Reed drives in four to lead QC to victory

Quad Cities River Bandits 1B A.J. Reed connects with a pitch during Saturday's game.

Quad Cities River Bandits 1B A.J. Reed connects with a pitch during Saturday’s game.

The Quad Cities River Bandits got a great start from RHP Andrew Thurman and a hot bat from A.J. Reed in their 5-2 win over the Beloit Snappers on Saturday.

Thurman pitched six innings, giving up only one run (a solo homer by Ryan Mathews) on two hits and a walk while striking out six.

Quad Cities River Bandits RHP Andrew Thurman

Quad Cities River Bandits RHP Andrew Thurman

Reed went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer and an RBI double. Chase McDonald drove in the other Quad Cities run on a RBI double.

Mathews accounted for both of Beloit’s runs with solo homers in the 4th and 9th innings.

The game lasted two hours and 31 minutes. There was a good-sized crowd for Pohlman Field: 1,707. Many people probably came to honor outgoing Midwest League president George Spelius, who is retiring after 28 years. Spelius, who was instrumental in bringing professional baseball back to Beloit in 1982, didn’t give a speech or throw out a ceremonial first pitch, but he watched the game from his usual front-row seat behind home plate. Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Connor lauded Spelius in a short speech before the game.

Minor League Baseball President Pat O'Connor waves after speaking to the crowd about Midwest League President George Spelius.

MiLB President Pat O’Connor waves after speaking to the crowd about MWL President George Spelius.

The Snappers gave away Spelius bobbleheads to the first 600 fans who entered the gates. I don’t have a photo of it to share because I haven’t opened the box yet, but here is a photo of a sign inside Pohlman Field thanking Spelius for all he’s done for Beloit and Midwest League baseball:

THANK YOU MR SPELIUS

I’ll see the Snappers in action again today (Sunday) at Fox Cities Stadium. They play against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who are hosting a 1964 Fox Cities Foxes reunion. Members of the 1964 team will be on hand to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their championship season. (I love when Midwest League history comes alive, like when former manager Jim Leyland returned to Clinton last weekend.)

RHP Preston Gainey (5-7, 4.30 ERA, 106 strikeouts in 113 IP) is slated to start for the Timber Rattlers. A starting pitcher has not been announced for the Snappers as of this writing.

The Timber Rattlers are coming off a hard-fought battle against the Peoria Chiefs, which Wisconsin won 11-7 in 11 innings. Both managers were ejected. The Timber Rattlers are now two games ahead of the Chiefs in the race for the Western Division’s second-half wildcard spot, with nine games left to play.

*All photos by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

Posted in 2014 Playoffs, Beloit Snappers, Clinton LumberKings, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Kernels hand Bees their 5th straight loss

The Cedar Rapids Kernels used two big innings to beat the Burlington Bees 8-2 on Friday. The loss was Burlington’s fifth in a row.

The Kernels scored four runs in the 2nd inning, chasing Bees SP Sean Newcomb, who took the loss. Newcomb lasted only 1 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits, two walks, and two wild pitches.

Burlington Bees SP Sean Newcomb has given up four earned runs in each of his last two starts.

Burlington Bees SP Sean Newcomb has given up four earned runs in each of his last two starts.

The Kernels scored three more runs in the 4th inning to take a 7-1 lead. 3B Jonatan Hinojosa hit a two-run triple; if that sounds familiar, that’s because he hit a bases-clearing triple against the Bees on Thursday.

Jonatan Hinojosa has four triples in 11 games with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Jonatan Hinojosa has four triples in 11 games with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Kernels 2B Logan Wade drove in three runs on two hits.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 2B Logan Wade

Cedar Rapids Kernels 2B Logan Wade

Kernels SP Ryan Eades (W, 9-11) pitched well, giving up only one run on five hits and a wild pitch. He struck out two and walked none in his six innings of work.

Cedar Rapids Kernels SP Ryan Eades

Cedar Rapids Kernels SP Ryan Eades

As for the three Eades-Eaves showdowns of the game, Bees 2B Kody Eaves singled in his first at-bat, popped out to the third baseman in his second at-bat, and flew out to left field in his third at-bat. Eades was taken out of the game before Eaves’ fourth at-bat, which resulted in a groundout to first base.

Burlington Bees 2B Kody Eaves bats in the bottom of the 1st inning.

