Lynchburg’s Chu Claims Carolina League’s Player of the Week
Bob Toth | On 26, Jul 2018
It was a great week for Li-Jen Chu, as the 24-year-old catcher of the Lynchburg Hillcats was named the Carolina League’s Player of the Week for games played between June 16 and June 22.
Chu’s big week included appearances in six games – four behind the plate and two at designated hitter. In his six starts, he combined to go 12-for-20 (.600) at the plate with two doubles, two homers, and six RBI while drawing five walks to post a .680 on-base percentage. He used a pair of three-hit games and a four-hit effort to tally his extensive hit total, going hitless in just one game during the week.
The Hillcats’ backstop had already registered three hits in eight at bats against the Carolina Mudcats when the series wrapped up from Zebulon on Monday, July 16. He extended his hitting streak to five straight games with a 3-for-4 day at the plate as the team’s DH and six-hitter. He led off the second inning with a liner to left but picked things up in the fifth inning with a leadoff single off of the pitcher. He would come around to score on a groundout by Emmanuel Tapia to cut the Hillcats’ deficit to 3-2 at the time. He led off an inning for the second time on the day in the seventh inning and hit his seventh home run of the year to tie the game again at four. Carolina took the lead in the bottom of the seventh, but Lynchburg used a three-run eighth to move in front for good, with Chu delivering the final run on an RBI-single to left before he was thrown out trying to stretch his base hit to two bases. The Hillcats held on for a 7-5 win.
Lynchburg started a seven-game homestand with four against the Wilmington Blue Rocks on Wednesday. The Hillcats would end the day in the loss column and the catcher Chu would go 0-for-3, but did force home a run with a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it a 4-1 Blue Rocks lead. The ‘cats would score one more in the frame on a wild pitch to cut the deficit in half and added two more in the seventh, but Wilmington moved ahead for good with a run in the top of the eighth to capture a 5-4 win.
Chu, back in the five-hole and behind the plate on Thursday, went 1-for-3 with a single. The game was called after seven innings, with the Blue Rocks the victors behind a 3-1 final.
Chu was in the heart of the lineup and at the heart of the Hillcats’ offensive efforts on Friday night in the finale against Wilmington. He put up a 4-for-4 day, reaching base safely in all five trips, and got his big day started in the second with a leadoff single. He had a chance to score the game’s first run, but was thrown out trying to score from second on a two-out single by Jorma Rodriguez to end the inning. He started the Hillcats’ rally in the fourth with the club trailing 2-0. With one out, he singled and moved to second on a base hit by Jodd Carter. Dillon Persinger’s three-run home run put Lynchburg on top and Tapia followed with the back-to-back jack to give the Hillcats a 4-2 lead. Chu doubled with two outs in the fifth, but Lynchburg would leave the bases loaded, and he singled in the bottom of the seventh to load the bases before scoring later in the inning on a double by Tapia. He drew a walk in the bottom of the ninth to lead off the inning and was lifted for pinch-runner Mitch Longo, who would come around to score the tying run to send the game to extras. Wilmington would score the deciding run in the top of the tenth to pull out the 12-11 victory to take the series from Lynchburg.
The Hillcats would need some late run support on Saturday, July 21, hosting Carolina, scoring six runs in the final four frames to overcome 4-0 and 5-2 deficits for a 6-5 walk-off win. Chu was again behind the scoring, leading the club with three hits on the day. He singled in the second but was the final out of the inning on a lineout into a double play by Rodriguez. In the fourth, he grounded out to end the inning. Chu made it a 5-2 game in the bottom of the sixth inning with a two-out RBI-single to left to score the second run of the inning. He delivered a big blow in the eighth as he plated the third of three runs in the inning with his eighth home run of the year. Lynchburg won the game in the bottom of the next inning on a bases loaded wild pitch.
Chu got the day off behind the plate on Sunday and served as the team’s designated hitter. He would reach base four times on the day, hitting a double and drawing three walks in the Hillcats’ 6-5 loss in extra innings. He drew his first walk in the second, but was stranded at third as Lynchburg took a 1-0 lead. He walked again in the third and recorded an RBI-double in the fifth, driving in Gavin Collins to break a 2-2 tie. He drew his third walk to start the seventh, but would be stranded at third with the bases loaded. He was the fourth of six straight Lynchburg strikeout victims to start the home half of the ninth.
Chu’s selection was the first Player of the Week Award of his five-year professional career and the first one won this season by a Lynchburg position player. Eli Morgan won the pitcher’s award earlier this month (July 2-8) and in the middle of June (18-24). Justin Garza (April 5-15, 16-22) also took home the award on the pitcher’s side twice at the beginning of the season.
Photo: Lindsay Carico/Lynchburg Hillcats