SeaWolves take division title; Parker Meadows stays hot for the Mud Hens

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St. Paul Saints 10, Toledo Mud Hens 6 (Box)(Fri)

St. Paul Saints 7, Toledo Mud Hens 5 (Box)(Sat)

Toledo Mud Hens 7, St. Paul Saints 3 (Box)(F/6)(Sun)

After taking a 2-1 lead in the series, the Hens lost on Friday and Saturday. They bounced back on Sunday to split the series, finishing the first half with a 33-41 record.

One positive remains the fact that after solid months of April and May, outfielder Parker Meadows, as he did during his 2022 breakout, has caught fire in June with a .926 OPS that includes three home runs and 11 other extra base hits on the month. The strikeouts are still on the high side, but Meadows has done the work to improve against lefties, posting an overall .872 OPS against them compared to a .766 OPS against right-handers this season. He now holds a .793 OPS on the season with a 9.4% walk rate and a 24.4% strikeout rate.

On Friday, the Hens built an early lead only to see the bullpen blow the game. Meadows started off the bottom of the first with a triple to right field, and scored on a Justyn-Henry Malloy sacrifice fly to make it 1-0 in the first. In the second, Michael Papierski doubled home new Tiger Johan Camargo as well as Donny Sands to make it 3-0.

Starter Bryan Sammons allowed single runs in the third and fourth as the Saints closed the gap, but the Hens re-opened their lead in the fifth. Papierski lead off with a single, and with one out Parker Meadows doubled him to third. Another Malloy sac fly scored Papierski, and an Andre Lipcius single plated Meadows. It was 5-2 at the point, but the Saints took over from there. They scored two against Beau Brieske in the top of the sixth. The Hens answered with one in the bottom half when Joe Rizzo doubled in Sands to make it 6-4.

Unfortunately, Blair Calvo allowed four runs in the seventh, and Trey Wingenter was knocked around for two runs in the eighth as the Saints seized control.

Malloy played right field in this one.

On Saturday, it was the bullpen again losing a lead and costing Toledo the game.

Jack O’Loughlin got the start and while he wasn’t very sharp, the lefty got through six innings with three runs allowed and left with a 4-3 lead.

After St. Paul scored one in the top of the second, the Hens came back with a run of their own in the bottom half. Tyler Nevin was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame. Lipcius came through with a one-out double, and Nevin then scored on a Sands ground ball.

In the fourth, still tied 1-1, Lipcius and Sands singled with one out and Rizzo blasted a three-run shot to right center field to make it 4-1 Hens.

The Saints responded with a two-run fifth and then dropped a four-spot on Hens reliever Anthony Misiewicz. Malloy singled in Corey Joyce in the ninth, but the rally ended there.

Malloy played left field on Saturday. A 14 game hitting streak now has Parker Meadows’ OPS just shy of .800 after a strong month of June.

On Sunday, the Mud Hens went with a bullpen game. Beau Brieske took the ball first, spinning a scoreless first. Blair Calvo, recently acquired (Jun 18) from the Rockies for cash, followed but less successfully, giving up two runs in the second inning. Beyond that things went well. Anthony Misiewicz and Trey Wingenter each tossed scoreless frames in the third and fourth inning.

Meanwhile, the Saints sent Dallas Keuchel to the mound as he tries to make a comeback to the majors. Andrew Knapp got to the veteran lefty for a solo shot in the third, but when the Saints added a run in the top of the sixth against Ashton Goudeau, they led 3-1 as the skies grew ominous in Toledo.

Needing a comeback and with rain pushing into the area in force, the Hens needed to get to work. Justyn-Henry Malloy led off the bottom of the sixth by drawing a walk after challenging the strike three call in a 3-2 count. As he usually is, Malloy was correct about the strike zone.

Joe Rizzo followed with a single, Johan Camargo doubled to center to score Malloy, and then a Lipcius single plated Rizzo and Camargo as well. Just like that it was 4-3 Hens. They weren’t done either. The Saints went to their bullpen and brought in Cody Laweryson. He struck out Papierski but Knapp continued a big day with a double to right. Lipcius tried to score on a Grant Witherspoon ground ball but was cut down at the plate for the second out. Parker Meadows picked them up with a screaming line drive double to the wall in center, scoring Knapp and Witherspoon both and extending his hit streak to 15 games. Nick Solak singled in Meadows, and it was 7-3. Fittingly, the inning ended with Malloy getting rung up for strike three, and this time the ump was correct.

