Pitching carries Erie to series win as the full minor league season opens

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Iowa Cubs 9, Toledo Mud Hens 6 (Sun)(box)

The Hens jumped out to a little lead in this one, but the Cubs blew up spot starter Bryan Sammons, and then Brendan White in relief, to seize control of this one and take the series on Sunday.

Wenceel Perez stayed hot, leading off the game with a double and scoring on a Jace Jung single. In the third, Buddy Kennedy led off with a double, and a pair of sacrifice flies brought him home 2-0 Hens.

Sammons leaked a run in the bottom of the third, and then fell apart in the fourth as the Cubs scored seven runs. White took over and wasn’t any better, walking three and allowing three earned of his own. Wilmer Flores had to come on and bail him out, getting a pair of quick outs and pitching an uneventful fifth inning.

Three walks issued by the Cubs led to two runs for the Hens in the sixth courtesy of a two-run single from Justice Bigbie back through the box. A leadoff Perez single in the seventh led to two more runs and Jace Jung doubled Perez home and then scored on a Keston Hiura single that made it 8-6. That was as close as they’d get.

In other unfortunate news, Ryan Kreidler, who was hit in the right hand by a pitch on Thursday, was placed on the injured list on Sunday. And then Eddys Leonard, who has played shortstop every game since Kreidler went down, appeared to pull an oblique on a swing in the seventh inning. By the look of it, he’s going to be down a while as well.

Perez: 2-5, 2 R, 2B, K, SB

Jung: 3-4, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2B, BB, K

Bigbie: 1-4, 2 RBI, BB, K

Sammons (L, 0-1): 3.0 IP, 5 ER, 8 H, BB, 2 K

Coming Up Next: The 4-5 Hens welcome in the Indianapolis Indians on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. ET.

Iowa Cubs 6, Toledo Mud Hens 3 (Sat)(box)

The Hens fell to .500 on Saturday despite a strong outing from lefty Brant Hurter. The offense was quieted by the Cubs bullpen after knocking around starter Hayden Wesneski, while the Hens bullpen, Drew Anderson specifically, blew up to lose this one.

Things certainly started off auspiciously. Wenceel Perez won a ball-strike challenge to draw a leadoff walk and then stole second base. Justyn-Henry Malloy flared a single the opposite way, and a bad throw allowed Perez to score. Jace Jung and Eddys Leonard lined singles, the latter driving in Malloy, and a sharp single to left by Bligh Madris loaded the bases.

Akil Baddoo grounded out, scoring Jung from third to make it 3-0. Justice Bigbie popped out, and while Baddoo stole second, Ryan Vilade struck out to end the half inning.

Hurter cruised through the first two innings, and Weneski settled down in the second and third. A leadoff double against Hurter in the third led to a run and it was 3-1.

The game moved quickly through the middle innings. The Hens missed a scoring chance in the sixth when Baddoo walked with one out, stole second, and advanced to third on an errant throw from catcher Ali Sanchez of the Cubs. Bigbie struck out, and Vilade flew out to end the inning.

Mason Englert struck out four in handling the fifth and sixth innings with no issue. Drew Anderson took over in the seventh and hurt himself by issuing a one out walk, and then wild pitching the runner to second and third. A single scored him to trim the Hens lead to one run, and then Anderson melted down entirely in the eighth. Just way too many pitches right over the heart of the plate. Adam Wolf took over and didn’t help matters, allowing two inherited runners to score, and the Hens had no answer.

Perez: 1-3, R, BB, SB

Leonard: 1-4, RBI, 2 K

Hurter: 4.0 IP, ER, 3 H, BB, 5 K

Toledo Mud Hens 4, Iowa Cubs 3 (Fri)(box)

Keider Montero and Beau Brieske led the way, but the Hens got pretty good pitching overall, while the offense failed to cash in some chances but racked up nine hits and three walks to 12 strikeouts.

Montero was good once again. He was comfortably 95-96 mph throughout, but struggled with his command in his last inning of work. The breaking balls and changeup were pretty lethal as usual but overall he wasn’t quite at his best. Montero walked three but allowed just one hit, striking out four in a short four inning, 59 pitch, outing. His outing was filled with pretty weak contact in the air. He also picked off one of the three hitters he walked. Brieske had a bit more trouble, but struck out three in two scoreless frames. Brenan Hanifee spun a clean seventh with two strikeouts, and by then the Hens had a 3-0 lead.

The Hens first good scoring opportunity came and went all in the same play, as Keston Hiura scorched a double to left but was cut down at third trying to take the extra base as the throw came in from left field. In the third, Akil Baddoo was hit with two outs, but couldn’t score on soft line drive to left off the bat of Malloy, who stretched it into a double behind Baddoo. Jace Jung flew out to leave them stranded.

