put a run on the board.Closer Juan Jamie was in for the ‘Cats when he gave up a double and two single to start the inning. A wild pitch with Baker at the plate would score Stevens to cut the lead to 3-2. Baker then singled to put Ty Kelly at third. After a Justin Dalles strike out, Scott Thomas was up. Baker decided to break for second and he slid in safely, but because Thomas made contact and it went back into Schlehuber’s glove, Baker thought it was a foul ball. Baker decided to walk back to second, Ahmed called for Jamie’s attention and they successfully chased down Baker to end the game.

New Hillcat, Ryan Harper (1-0), get a win in his first appearance. He came on in relief for Cody Martin and went 3.0 innings, scattered five hits and fanned three. Scott Copeland (3-5) was a victim of his own control problems in the loss. His five walks low lighted the 6.0 strong innings. Copeland allowed three runs on just two hits, while sitting down two. Juan Jamie earned his 11th save of the season.

Frederick would score in the top of the first for the fourth game in a row in game two of the doubleheader. A Jeremy Nowak single and two Arron Northcraft walks loaded the bases with one out. Then, Michael Flacco hit a fly ball to right field that scored Nowak to give the Keys a 1-0 lead.

Lynchburg answered back in the bottom half of the frame with a run of their own of Tyler Wilson. Mycal Jones started with a rip down the right field line, but an excellent relay throw from Nowak to Ty Kelly to Michael Mosby to get Jones by a hair. Nick Ahmed added a double of his own and eventually scored on a single off Adam Milligan’s bat.

It was a quiet couple innings before the ‘Cats offense woke up in the bottom of the third. The inning started off with Emerson Landoni putting all of his weight into a swing and connecting for his first homer of the season to break the tie. Wilson struck out the next two batters but followed that by giving up a single to Edward Salcedo and a double to Adam Milligan that scored Salcedo. Chris Garcia walked then Braeden Schlehuber ripped a single past a diving Mosby at third. Milligan scored and the lead moved to 4-1.

Neither offense would score after that, but the true story is Northcraft’s performance. After the struggles in the first he was dominate. He retired 20 of the last 22 batters he faced and induced 12 ground outs, two air outs and sat down six.

Aaron Northcraft got the win (5-4) in his first career complete game. He went 7.0 inning–a career-high–allowed just three hits that lead to one run. Northcraft struck out six and walked two. Tyler Wilson (2-2) got the loss in his 3.1 innings of work. He surrendered four runs on eight hits to go along with five whiffs and walk.


Squirrels bats quiet in loss The bats were again silent for the Richmond Flying Squirrels (28-34), as they were defeated, 3-1, by the Portland Sea Dogs on Saturday night at Hadlock Field.  The Squirrels have managed just two total runs through the first two games of the series, losing both to drop the three-game series.

Starting pitchers Justin Fitzgerald and Chris Hernandez dueled in the beginning of the ballgame.  Neither allowed a runner past second base through five scoreless innings, as Hernandez allowed just three Richmond singles.  Fitzgerald was even stingier, permitting just a lone single to Reynaldo Rodriguez.

Hernandez posted another scoreless inning in the sixth, and Fitzgerald blinked first.  He issued a lead-off walk to Heiker Meneses in the sixth.  Jeremy Hazelbaker followed and laid down a bunt.  Richmond third baseman Daniel Mayora fielded the ball and threw errantly to first base.  First baseman Russ Mitchell reached into the runner and was injured on the play.  The ball got away, and Meneses came all the way around to score.  Fitzgerald got the first two outs of the inning, but Rodriguez blasted his 12th home run of the season for a 3-0 lead.  The home run came off a Fitzgerald slider, and made all three runs in the inning earned.

Each starter worked seven innings.  Hernandez (3-5) earned the win, handcuffing the Squirrels on four hits – all singles.  He walked three and struck out three in his longest out of the season.  Fitzgerald (3-5) turned in a quality start over his seven innings, but endured his fifth loss of the year.  He conceded three runs, all earned, on three hits.  He walked three, hit another, and struck out three.  The loss for the Squirrels marked the fifth consecutive Fitzgerald start in which they were defeated.

Right-hander Brock Huntzinger followed Hernandez and worked a scoreless ninth inning.  The Squirrels were down to their final strike before Ryan Cavan doubled off the wall in right field in the top of the ninth inning.  Mark Minicozzi followed and lifted a ground-rule double to right-center field to allow the Squirrels to avoid their seventh shutout loss of the season.  Huntzinger recovered to strike out Gary Brown to end the ballgame, earning his first save of the season.


Salem, P-Nats split two Matt Barnes and Matt Grace each delivered spectacular pitching performances for their respective teams in the front and back ends of Saturday’s twin-bill, with the Sox shutting out the Nats 3-0 in the opener at Pfitzner Stadium before falling 6-1 in the nightcap.

Barnes tossed seven scoreless innings for the first time in his career, dealing 96 pitches to complete the five-hit gem. In response, Grace needed 92 deliveries to stymie the Sox lineup in the second contest, surrendering just three hits, including a solo homer to Travis Shaw. Shaw belted a solo bomb in both games, giving him eight homers in the past two weeks and nine on the season.

In the opener, Salem struck early with Christian Vazquez launching a two-run double to the base of the wall in right-center field in the top of the second inning. Xander Bogaerts and Michael Almanzar both scored, providing Barnes some early run support in the form of a 2-0 lead.

The Nationals possessed baserunners in five of the seven innings against Barnes, moving a man as far as third base twice. But they went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded all eight runners in the ballgame.

Barnes dealt 65 of his 96 pitches for strikes, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out five in his seven shutout innings. The righthander entered the seventh with just 72 tosses, needing 24 in the final frame to close the deal. The Nationals loaded the bases with two outs on two singles and a walk, prompting a mound visit from skipper Billy McMillon. But the Salem Manager left Barnes in the ballgame, and Adrian Sanchez’ chopped to third to leave the bags packed and conclude the complete game. Barnes improved to 4-1 with Salem and 6-1 on the year, lowering his Carolina League ERA to 1.32 and his overall ERA to 0.93.

The Sox’ third run in the opening contest came from Shaw, who launched a solo bomb off Paul Applebee with two outs in the top of the fifth. Two-at-bats later, Shaw went deep a second time, taking Grace yard with two outs in the top of the first in the second game. But after Shaw’s round-tripper, Grace did not allow another hit until the sixth inning.

Grace surrendered just three hits and one walk in his seven-inning retaliatory masterpiece, improving him to 3-6 on the season. The Nationals supported him with Chris Marrero’s two-run homer off Manny Rivera in the first inning to assume a 2-1 lead. In the second, the Nationals scored three times despite not hitting the ball out of the infield. A leadoff walk was followed by three bunts, one which resulted in a sacrifice and an error and two more that resulted in infield singles. With a wild pitch and a second error mixed in, the Nationals pennied and nickeled their way to a 5-1 lead. In the fifth, Justin Bloxom’s towering solo homer was the silver dollar that sent Potomac to a 6-1 advantage.

With Winston-Salem winning again over Wilmington, the Salem Sox have dropped to three games behind the first-place Dash with eight remaining, sinking Winston’s magic number down to six.

The Salem Sox look to salvage the final game in Potomac on Sunday afternoon, a 1:05 first pitch that will pit Brandon Workman against Trevor Holder.