The skies opened up fully at that point and the game ended as six-inning affair.

Coming Up Next: The Hens will have a two-day break before the second half begins in Columbus against the Clippers on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Erie SeaWolves 4, Hartford Yard Goats 2 (box)(Fri)

Hartford Yard Goats 5, Erie SeaWolves 4 (box)(Sat)

Erie SeaWolves at Hartford Yard Goats (cancelled)(Sun)

The SeaWolves were up 2-1 in this best-of-six series heading into Friday night’s contest. They took the W, claiming the first half division title and a postseason spot in September with a 4-2 victory.

Brant Hurter didn’t have his best outing, striking out only two Goats, but the big lefty held them to two runs over six innings of work. Sean Guenther gave Erie two scoreless innings of relief as the offense looked to erase the 2-0 deficit.

They finally got it done in the top of the seventh. Andrew Navigato singled and took second on a wild pitch to leadoff the inning. Chris Meyers stayed hot with a single to move Navigato to third and Justice Bigbie stepped to the plate and crushed his first home run since him promotion to Double-A. Couldn’t have been better timed. Dillon Dingler followed him with a solo shot, Dingler’s seventh homer with the SeaWolves, and just like that it was 4-2. Austin Bergner picked up his second save with a perfect ninth, and the division title for the season’s first half was Erie’s.

Colten Keith played second base in this one, going 1-for-4 with a strikeout. Now that the first half is over, Keith Watch will kick into high gear as a promotion to Toledo is anticipated.

Here is the scene from Hartford as manager Gabe Alvarez addressed his club and the party kicked into high gear.

Presumably rather the worse for wear after Friday night’s postseason clenching victory celebration, the SeaWolves couldn’t hold an early lead on Saturday. Keith and Trei Cruz got the day off, but the offense got right back to work in the first inning.

Wenceel Perez doubled with one out in the top of the first and Justice Bigbie followed with a walk. The dangerous Chris Meyers continued his mashing ways, doubling home Perez and moving Bigbie to third. A Diego Rincones sacrifice fly brought Bigbie home and it was 2-0 Erie. Julio E. Rodriguez made it 3-0 when he launched his ninth home run of the season in the second inning.

Joe Lockhart got the start for Erie and he took advantage of that run support. Lockhart allowed just two hits, one of them a solo shot in the fifth for the only run allowed, over five innings of work with nine strikeouts and no walks. Unfortunately, Chavez Fernander didn’t fare so well in relief, allowing three runs in the seventh as the Loons took a 4-3 lead.

The SeaWolves re-tied it in the top of the eighth as Wenceel Perez was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Bigbie doubled him to third, where Perez would score on a Rincones pop-up to catcher where the Goats didn’t cover the plate. I missed the play, but I’m guessing there was a debate about the infield fly rule not being called, as Yard Goats manager and former big leaguer, Chris Denorfia was ejected after the play. It didn’t end up mattering as Blake Holum allowed a walk off homer to Kyle Datres in the bottom of the ninth.

The SeaWolves and Yard Goats were then rained out on Sunday, finishing the first half with a 37-31 record.

Coming Up Next: The SeaWolves will be off on Monday and Tuesday before kicking off the second half at home against the Akron RubberDucks starting Wednesday night at 6:05 p.m. ET. They’ll be wearing their Erie Piñatas jerseys for Copa de la Diversión.

Great Lakes Loons 8, West Michigan Whitecaps 6 (box)(Fri)

West Michigan Whitecaps 10, Great Lakes Loons 0 (box)(Sat)

West Michigan Whitecaps 2, Great Lakes Loons 1 (box)(F/5)(Sun)

A rough stretch for the Whitecaps continued on Friday, as they lost their sixth game in a row, four of them to the Loons. Not the way you want to end the first half schedule though they rebounded to win on Saturday and Sunday, finishing with a .500 record at 34-34.

Wilkel Hernandez was rocked for four runs in just three innings of work. A rough fifth inning and some shoddy defensive work behind Jordan Marks led to a second four-run frame for the Loons.

Josh Crouch doubled with two outs in the fifth and later scored on a wild pitch to get the Whitecaps on the board. With the score already 8-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Jace Jung mashed his 12th homer to leadoff and Eliezer Alfonzo doubled and scored on a Crouch single to make it 8-3 Great Lakes. Roberto Campos doubled in Luis Garcia in the sixth, and in the seventh, Alfonzo doubled in Brady Allen and then scored on an Izaac Pacheco sacrifice fly to make it 8-6, but the comeback stalled out there.

