Solid Pitching Performances Highlight This Week’s Hillcats Chatter

It has been a good week for the Lynchburg Hillcats as they carried a five-game winning streak through much of the week before losing game one of their series with the Potomac Nationals on Thursday.

Last Friday, Lynchburg dropped a 4-0 decision to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the series opener before winning three straight to start off their seven-game road trip. After being shut out, they put up five runs over each of the next three games of the series before moving on to Carolina to take on the Mudcats from Zebulon. Mother Nature interfered with the festivities on Monday, but Tuesday’s doubleheader went on as planned. The ‘Cats swept that double dip, winning by 1-0 and 7-1 finals before an off day on Wednesday. The pitching staff allowed eight runs on Thursday in an 8-2 defeat in the opener from Lynchburg with the P’Nats before a 4-2 win on Friday night.

Saturday night’s 6:00 PM start for the High-A ‘Cats was postponed due to rain. on Saturday night and a 2:00 PM first pitch in the Sunday finale before Lynchburg hits the road against the rival Salem Red Sox in a three-game set in the middle of the coming week.

In other Hillcats chatter:


Right-hander Matt Esparza (pictured) made his third start of the season for the Hillcats and put up a solid effort on the mound against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans on Sunday. He allowed three runs for the third straight start, but lasted seven innings in this outing (compared to four in each of his first two of the season). Just two of the runs were earned and came via eight hits and a walk while he struck out three.

The 22-year-old Esparza was a 14th round draft pick by the Indians in the 2015 draft out of UC Irvine.


Right-hander Shao-Ching Chiang is off to a hot start for the Hillcats.

After allowing just two earned runs in five and one-third innings in a loss to Salem in his first start of the season, he has bounced back with wins in each of his last two starts behind two quality seven-inning outings.

On April 15, he allowed one unearned run on four hits with four strikeouts to earn a win over Myrtle Beach. In his second home start of the season while facing Potomac, he again went seven innings and gave up two unearned runs on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts to win his second straight while lowering his season ERA to 0.93 through his first 19 1/3 innings.


Nineteen-year-old right-hander Triston McKenzie has carried a strong 2016 season into this year with a 2-1 record on the mound, a 1.72 ERA, and a 1.02 WHIP through his first three starts.

In his last start on Tuesday, he earned that second win while holding Carolina to one unearned run on three hits with two walks and a season-high eight strikeouts.

He was the Indians’ collective bargaining round A pick in the 2015 draft.


Life at High-A remains kind to left-hander Thomas Pannone, who has allowed just three hits through his first three starts of the season for the Hillcats.

After throwing five hitless and scoreless innings in his debut on April 7 against Myrtle Beach, he allowed just one unearned run on two hits in six innings in a no-decision against Salem on April 12, matching his game one strikeout total with eight in the outing.

He made his third start on April 18 and his first on the road as he took on Carolina. He was barely touched again, giving up just one hit in five and two-thirds innings while striking out six.


Sicnarf Loopstok, the 23-year-old catcher and first baseman out of Aruba and Western Oklahoma State College, has started his season strong at the plate.

After hitting safely in each of his first four games of the year, an 0-for-3 day ended that streak, but he began a new one in his next game. He has hits in each of his last five games to give him hits in nine of ten this season. He is hitting .342 in the young campaign with three doubles, a triple, one home run, and six RBI.


Catcher Martin Cervenka has been a multi-hit machine when in the lineup for the Hillcats. The 24-year-old backstop out of the Czech Republic has hit safely in seven of his first ten games this season to post a .308 average at the plate. In five of those seven games, Cervenka had two hits.

The seventh year man has been playing in the Indians organization since 2011. He spent last season split between Class-A Lake County and the Hillcats.


The Hillcats made a roster move on Friday when they added former utility man and converted reliever Paul Hendrix from Goodyear. The move was made when right-hander Neil Holland was promoted to Double-A Akron.

Outfielder Trenton Brooks joined the Hillcats roster last Saturday from the Arizona League and has appeared in a pair of games for the club, going hitless in his first six at bats. He was the Indians’ 17th round pick in the 2016 draft and appeared in 35 games in the AZL last season, hitting .222.

A roster spot was available for Brooks when the Hillcats had to place outfielder Connor Marabell on the 7-day disabled list. He was lifted for a defensive replacement after a second inning ground out on April 13 against Myrtle Beach.

Photo: Jay Westcott/The News & Advance

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