Eddys Leonard finally got them going with a one out single. The Cubs went to their pen and Leonard took advantage by stealing second base. A Bligh Madris double scored him. Justice Bigbie lined out, but Dillon Dingler served a single into center field to plate Madris. 2-0 Hens.

Leonard was the spark again in the fifth. He reached on a Cubs error, stole second, and again Madris doubled him home. 3-0 Hens, but they couldn’t add on any runs in the middle innings.

Lefty Andrew Vasquez took over from Hanifee and couldn’t handle a chopper off the bat of Pete Crow-Armstrong. The Cubs outfield prospect stole second, and then Vasquez hit Alexander Canario and Owen Caissie back-to-back to load the bases. They got a break when a sac fly to Malloy in right field turned into a double play as Malloy gunned down Caissie trying to tag and advance to second. Armstrong scored, but there were two outs and a man on third.

Manager Tony Cappuccilli turned to Trey Wingenter, and the big right-hander locked into a six pitch battle with David Bote, who got a fastball down and in 3-2 and absolutely crushed it to left field. 3-3 ballgame.

To their credit, an experienced Mud Hens squad came right back in the top of the ninth. Baddoo smoked a 106.2 mph double the opposite way. Malloy struck out and Jung grounded out, but Hiura smoked a one-hopper right back through the box into center field to plate Baddoo for the eventual game winner. Wingenter settled in and spun a 1-2-3 ninth to earn the win after blowing the save.

Madris: 2-3, R, 2 RBI, 2 2B

Hiura: 3-5, RBI, 2 2B, K

Leonard: 1-4, 2 R, BB, K, 2 SB

Montero: 4.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 3 BB, 4 K, PO

Harrisburg Senators 5, Erie SeaWolves 1 (Sun)(box)

Jackson Jobe’s season debut didn’t go particularly well either. Meanwhile the offense was pretty quiet as Harrisburg avoided the sweep on opening weekend for the full minor leagues.

Jobe struck out Dylan Crews and Yohandy Morales in the first inning, and despite a bit of poor control things looked pretty good. Jake Holton led off the top of the second with a single and later scored on an Eliezer Alfonzo sacrifice fly to make it 1-0 Erie.

The stuff was good as expected, but command continued to plague Jobe a bit in the second as he had to work around a pair of singles and a walk. He was able to keep them off the board, but burned too many pitches in the process. An error by Corey Joyce at shortstop allowed Crews to reach to open the bottom of the third, and Brady House followed with a single. Jobe continued to miss low, walking Morales to load the bases, and that was the end of his outing. RJ Petit took over and immediately walked in a run before giving up a bases clearing double that made it 4-1 Harrisburg.

The offense never got anything going the rest of the afternoon.

Joyce: 2-3, K

Jobe (L, 0-1): 2.1 IP, 3 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

Coming Up Next: The SeaWolves now come home for their first full series against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Opening Night at UPMC Park will kick off at 6:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Erie SeaWolves 8, Harrisburg Senators 2 (Sat)(box)

Ty Madden was just cruising in this one but the Tigers have a pretty strict policy for building workload through the first few starts of the year, and they’re sticking to it. The right-hander looked completely in control as he spun four perfect innings with five strikeouts. Daniel Cabrera and Hao-Yu Lee homered as the offense pounded out 11 hits and really dominated the action.

Designated hitter Chris Meyers led off the second with a double, and Lee reached on an error before Cabrera lined a ball over the right field fence for a three-run homer. They weren’t done that inning either. Ben Malgeri followed with a walk and Gage Workman smoked a double into right field to score him. 4-0 Erie.

In the third, first baseman Jake Holton led off with a double and scored on a Lee single. The second baseman, acquired from the Phillies for Michael Lorenzen last July, then swiped second base. A pair of sacrifice flies brought him home to make it 6-0 SeaWolves.

Harrisburg scratched out two runs late against the SeaWolves bullpen, but this was never in doubt. Lee put a bow on the victory with a two-run shot in the top of the eighth.

Lee: 3-5, 3 R, 2 RBI, HR, SB

Cabrera: 2-5, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR, K

Workman: 2-4, RBI, 2 2B, K

Madden: 4.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 5 K

Erie SeaWolves 2, Harrisburg Senators 0 (Fri)(box)

The SeaWolves opened the 2024 season on the road, but not too far from Erie, PA. Left-hander Lael Lockhart certainly looked right at home. The somewhat unassuming lefty was acquired from the Dodgers last year and really got a lot better as the 2023 season progressed.

A quick arm and good angle to the top of the zone mixed with a quality slider and new splitter has made him an interesting arm to watch. Lockhart’s velo doesn’t stand out, but good extension, movement, and a quick arm from a fairly low release point really helps his heater play up. He’s a fly ball pitcher who gets a lot of weak contact in the air to go with the strikeouts. When you limit home runs too, that’s a lethal profile.