In Saturday’s contest, the ‘Caps offense finally got loose, dropping 10 runs on the Loons. Lefty Carlos Pena gave them a great start, shutting out Great Lakes for 5 23 innings with eighth strikeouts. He didn’t have a ton of run support either, leaving with a 2-0 lead.

Those two runs came in the second inning when Crouch led off with a walk. Dillon Paulson and Luis Santana singled to load the bases. A sacrifice fly from Carlos Mendoza plated Crouch, while a Roberto Campos single scored Paulson. That made it a 15-game hitting streak for the 20-year-old outfielder, and Campos would go on to post a four-hit game in this one.

The Whitecaps finally started to separate themselves in the bottom of the sixth. Santana led off with a double and then scored when Austin Murr doubled the opposite way to left. Campos singled in Murr and it was 4-0. The ‘Caps made it 10-0 with a six-run eighth inning, punctuated by an RBI ground rule double from Pacheco, a two-run single for Crouch, and then Murr completed the scoring on a fly ball to left that wasn’t caught. Crouch and Dillon Paulson scored on the play to complete the routing of the Loons in this one.

Sunday’s contest called for a bullpen game for West Michigan, and it went pretty well until rain forced the game to be called after five innings. Ty Mattison struck out three in the first, and then Garrett Burhenn took over for four innings of one run ball.

The Whitecaps got their runs in the second inning. Izaac Pacheco led off with a double and a one-out single from Murr scored him. Murr then stole second and scored on a Luis Garcia single that made it 2-0. Burhenn held the lead just long enough for the weather to decide this one in West Michigan’s favor.

Coming Up Next: The Whitecaps kick off the second half at home on Tuesday night as they welcome in the Dayton Dragons for a 6:35 p.m. ET start.

Bradenton Marauders 12, Lakeland Flying Tigers 4 (box)(Fri)

Bradenton Marauders 2, Lakeland Flying Tigers 1 (box)(Sat)

Bradenton Marauders 6, Lakeland Flying Tigers 5 (box)(Sun)

Lakeland won on Thursday, but otherwise the Marauders cleaned up against the Flying Tigers in this five-game set. Wednesday’s game was rained out, and we’ll see if they get around to making that up in the second half.

Edgardo Ibarra had a rough start on Friday and the bullpen let it get out of hand in the late innings. The Marauders got to Ibarra for five runs across the first three innings.

Peyton Graham singled in Seth Stephenson in the bottom of the third to get Lakeland on the board. Graham took second on the play, but was then thrown out to end the inning trying to score on a wild pitch.

Max Green and Eiker Huizi combined to allow six runs in the top of the seventh, and that was all she wrote for this game. The Flying Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning and Luke Gold cleared the bases with a double to make the score a little more respectable, but this one was already over. Graham and Gold had the only multi-hit games for Lakeland.

Saturday was another quiet day for the Flying Tigers offense. Carlos Marcano gave them a solid start, tossing five innings of two-run ball. The bullpen did a nice job to shut Bradenton down the rest of the way. Luke Gold singled to lead off the eighth and later scored on an Archer Brookman ground out for the lone Flying Tigers’ run.

Marco Jimenez gave the Flying Tigers a decent start on Sunday but after Lakeland rallied late, the Marauders broke the tie in the top of the ninth inning, and Lakeland couldn’t match them.

The Flying Tigers took the lead in the bottom of the first. Seth Stephenson led off with a single and J.D. McLaughlin followed with one of his own, moving Stephenson to third where he scored on a Mario Feliciano ground out.

Jimenez pitched pretty well but couldn’t hold the lead, allowing two runs in the third. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out eight along the way. The offense just couldn’t take advantage before the Marauders struck again in the sixth, scoring three runs against reliever Jose Diaz. Old friend Franklin Perez had to come on to get the final outs of the inning.

Sergio Tapia doubled in Abel Bastidas in the bottom of the seventh to make it 5-2 Bradenton. In the eighth, Jose De La Cruz crushed a three-run homer that tied the game and gave the Flying Tigers new life. Unfortunately, reliever Quinn Gudaitis allowed a solo shot in the top of the ninth, and the Flying Tigers went quietly in the bottom half.

Coming Up Next: The lowly Lakeland Flying Tigers ended the first half with a 26-42 record. They’ll have two days off before starting the second half in Fort Myers against the Mighty Mussels on Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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