McKenzie K’s 14, Pannone Promoted, and More in Hillcats Chatter

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).

With another game missed, the Hillcats will hold at a 7-12 record at home this season while sitting firmly in the middle of the pack in the Northern Division. They will embark on a seven-game, two-city road trip beginning this weekend as they look to expand on their league best 9-3 record away from City Stadium this season with stops in Myrtle Beach and Winston-Salem.

In other chatter about the Hillcats:


Young right-handed starter Triston McKenzie had a game for the ages on Tuesday in Lynchburg’s 4-1 win and easily had one of the highlights of his three-year professional career in the Indians organization.

The 19-year-old retired 18 of the 19 batters that he faced in the game over six innings, with an improbable 14 of them coming on strikeouts. He allowed just one hit and issued one walk in the game while making 92 pitches to earn his third win of the season. Every batter in the Carolina lineup struck out at least one time in the game and each of the first seven hitters struck out at least two times.

After walking the first batter of the game, McKenzie went on an impressive tear, striking out six straight batters to clear the first and second innings. He struck out one in the third, two more in the fourth while allowing his only hit of the day (a single), struck out the final two in the fifth, and K’d the side again in his final inning in the sixth.


Lefty Thomas Pannone’s incredible start to the season was twice rewarded in the last week, beginning with his promotion to Double-A Akron. After arriving to the RubberDucks and making his first start, he was named the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Month for his work in April.

Pannone made five starts in his second stint with the Hillcats and was nearly perfect on the mound. He allowed one unearned run on ten hits with seven walks and 39 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings, posting a 2-0 record, a spotless 0.00 ERA, and a minute 0.61 WHIP.


Second-year outfielder Andrew Calica carried a hitting streak from the end of April through the first week of May as he found a good groove at the plate. Entering the streak with a .186 average on April 28, Calica hit in eight straight games from April 29 through May 7 while registering five two-hit games in the process. He hit his first triple of the season in his first game of the stretch, notched his first home run of the season halfway through with a solo shot on May 3 against Winston-Salem, and he doubled in his final game in the streak.

With 13 hits in 33 at bats (.394), Calica boosted his season batting average to .261 before the streak ended with an 0-for-3 day against Carolina on Tuesday.


Right-hander Shao-Ching Chiang set a new personal best last Friday when he gave the Hillcats eight innings on the mound in earning his fourth win of the season as Lynchburg defeated Potomac, 6-2.

Chiang was in control throughout the game, coming up an inning short of a complete game victory. His career-best eight innings of work included two runs allowed on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts. According to the Hillcats, he became the first player to complete eight innings on the mound for the club since D.J. Brown did so on July 11, 2015.

The victory was his fourth in as many ball games and came in just his fifth start of the season. He had lasted seven innings in each of his previous three outings, which were also quality starts for Lynchburg. The 23-year-old has a 4-1 record with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP while working in his fifth season of professional ball and his first with the Hillcats.


Matt Esparza has prevented an earned run from scoring in each of his last three starts for the Hillcats and has allowed no more than three earned runs in any one start this season in six outings.

The third-year right-hander out of UC Irvine allowed just one unearned run on April 23 against Potomac as he gave up just four hits and a walk while striking out a season-high nine P’Nats. He followed it up with his second-longest start of the year as Lynchburg hosted Myrtle Beach on April 30. He allowed two unearned runs on four hits, hit one batter, and struck out five in the no-decision.

He was back on the mound earlier this week, making the start on Sunday on the road in Potomac to face the Nationals for the second time this season. He worked five scoreless innings, giving up just one hit, hitting one batter, and walking a pair while striking out three in earning his second win of the season. He is now 2-2 with a 2.32 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP this season in six starts.


Right-hander Jared Robinson was placed on the 7-day disabled list on May 1. The transaction was made retroactive to April 28. He had struggled to start the season, going 1-3 with a 6.32 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in four starts.

The Hillcats received right-handed pitcher Jordan Milbrath back from extended spring training on the first of the month. He made his first two relief appearances of the season with Lynchburg after ending last season with a scoreless two and one-thirds innings of baseball in his Double-A debut on September 5.

Catcher Sicnarf Loopstok was activated from the disabled list last Friday. The 24-year-old 13th round pick out of Western Oklahoma State College in 2013 was hitting .286 at the time of his DL stint and has hit well in his return, logging nine hits in 25 at bats (.360) with a homer and six RBI. In a corresponding move, catcher/first baseman Juan De La Cruz was returned to the Class-A Lake County Captains.

Right-hander Shane Bieber was promoted from Class-A Lake County last Friday. He made the first High-A appearance of his career on Monday, throwing six innings of one-run ball while allowing four hits and striking out six. The 21-year-old right-hander was a fourth round pick out of UC Santa Barbara in 2016.


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