Six members total between the Akron RubberDucks and Columbus Clippers earned the honor of playing in their respective league’s All-Star Games this week and several took advantage of the opportunity on a big stage to shine.
The International League faced off with the Pacific Coast League on Wednesday night from Tacoma, Washington. A four-run fourth inning by the PCL All-Stars would prove to be too much for the IL squad to overcome in a 6-4 contest. Columbus’ Richie Shaffer was one of the players to best utilize his time as his performance for the losing squad earned him the league’s All-Star Game MVP award.
All-Star games are the theme of the week as one day after Major League Baseball hosted its annual Midsummer Classic and several days after top prospects united for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday, both the International League and the Eastern League will play their respective games on Wednesday night.
The Indians’ top farm affiliate, the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, have just two representatives in Tacoma, Washington, for the Triple-A All-Star Game between the best of the International League and the Pacific Coast League. Richie Shaffer received the early invitation through voting, but middle infielder Eric Stamets was also asked to participate as a reserve.
When the Akron RubberDucks have not been dodging rain drops, they have played with mixed results. To be fair, when six games have been rained out or suspended over the course of the first three weeks of a month, it may be hard to find a rhythm on the diamond.
Rains wiped away contests last weekend, washing out the rest of the ‘Ducks’ series after getting a pair of wins to open the five-game series from Binghamton. The team returned home soggy to Canal Park and performed well, taking two of three from the Richmond Flying Squirrels. After dropping a 3-1 decision in the opener last Monday, they put up 6-1 and 7-5 victories to take the series and inch within a game of the .500 mark. That would be as close to an even record as they would get as their tough series in Hartford against the Yard Goats ended in three consecutive losses to wrap up the weekend. Akron was dealt one-run losses on both Friday and Saturday before a 5-2 final in the finale.
The Akron RubberDucks returned home from their six-game road trip Thursday with a 2-3 record and their second postponed contest of the year as rains continued to wreak havoc on professional baseball games across the country.
After dropping the final two games of their three-game series with Binghamton last week to bring an end to their five-game winning streak, Akron (11-14) hit the road for Bowie and earned a series win. The offense was big, outscoring the Baysox 22-11 in the series, as they won a 6-1 final on Friday and an 11-2 decision on Sunday as the ‘Ducks bats erupted for five home runs to pace Julian Merryweather to his second win of the week. Monday’s opener in Binghamton was rained out before the club lost two in the middle of the week, dropping a pair of tough games by 5-4 and 1-0 finals.
Weather played some havoc in the opening week of the season, forcing an early doubleheader. They won the first game of the double dip on April 9 and won the next day in the opener against the Trenton Thunder, but have struggled to find the win column since, dropping the final two against Trenton before hitting the road for three in Altoona. The first road trip of the season has started off on the wrong foot, as the club has lost one-run decisions in each of the first two games of the three-game set with the Curve.
The RubberDucks will finish their stay in Altoona on Saturday before taking Sunday off. They will play three in Reading against the Fightin Phils before coming home to host Altoona for three next Friday and Binghamton for three more before closing out April on the road.
The potential stars of the future united at Canal Park in Akron on Tuesday as members of the RubberDucks got settled into their new home after working out in Arizona over parts of the last two months.
The defending Eastern League champions will look to add a sixth title to the team’s mantel this season with a new skipper, some familiar faces, and an influx of new weapons with playoff experience who have advanced from High-A Lynchburg.
The quest for the championship begins Thursday night when the ‘Ducks host the Bowie BaySox.
A three-run seventh inning proved to be the difference in the Mills Cup Championship Series on Wednesday as the Myrtle Beach Pelicans came back to defeat the Lynchburg Hillcats by a 5-3 final.
The win gave the Pelicans a 3-1 series win and their second consecutive Carolina League championship as they celebrated on the Hillcats’ home turf, Calvin Falwell Field at City Stadium in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Just two batters into the bottom of the first, the home team held the early lead. It would not last for long as the Hillcats twice on the night surrendered a slight one-run lead.
Against Pelicans starter Preston Morrison in the first, Tyler Krieger singled and scored on a double to center by Francisco Mejia. They would add a single by Yu-Cheng Chang and Anthony Santander was hit by a pitch, but Bobby Bradley went down swinging before a double play grounder from Dorssys Paulino.
A five-run fifth inning by the Pelicans was too much for the Lynchburg Hillcats to overcome as Myrtle Beach evened up the Mills Cup Championship Series with an 8-3 win on Sunday night.
Three straight Hillcats hits to start the game put the club in position for an early lead against Pelicans starter Jeremy Null. Tyler Krieger, Francisco Mejia, and Anthony Santander each reached on grounders before Bobby Bradley grounded into a double play. Krieger scored to give Lynchburg a 1-0 lead, but the twin killing derailed the early threat.
Myrtle Beach tied it up in the home half of the first against Lynchburg’s Brock Hartson. Charcer Burks walked to start the frame and advanced to second on a passed ball by Mejia. Donnie Dewees sacrificed him to third and after a walk by David Bote, freshly called up 19-year-old prospect Eloy Jimenez grounded to third to tie the game on the out at first.
With two on and nobody out in the top of the 12th inning, an error by Myrtle Beach allowed the go-ahead run to score for Lynchburg and the Hillcats held on in the bottom half of the frame to claim a 4-3 victory in the Mills Cup Championship Series opener on Saturday night.
The Hillcats never trailed, but let the Pelicans back into the game several times throughout the night before clinching the contest for good in extras
Lynchburg took a 1-0 lead in the second against Myrtle Beach starter Erick Leal. Three straight singles from Yu-Cheng Chang, Connor Marabell, and Yonathan Mendoza pushed Chang across with the first run of the game. Those names would all come up big much later on in the night.
More than five innings of shutout baseball from starter Sean Brady and a two-run home run from Yu-Cheng Chang late pushed Lynchburg past Potomac, 3-1, to win the Carolina League’s Northern Division Championship Series.
The Hillcats advance to the Mills Cup Championship and will face the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on Saturday. The Pelicans knocked off the Salem Red Sox late on Friday night, 2-1, to clinch their third consecutive Southern Division Championship Series victory.
It’s playoff time in the minor leagues and three Indians affiliates will begin their chases for postseason crowns on Wednesday night.
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers, Double-A Akron RubberDucks, and High-A Lynchburg Hillcats all punched tickets in their respective leagues behind solid 2016 seasons. The Clippers won the International League’s West Division with an eleven-game lead at year’s end. The RubberDucks clinched a playoff berth on Sunday and won the Western Division title outright on Monday. The Hillcats won the Carolina League Northern Division first-half crown and tied the Potomac Nationals for the division’s second-half title with a 39-31 finish.
Any chance that Bradley Zimmer breaks camp with the Cleveland Indians at the end of spring training in 2017 may come down to how well he performs in Arizona this fall.
Zimmer, the Indians’ top prospect in the farm system, was one of eight minor leaguers named by Cleveland to participate in the annual Arizona Fall League as members of the Mesa Solar Sox. Joining Zimmer in the Mesa outfield will be Double-A Akron’s Greg Allen. High-A Lynchburg’s Yu-Cheng Chang will be on the roster at short. Three relievers – Trevor Frank (Lynchburg), Cameron Hill (Akron), and David Speer (Akron) – will get additional work in the Solar Sox bullpen, while right-handed starter Michael Peoples (Akron) will also be on the roster.
Akron’s Eric Haase is also on the club as one of the taxi squad members, activated just twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.