The Lynchburg Hillcats were the dominant team in the High-A Carolina League. They won both halves of the Northern Division and finished the season with an 87-52 record. The next closest team was the Buies Creek Astros at 74-65, who failed to qualify for the playoffs in either half of the Southern Division.
One significant contributor to the Hillcats success was the stability of their roster. Of the 12 position players on the Opening Day roster, only one was not with the team when the season ended on September 9 (infielder Yonathan Mendoza, who received a promotion to AA Akron on July 6). Seven of the original 13 pitchers also lasted the full season on Lynchburg’s roster. For a minor league team whose primary goal is player development, that level of stability is unusual.
Andrew Calica grew up in southern California and baseball has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. The 6’1”, 190 lb. center fielder was selected by Cleveland in round 11 of the 2016 draft out of the University of California- Santa Barbara. This was the second time the Indians had drafted Calica, after previously selecting him the 17th round in 2012.
Rather than signing out of high school, Calica chose to attend college. Getting a redshirt his freshman year due to injury, he stayed four years at UCSB and many draft watchers considered him a solid pick, perhaps one of the strongest seniors in the 2016 draft.
“My parents always put education first,” said Calica about choosing college over an early start to a professional baseball career. “I know how important that was so I wanted to make sure that was a priority for me and UCSB was a great school, a good educational system, and a good atmosphere.”
After a couple of tough patches earlier in the month, the Lynchburg Hillcats have found that winning recipe in Carolina League play.
Winners of six of their last seven contests, the Indians’ High-A affiliate have charged back into the race in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. At 24-19, they trail the rival Salem Red Sox by three and a half games in the standings.
The Hillcats will play eleven of their next 15 games on the road, which could help them gain even more ground in the division. The ‘Cats have had a tough time at City Stadium this season, going just 11-13 on their home field, but are 13-6 on the road, a mark trailing only Salem’s 14-6 road record for best in High-A.
Rains again washed away another game for the Lynchburg Hillcats as Thursday’s game against the Carolina Mudcats was postponed. The two teams do not meet again in the first half of the Carolina League schedule, so the game will not be rescheduled.
The cancellation marked the fifth time this season that the Hillcats could not play baseball because of the weather and the second time in the last week after last Thursday’s game in Potomac with the Nationals was under water. It stopped Lynchburg from putting an end to a tough battle with Carolina after dropping two of three in a low scoring three-game series. The abbreviated set featured a total of eleven runs between the Hillcats (five) and the Mudcats (six).
The Lake County Captains are playing out the string as they finish their 2016 regular season on the outside of the Midwest League’s playoff picture.
A tough series with the Bowling Green Hot Rods from August 22 to 25 effectively spelled the end of the run for the Captains (71-68), who dropped five in a row in the series. They bounced back with three straight wins against Lansing before dropping the finale with the Lugnuts and went on the road to Dayton, winning the first game of the series before dropping the final two contests. They have split a pair with Lansing in the final games of the season, with a 1:00 PM start on Monday marking the final game on the 2016 calendar for the Captains.
In other news and notes from the Captains’ log:
Despite winning the first three games of their four-game set with the Lansing Lugnuts, any dreams of a division crown fizzled out for the Lake County Captains this week after getting stomped in five straight games in a four-day span by Bowling Green to start an eight-game homestand at Classic Park in Eastlake.
The season is winding down in the Midwest League, as the Captains (29-34 in the second half) have seven games left on their regular season schedule while clinging to a slight chance of a postseason trip. They trail the Great Lakes Loons by three and a half games for the final Eastern Division second half qualifying spot. Lake County has a game against Lansing on Monday night before heading to Dayton for a three-game series to wrap up the road schedule from Wednesday to Friday. They will then return home to host the final three games of their season as they face the Lugnuts again on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
In other scribblings in the Captains’ log:
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ hopes of staying above the .500 mark and tracking down a wild card spot hit a bit of a bump in the road as play has resumed following the brief All-Star festivities last week.