Lockhart shows some feel for changing speed and expanding the zone without wasting pitches when he’s ahead. If the splitter becomes a consistent weapon for him, he’s going to be tough to deal with, and he certainly threw a few filthy ones here.

Tigers Minor League Report picked up on Lockhart’s improvements last summer and he’s done nothing but impress since leveling up. He profiles more like a reliever at the major league level, but he could move quickly this year either way if needed.

Lockhart threw 68 pitches, blanked the Senators for 4 13 innings and struck out nine. He allowed three singles and two walks along the way. The fastball and the slider got most of the whiffs, but the splitter and curveball had their moments. His only trouble came in the second inning when he allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning. Lockhart struck out the next two hitters and got a ground out to smother the threat.

The Senators had a lefty of their own going well in Andrew Alvarez, who no-hit the SeaWolves for five innings with seven strikeouts to two walks allowed. It wasn’t until the sixth that a quick strike gave Erie the only runs of the game. TJ Hopkins doubled with two outs, and Chris Meyers homered to right field. The bullpen, including an inning from Wilkel Hernandez, pitched well. Andrew Magno collected his first save of the year.

Meyers: 1-3, R, 2 RBI, HR, BB, 2 K

Lockhart: 4.1 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 9 K

Lake County Captains 3, West Michigan Whitecaps 2 (Sun)(box)

Dylan Smith’s first outing was a pretty good one, but the bats didn’t get enough done to overcome a few hiccups from the bullpen, losing the series 2-1 to Lake County. The right-hander allowed a first inning run, but struck out six to two walks issued over 3 13 innings of work.

The ‘Caps offense took the lead courtesy of a pair of walks to Max Anderson and Luke Gold in the fourth. Roberto Campos hammered a double to center field, scoring them both. Josh Crouch was then hit by a pitch, and Campos led a double steal of second and third. Peyton Graham walked to load the bases with one out, but Jose Sibrian and Seth Stephenson went down swinging to squander the scoring opportunity.

Lefty Carlos Peña took over in the fifth, and allowed a solo shot to the first batter he saw to tie the game at 2-2. Peña went on to strike out seven, but he left the go-ahead run on in the eighth and Zack Hess couldn’t get the final two outs of the inning. The SeaWolves got owned by the Captains pen over the final two innings and never developed a scoring opportunity.

Anderson: 2-3, R, BB

Stephenson: 2-5, K, SB

Campos: 1-4, 2 RBI, 2B, SB

Smith: 3.1 IP, ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K

Coming Up Next: The Whitecaps welcome in Quad Cities for six this week, with Opening Day at LMCU Ballpark set for a 6:35 p.m. ET start.

West Michigan Whitecaps 2, Lake County Captains 0 (Gm1)(Sat)(box)

After getting rained out on Opening Day, they played two seven-inning games on Saturday instead. Garrett Burhenn gave the ‘Caps a strong start, and Luke Gold provided enough pop to start the season 1-0.

The Whitecaps don’t really have many high end prospects, but they do have an interesting mix of players. Watching outfielder Seth Stephenson lead off for them should be fun, for example. Stephenson stole 70 bases in 113 games last season, mostly at Single-a Lakeland.

Stephenson got things started when he reached and even took second on an error to lead off the game. Max Anderson, the Tigers second rounder in 2023, singled him to third, and Stephenson scored as Gold grounded into a double play. Gold would provide the rest of the offense with a sixth inning solo shot.

Otherwise the pitching had it on lock. Burhenn spun 3 13 innings of two-hit ball with a walk against six strikeouts. The bullpen was nails, with Colin Fields, Tanner Kohlhepp, and Trevin Michael combining for seven strikeouts across three perfect innings to keep the door shut.

Tanner Kohlhepp, one of their top relief prospects, struck out the side in his inning of work in the eighth.

Gold: 1-3, R, RBI, HR, K

Burhenn: 3.1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, BB, 6 K

Lake County Captains 3, West Michigan Whitecaps 1 (Gm2)(Sat)(box)

Right-hander Jaden Hamm, the Tigers 2023 fifth-round pick out of Middle Tennessee State, showed out in his debut for the Whitecaps in Game 2, but the offense couldn’t get anything going.

Hamm was a popular pick once we got some looks at him. His fourseamer is mid-90’s already with outstanding induced vertical break numbers. He’s also got a good sweeping slider and a solid curveball. There’s a lot for the Tigers player development staff to work with.

Hamm carved up the Captains with seven strikeouts in 3 13 innings of scoreless work. The fastball was overpowering, but he had everything working pretty well. Very promising debut.

Unfortunately the offense only mustered three hits in this one. A bunt single from Carlos Mendoza in the first inning, with a wild pitch that moved him to second, led to the ‘Caps only run when Izaac Pacheco singled through the right side of the infield. Right-hander Carlos Marcano’s West Michigan debut was a struggle in the fifth, as a pair of walks and a hitter batter helped the Captains to a three-run inning that proved enough to win.

Mendoza: 1-2, R, BB, K, SB

Pacheco: 1-3, RBI, 2 K

Hamm: 3.1 IP, 0 R, 3 H, BB, 7 K

Dunedin Blue Jays 8, Lakeland Flying Tigers 7 (Sun)(box)

The Flying Tigers absolutely beat up on rehabbing Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah in this one. Then the bats went sleepytime, while the Flying Tigers bullpen blew a six-run lead over the last five innings of the game.

Sawyer Gipson-Long got the start as he rehabs from a spring groin strain. He was fine, striking out four in three innings of work, but did allow a solo shot to Arjun Nimmala in the bottom of the first.

The game opened with Manoah just completely, horrifyingly lost out there. He walked the first four SeaWolves he faced to make it 1-0 Lakeland. A Jim Jarvis sacrifice fly brought in the second run of the game before Manoah managed to punch out David Smith to slip the noose.

With one down in the top of the second inning, Dom Johnson doubled to left and Peck followed with a single, then stole second base. A little chopper from Max Clark scored them both as the second baseman threw the ball away, and it was 4-1 Lakeland.

Josue Briceño flew out, but Brett Callahan launched a two-run shot, his first, and it was 6-1 Lakeland. Cristian Santana and Jim Jarvis followed with singles, with Santana scoring as the Blue Jays right fielder misplayed the ball, and then Manoah hit David Smith before finally, mercifully, getting lifted for a reliever.

However, it was all Blue Jays from there. 2023 16th rounder Donye Evans allowed a run, while recent minor league free agent signing, right-hander Thomas Bruss, was victimized by two errors in the inning on shortstop Jim Jarvis. Bruss did walk two as well, so it wasn’t all on Jarvis.

Peck: 2-4, 2 R, BB, K, 2 SB

Callahan: 1-3, R, 3 RBI, HR, BB, K, SB

Clark: 0-4, 2 R, RBI, BB, K

Gipson-Long: 3.0 IP, ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 K

Coming Up Next: The Flying Tigers welcome in the Bradenton Marauders on Tuesday night for a 6:30 p.m. ET start on Opening Day at Publix Field.

Dunedin Blue Jays 7, Lakeland Flying Tigers 2 (Sat)(box)

The Blue Jays evened the series at a game apiece by beating up on the pitching staff a bit on Saturday. Chris Williams Jr. took the brunt of it in relief, allowing a four-run fifth that gave the Blue Jays control of the game for good.

Lakeland opened the scoring in the top of the first when Josue Briceño was hit by a pitch. A balk moved him to second, and a Clayton Campbell singled scored him from second. 1-0 Lakeland.

Starter Andrew Sears hurt himself with a walk and a wild pitch in the bottom half as Dunedin tied things up. Sears really struggled with his control overall. In the second, a Cristian Santana led to another run for Lakeland as Samuel Gil walked, Dom Johnson singled, and a John Peck sac fly score Santana from third. 2-1 Lakeland.

From there it was all Dunedin, however.

Campbell: 1-4, RBI

Peck: 1-4, RBI, K, SB

Sears: 3.0 IP, R, 0 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 3 K

Lakeland Flying Tigers 5, Dunedin Blue Jays 1 (Fri)(box)

The Flying Tigers start the season with Kevin McGonigle on the injured list with a hamstring strain, but they had enough offense on Opening Day. 2023 ninth round draft pick Hayden Minton put together a solid debut start, spinning four innings of one run ball with five strikeouts. The offense was clicking, racking up eight hits and three walks on the day. They built an early lead and cruised the rest of the way.

Max Clark walked with one out in the top of the first and Josue Briceño singled him to third. A Clayton Campbell single scored Clark as the first run of the Florida State League season. In the second, Jose De La Cruz singled with one out and David Smith followed with a double. John Peck reached on an Arjun Nimmala error, scoring De La Cruz and moving Smith to third. A Clark sac fly scored Smith to make it 3-0. Campbell led off the third with a solo shot the opposite way.

Minton allowed a run in the third, but that was all the Blue Jays would get. A Jim Jarvis double in the sixth got one more run across when Smith followed with a single.

Campbell: 2-4, R, 2 RBI, HR, K

Briceno: 2-4, BB

Smith: 2-4, R, RBI, 2B

Minton: 4.0 IP, ER, 2 H, BB, 5 K

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