Burlington Bees 2B Kody Eaves bats in the bottom of the 1st inning.

Kernels RHP Chris Mazza was perfect in his 1 2/3 innings of work, striking out all five batters he faced.

Midwest League notes

The Kane County Cougars beat the Clinton LumberKings 9-1 on Friday, extending their winning streak to 12 consecutive games. The Cougars are 11-0 at home this month and have an overall record of 85-45, the first time the team has been 40 games over .500 in its 24-year history.

The West Michigan Whitecaps notched 16 strikeouts in their 3-2 win over the Dayton Dragons on Friday. SP Kevin Ziomek struck out 10 batters in six innings, RP Nate Fury struck out five in two innings, and closer Zac Reininger struck out one in his lone inning of work.

The Peoria Chiefs scored twice in the bottom of the 9th inning to beat the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 3-2 on Friday. A day earlier, the Chiefs announced that they agreed to a four-year extension (through the 2020 season) of their player development contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Snappers to honor Spelius

On Saturday the Beloit Snappers will honor MWL president George Spelius, who is retiring next month after 28 years heading the Low-A league. I’ll be at the 7 p.m. game, hopefully arriving early enough to get a Spelius bobblehead! That seems like something the Midwest League Traveler should have on display in his office space, doesn’t it?

Spelius is one of the founding fathers of the Beloit franchise, and has served as league president since 1987. That’s 11 years before Bud Selig was elected commissioner of Major League Baseball!

MWL vice president and league counsel Richard Nussbaum will take over as president when Spelius’ retirement takes effect. He previously served as special counsel to former Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan, who owned the South Bend Silver Hawks from 2005 to 2011.

*All photos by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Hinojosa gets big hit in CR’s win in Burlington

Jonatan Hinojosa leads off Thursday's game for the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Jonatan Hinojosa leads off Thursday’s game for the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Cedar Rapids Kernels 3B Jonatan Hinojosa had two hits and four RBI, including three driven in on a bases-loaded triple, to lead his team to a 6-5 comeback win over the Burlington Bees at Community Field on Thursday.

The Bees led early, but Hinojosa’s three-run triple tied the score 5-5 in the top of the 7th inning. The Kernels took the lead when a passed ball allowed Hinojosa to cross the plate.

Hinojosa’s big hit came two innings after the third baseman committed an error that allowed the Bees to take a 4-2 lead. That half-inning also featured a misplayed flyball that dropped for a hit, and a RBI double by Bees 1B Eric Aguilera.

Burlington Bees 1B Eric Aguilera

Burlington Bees 1B Eric Aguilera

LHP Lewis Thorpe started for the Kernels, but did not get the win. He gave up five runs (two earned) on six hits, a walk, and a wild pitch in 4.2 IP. He struck out seven batters.

Cedar Rapids Kernels SP Lewis Thorpe

Cedar Rapids Kernels SP Lewis Thorpe

After Thorpe was taken out of the game, the Kernels bullpen took control and shut down the Bees offense. Three pitchers combined to throw 4.1 innings of relief, giving up only one hit and one walk while striking out five.

RHP Victor Alcantara started the game for the Bees. He gave up two runs on five hits and two walks in five innings. He struck out five batters.

Burlington Bees SP Victor Alcantara

Burlington Bees SP Victor Alcantara

Bees CF Bo Way hit a triple in the bottom of the 1st inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. He later hit a single, drew a walk, and drove in a run.

Burlington Bees CF Bo Way

Burlington Bees CF Bo Way

Before the game, the Bees held a moment of silence for Hawk Eye sportswriter Susan Denk, who died early Monday of a heart attack. She covered the Bees and Iowa football for the newspaper, where she worked since 1999. She was 39.

Personally, I will remember Susan for her friendliness to me whenever I visited Burlington. One time in particular stands out, when she invited me to stay in the press box for a game in 2012. It was early during Addison Russell’s 16-game stint with the Bees, and Kyle Zimmer was pitching for the Kane County Cougars; it possibly was Russell’s home debut with the Bees, because I recall Susan tweeting about his various “firsts in Burlington” (first hit, first RBI, first stolen base, etc.). I tried not to bother her as she worked, but being a consummate pro, she knew how to seamlessly sprinkle in conversation during slow spots of the game, with topics ranging from our dogs to the quality of The Wallflowers’ second album. She made me feel like I belonged there, and I appreciated that more than she ever knew.

She will be missed.

The Burlington Bees (foreground) and the Cedar Rapids Kernels lined up in front of their dugouts for the moment of silence honoring Susan Denk.

The Burlington Bees (foreground) and the Cedar Rapids Kernels lined up in front of their dugouts for the moment of silence honoring Susan Denk.

*All photos by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

Posted in Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Loons’ De Leon strikes out 14 in win over TinCaps

Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Jose De Leon pitching for the Ogden Raptors earlier this season. (Photo from Baseball America)

Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Jose De Leon pitched for the Ogden Raptors earlier this season. (Photo from Baseball America)

Great Lakes Loons RHP Jose De Leon struck out 14 batters, including nine in a row, in his team’s 5-1 win over the Fort Wayne TinCaps on Tuesday.

It was only his second start since being promoted from the rookie-league Ogden Raptors earlier this month, but it was one for the record books. In his six innings of work Tuesday, De Leon set a new Loons record for strikeouts in a game, breaking the old record of 12 set by LHP Clayton Kershaw in 2007 and tied by LHP Victor Garate in 2008 and LHP Greg Wilborn in 2010.

De Leon also came close to matching the Midwest League record of 10 consecutive strikeouts, set by Burlington Bees RHP Art Groza in 1966 and matched by Dayton Dragons RHP Daniel Renken in 2011.

De Leon has appeared in 12 games (10 starts) this season, split between Ogden and Great Lakes. He is 7-0 with a 2.31 ERA, 98 strikeouts and 19 walks in 66.1 IP. He didn’t walk anyone in either of his two Midwest League starts.

De Leon wasn’t listed among the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top 30 prospects in this year’s Baseball America Prospect Handbook, but here is what Baseball America had to say about the 22-year-old righty in its August 15 Prospect Hot Sheet:

With a young pitcher, a tweak here or there, or a new pitch can often make a dramatic difference. A year ago, De Leon, a 24th-round pick out of Southern in 2013, was way over his head in the Pioneer League. But over the offseason, he got in better shape, and the Dodgers moved him from the third-base side to the middle of the rubber, which allowed him to be more direct to the plate with his cross-fire delivery. Pair that with a jump in his velocity (he now pitches at 92-96 mph) and De Leon is a force to be reckoned with. He’s allowed four earned runs in his last 37 2/3 innings and dominated in his Midwest League debut, allowing one run on three hits while striking out seven in six innings.

De Leon’s Midwest League debut was against the Bowling Green Hot Rods last Thursday.

Matos drives in six for Rattlers

Third baseman Sthervin Matos hit a grand slam and drive in six runs for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who rallied for two runs in the 9th inning to beat the Clinton LumberKings 10-9 on Tuesday. He joined the team Monday after being promoted from the rookie-league Helena Brewers.

LumberKings DH Tyler O’Neill, the reigning Midwest League offensive player of the week, also homered in the game. He now has 13 HR and 35 RBI in 45 games with Clinton this season. He is batting .284.

Posted in Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Helena Brewers, Midwest League, Ogden Raptors, Pioneer League, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Garrett, O’Neill named MWL players of the week

Dayton Dragons LHP Amir Garrett and Clinton LumberKings OF Tyler O’Neill respectively were named the Midwest League pitcher and offensive player of the week for the period of August 11-17.

Garrett pitched a seven-inning shutout against the Lake County Captains in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday. He struck out 12 batters while giving up only three hits and one walk.

Overall this season, Garrett is 7-7 with a 3.60 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 122.1 IP for the Dragons. The former two-sport star recently announced he is giving up basketball to focus all his athletic efforts on baseball.

In six games during the past week, O’Neill batted .381 (8-for-21) with two homers, three doubles, and eight RBI. Both of his home runs were grand slams; he hit one Saturday as Jim Leyland and Ron LeFlore signed autographs on the Ashford University Field concourse as part of Clinton’s “Throwback Night” event.

O’Neill missed most of this season thanks to a broken hand suffered in May, but is batting .298 with six homers, three doubles, and 16 RBI since returning to the LumberKings lineup on August 5.