The third place Scrappers (30-31) traveled to Batavia, splitting a doubleheader on Wednesday with the Muckdogs while splitting the final two games of the series on Thursday and Friday. They returned home over the weekend to host State College, the top team in the Pinckney Division, who reminded the Scrappers of that fact by taking two of the three contests.
Mahoning Valley will finish up the week with three in Brooklyn starting Tuesday night before returning home this weekend for three against West Virginia from Niles. The season is rapidly coming to its conclusion, as they will journey to Williamsport for three to wrap up the month before a week of September play.
In other news and notes from the Scrappers’ scrapbook:
The New York-Penn League held its annual All-Star Game on Tuesday night. A few early rain drops could only temporarily slow down the festivities from Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls, New York, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades.
Many of the six players from the well-represented Mahoning Valley Scrappers got to partake in their first professional midsummer classic and Erlin Cerda played the hero of the game as his South team defeated the North team, 9-5. Cerda took home MVP honors for his three-run home run in the fourth inning that gave the South All-Stars a 4-3 advantage at the time, a lead that they would never relinquish.
The only thing that could slow down the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the last week was Mother Nature, and she succeeded twice in doing so.
The Scrappers are playing their best baseball of the short season. They are 9-4 in August and riding a five-game winning streak. Coupled with a four-game streak earlier in the month, they have pulled into third place in the New York-Penn League’s Pinckney Division with a 27-27 record, nine games in back of State College and 12 games away from being eliminated from the division crown. The week was won by taking two games at home against Batavia before wet grounds cancelled the finale. After winning the opener against Williamsport on Friday, Saturday’s game was washed out before the Scrappers took a doubleheader on Sunday.
After the All-Star break this week, Mahoning Valley will travel to Batavia for four games in three days starting Wednesday before returning to Niles for three with State College starting Saturday night.
In other news and notes from the Scrappers’ Scrapbook:
It has been a common theme throughout the Cleveland Indians farm system this season, so it should be no surprise that the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers will be well represented when the New York-Penn League plays its All-Star Game on August 16 from Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, New York, home of the Hudson Valley Renegades.
Six members of the Scrappers, including left-handers Juan Hillman and Tanner Tully, infielder Erlin Cerda, and outfielders Andrew Calica, Todd Isaacs, and Gabriel Mejia, were selected to the South team from the Mahoning Valley roster.
A good start to the month of August was negated for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, who were swept in three straight close contests against Hudson Valley on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
The week began better for the Scrappers, who salvaged their series at home against Williamsport with a 2-1 win last Tuesday before heading to West Virginia for three with the Black Bears. They swept the set with three one-run victories, but lost 4-2, 3-2, and 5-2 to Hudson Valley to spoil the four-game winning streak.
The Scrappers (22-27) return home on Tuesday for a six-game homestand with Batavia and Williamsport. They trail State College by 12.5 games in the Pinckney Division, but will look to gain a little ground while hoping to improve on an 11-12 home record this season.
In more news and notes from the Scrappers’ Scrapbook:
Mother Nature has been unkind to the young Mahoning Valley Scrappers this week. The Indians’ short-season affiliate has had three rainouts and a pair of doubleheaders in the last week because of the weather.
The Scrappers were set to play three with Connecticut on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, but had to settle for a Monday doubleheader and Tuesday’s finale. They swept the three games to push their winning streak to five straight. After Wednesday’s off day and Thursday’s rainout in Aberdeen, the Scrappers played their second doubleheader of the week, winning game one 7-1 before a 6-2 loss in the nightcap to end their six-game winning streak. Saturday’s matchup was similarly drowned out by rain.
Mahoning Valley (18-22) returns home Sunday for three with Williamsport before hitting the road for six straight against West Virginia and Hudson Valley. They have incredibly pulled within four games of the .500 mark and are eight and a half games in back of State College in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division.
In other news and notes from the Scrappers’ scrapbook: