The Carolina League season is rapidly winding down for the Lynchburg Hillcats, with just seven games remaining on their regular season schedule. Their ticket to postseason baseball in September was punched with a first half Northern Division crown, but they are sitting atop the league again with a 37-26 record and a one-game lead over the Potomac Nationals after breaking a tie in the standings with a walk-off win on Sunday. Earlier in the week, they had completed a sweep over Wilmington before dropping the first two games of their three-game set with the P-Nats.
The Hillcats will take their final road trip of the regular season this week, heading to Myrtle Beach for three games with the Pelicans beginning Tuesday before returning home for four straight against the Salem Red Sox. The playoffs are scheduled to begin on September 7.
In other Hillcats chatter:
BRADLEY IS YOUR MVP
He made his selection all the more easy with three homers earlier in the week. He hit a pair on Tuesday, driving in three in the win over Wilmington. He followed with his third homer in two games the next day in another Hillcats victory. He has 23 doubles and 29 homers to go with his 101 RBI this season.
SIX NAMED TO POSTSEASON ALL-STAR TEAM
Bradley was also one of six members of the Hillcats to be named to the league’s postseason All-Star team. The 13-man roster was composed of Bradley, Mark Mathias, and Yu-Cheng Chang in the infield, Anthony Santander and former ‘cat Greg Allen in the outfield, and Francisco Mejia behind the plate.
MARABELL’S WALK-OFF WINNER
Connor Marabell capped off a memorable week with a career performance on Sunday.
Earlier in the week, he was named to the Midwest League’s postseason All-Star team for his play with the Captains prior to his July 27 promotion to Lynchburg. He drove in a run in Thursday’s win against Wilmington, then had a single and a double in the opener against Potomac on Friday. On Saturday, he had another double and walked while driving in a run in the loss to the Nationals.
On Sunday, he was the Hillcats’ hero, going 4-for-5 at the plate while coming just a triple short of the cycle. He scored twice, drove in three, and had a pair of doubles to go with a single and a homer. That homer, his first at the High-A level, capped a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth as Lynchburg overcame a 7-4 deficit for an 8-7 victory. With runners on the corners and two outs with the Hillcats trailing 7-5, Marabell cleared the fence in right field with the walk-off homer.
PAULINO LOCKED IN
Dorssys Paulino has made the most of his time with the Hillcats when healthy and in the lineup. He hit in all six Hillcats games over the last week and has put together an eight-game hitting streak, hitting 17-for-34 in that span with three homers.
He wrapped up the series against Wilmington with a 4-for-4 day at the plate, coming just a homer short of the cycle while driving in three runs. He got the homer he was missing the next day against Potomac and added another on Saturday with another four-hit day at the plate. He drove in two runs with a single and two doubles in the Hillcats’ win on Sunday.
SANTANDER HITS IN SEVEN STRAIGHT
Santander has hit safely in seven straight games and nine of his last ten as he continues his breakout season. The 21-year-old had a 4-for-4 day in the finale with Wilmington and drove in three runs over the course of the last week. He is hitting .296 on the season with 41 doubles, 19 homers, and has driven in 92 runs while scoring 88.
Seven of his last nine hits have been doubles as he has taken over the Carolina League lead in two-baggers. He trails teammate Bradley for the RBI lead, is second in the league in hits (141), and is third in homers. He is the Carolina League’s active leader in runs scored, trailing only Allen’s 93, despite the former Lynchburg outfielder being a member of the Double-A Akron RubberDucks for more than a month.
MEJIA STILL MASHING AWAY
His 50-game hitting streak may be long over, but Mejia is still providing and producing at the plate for the Hillcats. He was 7-for-22 over the course of the last seven days, including a three-hit game and a homer on Tuesday in the win over the Blue Rocks. He had hits in five of the six games that he played in while driving in four runs.
KRIEGER WINS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Infielder Tyler Krieger’s impressive 2016 debut season got another bit of recognition last Monday as he was named the Carolina League’s Player of the Week for games played between August 15 and August 21. An All-Star in the Midwest League earlier in the season, Krieger earned a promotion to Lynchburg on June 27 and has put up similar numbers with the Hillcats in his first exposure to the High-A level.
Krieger was 11-for-21 over the course of that week with two doubles, two triples, three walks, five runs batted in, and six runs scored while pushing his batting average up 28 points.
He slowed some over the past week, but still put together a four-hit game on Saturday in the Hillcats’ loss to the Nationals. He had a triple and three singles in the ball game and scored a pair of runs. In 54 games with the Hillcats, he has put together a .310/.395/.445 slash line after having a .313/.385/.427 slash in 69 games with the Captains in the first half of the season. He has added 13 doubles, four triples, two homers, and 23 RBI during his time in Lynchburg.
BUDZINSKI WINS MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Manager Mark Budzinski received a belated birthday present on Saturday as he was also recognized for Lynchburg’s strong season on the field when he was named the Carolina League Manager of the Year. It is the first such honor in the newly 43-year-old Budzinski’s managerial career.
He is in his second season at the helm of the Hillcats club. In his third year as a manager in the Indians organization, he has successfully led his teams to the playoffs each season. He led the Lake County Captains to the Midwest League Championship Series in 2014 and last season, his Hillcats lost in the Northern Division Championship Series.
Infielder Claudio Bautista landed on the seven-day disabled list on Tuesday. The move was made retroactive to August 18. The Hillcats activated Chang from the DL the same day. He homered in his first game back, his 13th of the year.