Oakland Athletics prospect Tyler Marincov, who was named the Midwest League Player of the Month for July, was promoted from the Beloit Snappers to the Stockton Ports of the High-A California League last week. He batted .261 with 16 HR, 64 RBI and 17 SB in 111 games with the Snappers.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, California League, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Lake County Captains, Midwest League, Stockton Ports | Leave a comment

Eaves’ three hits lead Bees to victory

The Burlington Bees celebrate their 5-4 win over the Quad Cities River Bandits.

The Burlington Bees celebrate their 5-4 win over the Quad Cities River Bandits.

Despite LHP Sean Newcomb’s first bad outing as a pro, the Burlington Bees beat the Quad Cities River Bandits 5-4 at Modern Woodmen Park on Sunday.

Newcomb, the top draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels this year, was making just his fourth start as a professional ballplayer, and only his second for the Burlington Bees. After giving up only one run on two hits and a walk in 3.1 innings vs. the Peoria Chiefs last Tuesday, the lefty gave up four runs on five hits and two walks against Quad Cities.

Burlington Bees LHP Sean Newcomb

Burlington Bees LHP Sean Newcomb

The four runs given up by Newcomb included a two-run homer by River Bandits 3B J.D. Davis, which gave Quad Cities a 4-2 lead after three innings.

J.D. Davis is greeted at home plate by teammate Chase McDonald after hitting a two-run homer that gave the River Bandits a 4-2 lead.

J.D. Davis is greeted at the plate by teammate Chase McDonald after hitting a 2-run HR that gave the River Bandits a 4-2 lead.

The Bees rallied for a run in each of the 5th, 6th and 7th innings to take a 5-4 lead. DH Kody Eaves, who went 3-for-5 with a double and a RBI, scored what turned out to be the winning run.

Burlington Bees DH Kody Eaves

Burlington Bees DH Kody Eaves

Bees RHP Brian Loconsole got the win after throwing two scoreless innings of relief. He gave up only one hit and no walks while striking out four.

Burlington Bees RHP Brian Loconsole

Burlington Bees RHP Brian Loconsole

*All photos by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

Posted in Burlington Bees, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

LumberKings win in Leyland’s return to Clinton

Jim Leyland addresses the Clinton crowd while holding a plaque given to him by the LumberKings.

Jim Leyland addresses the Clinton crowd while holding a plaque given to him by the LumberKings.

Former MLB manager Jim Leyland was the guest of honor on “Throwback Night” at Clinton’s Ashford University Field, and the LumberKings won 4-0 in front of their old skipper.

Not that he managed the LumberKings, per se — Leyland helmed one of their predecessor teams, the Clinton Pilots, in 1972, 1973 and 1975 — but the recently retired skipper spoke to the team before Saturday’s game, and they seemed captivated as he talked on-field during a pregame ceremony, too.

Current Clinton players weren’t the only ones listening to Leyland speak. Some of his former Pilots players also were on hand for the pregame ceremony.

Jim Leyland smiles as Ron LeFlore tells a story about his former skipper.

Jim Leyland smiles as Ron LeFlore tells a story about his former skipper.

After the ceremony ended and Leyland threw out a ceremonial first pitch, he and former big-league outfielder Ron LeFlore spent about 3o minutes signing autographs on the concourse. LeFlore batted .277 in 32 games with the 1973 Clinton Pilots, a team that Leyland noted had seven future major-leaguers on it. That team finished with a 73-51 record, the best in the Midwest League that year.

Leyland stuck around for the entire game, but missed all the scoring while he was signing autographs. The game’s four runs were scored in the bottom of the 1st inning, when RF Tyler O’Neill hit a grand slam. It was O’Neill’s second grand slam in three days. He had a chance to hit another one in the bottom of the 7th inning, but he popped out.

LumberKings RF Tyler O'Neill was doubled off first base to end the 3rd inning.

LumberKings RF Tyler O’Neill was doubled off first base to end the 3rd inning.

As part of “Throwback Night,” the LumberKings wore uniforms based on those of the Clinton Pilots.

LumberKings CF Aaron Barbosa

LumberKings CF Aaron Barbosa

Elsewhere in the Midwest League, the West Michigan Whitecaps beat the Great Lakes Loons 7-2 behind a dominant pitching performance by LHP Kevin Ziomek, who gave up one hit and three walks while striking out eight in six innings. Whitecaps DH Pat Leyland — Jim Leyland’s son — went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, and 3 RBI.

*All photos by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Clinton LumberKings, Great Lakes Loons, Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps | 1 Comment