Fredericksburg enters the week as the hottest team in the Carolina League, as the Nationals extended their season-long winning streak all the way to eight games before Delmarva finally snapped it on Friday night.
The FredNats (23-26) took six out of seven games against the Shorebirds last week and have now claimed victory in 10 of their last 11 games.
With the recent string of success, the Nats have pulled themselves out of the cellar in the North Division standings, moving up two spots from sixth to fourth, and are a half-game behind Delmarva for third and now just 6.5 games back of first-place Carolina (29-19).
The Freddies continue their current 13-game homestand Tuesday when Charleston (21-30) comes to town for a six-game series.
The FredNats won three of last week’s games in walk-off fashion, and former UVA star — and 2019 World Series champion — Sean Doolittle was in town on his rehab assignment, all making for an exciting week for the Freddies.
Doolittle, who has since been officially activated off of the minor-league injured list and promoted to Double-A Harrisburg as he works his way back to the big-league roster, tossed a perfect 1-2-3 seventh inning last Tuesday and another in the sixth inning on Thursday, but gave up a run on a pair of hits (with two strikeouts) and took the loss on Friday, the team’s first since May 23.
Jake Bennett, the No. 9 prospect in the Washington organization and 45th overall pick in the 2022 draft, was promoted Friday to the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks. Bennett’s last outing with the Freddies was another solid one, as he matched a career-high 9 Ks and gave up just a run on a pair of hits in 5.2 innings last Tuesday. In his nine starts with Fredericksburg, Bennett was 1-3 with an impressive 1.93 ERA with 54 punchouts and a 1.00 WHIP.
Brady House, the Nats’ No. 5 prospect, went 5-for-13 with a homer and 3 RBI last week. His average on the season is up to .312 with a team-best 6 home runs and 22 RBI.
Elijah Green (No. 3) was just 2-for-17 with 8 strikeouts in his five games, but one of those hits was a towering, 436-foot solo home run that left the stadium in Thursday’s 8-7 win, in which he scored the game-winning run in the 10th.
Green, who also notched an RBI triple in Tuesday’s first game (the completion of the suspended April 22 game) has gone down on strikes in nearly half of his at-bats this season (79 in 160 at-bats).
Armando Cruz (No. 13) was the hero on Thursday, as it was his game-winning RBI that brought Green around to score. Brenner Cox (No. 22) finally busted out of his slump, collecting three hits and driving in a couple of runs in his 20 at-bats.
Jarlin Susana (No. 6) went four spotless innings on Sunday, allowing 2 hits with 2 strikeouts and 2 walks, but didn’t factor into the decision. The hard-throwing 19-year-old has worked his ERA down to 3.58, with a 1.37 WHIP and opposing batting average of .179.
The RiverDogs, Tampa Bay’s Single-A affiliate, have dropped eight of their last 12 contests, but come into tonight’s series opener on a three-game winning streak.
Charleston split its series with Augusta a week ago, losing the first three by a total of four runs and then exploding for 27 runs in the last three to carry some momentum into the week.
The RiverDogs have won only six times in 21 tries on the road this season, while Fredericksburg has taken eight of the last 10 at Virginia Credit Union Stadium.
Charleston first baseman Xavier Isaac, the 19-year-old, 29th overall pick in last year’s draft, is the No. 10 prospect in the Rays organization. In 36 games, Isaac is batting .231 with 25 hits, 4 long balls and 20 runs driven in, while striking out 25 times and walking 29 times.
Shortstop Carlos Colmenarez (No. 14) is swinging a hot bat, as he has collected 4 hits, 3 RBI and 11 total bases in his last 10 at-bats.
Outfielders Chandler Simpson (No. 18) and Ryan Cermak (No. 23) were taken with the 70th and 71st picks out of Georgia Tech and Illinois State, respectively, in 2022. Simpson (.273, 47 hits) has stolen a team-high 35 bases this season, while Cermak has struggled at the plate, hitting just .186 with 8 hits compared to 13 strikeouts in 12 games.
Second baseman Cooper Kinney (No. 24) is a former high school player of the year in Tennessee and the 34th pick in the 2021 draft who has battled injuries, but is fully healthy and is hitting at a .275 clip with 5 homers.
Catcher Dominic Keegan (No. 25), who played his college ball at Vanderbilt, is hitting .331 on the season with 4 home runs and 27 RBI.
Former Duke Blue Devil Marcus Johnson is the lone top-30 pitching prospect on the Charleston roster (No. 29). In his 10 starts this season, Johnson is 0-2 with a 3.91 ERA, striking out 45 batters while only walking two across his 46.0 innings pitched.
The Freddies will aim for another successful week in front of the home crowd before spending the following two weeks in South Carolina — at Myrtle Beach and at Columbia.