Two top Indians prospects will make their Progressive Field debut early during Major League Baseball’s All-Star Weekend in July as Lynchburg third baseman Nolan Jones and Columbus outfielder Daniel Johnson have been named participants in the SiriusXM Futures Game scheduled for play on Sunday, July 7.
Jones has spent the first half of this season at High-A Lynchburg and was named to the Carolina League All-Star team earlier this month. Johnson joined the Triple-A Columbus Clippers late in May after spending nearly two months of his season with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks.
The first half of the Lynchburg Hillcats’ 2019 season came to a conclusion on Sunday afternoon, June 16. The Hillcats were facing their Northern Division rivals, Wilmington, for the seventh consecutive day. They had been eliminated from first half contention the previous weekend in Potomac and were now facing the victors of the Northern Division.
The late afternoon contest would be the second of the four-game homestand to go into extra-innings. Never leading Wilmington, the Hillcats would post three runs in the ninth to tie the game at five, and push it to a tenth inning. Unlike Friday evening, where Lynchburg would win with a run scoring walk-off single from Steven Kwan, Wilmington would send the Hillcats to their third straight defeat thanks to a run-scoring balk called on reliever Yapson Gomez that was hotly contested by manager Jim Pankovits.
Competition. That is a driving force in the life of Nolan Jones, the third baseman for the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats. Whether it is competing against his brothers in the basement playing floor hockey, or making up hitting games in the back yard in a batting cage his father had the good fortune to acquire, Nolan has grown up with a deep competitive spirit.
“I started young playing baseball, ice hockey, and football,” Jones shared with Did The Tribe Win Last Night about his sporting activities growing up in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. “I just fell in love with baseball.”
The 2018 season ended with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats going down to defeat under the bats, gloves, and arms of division rival Potomac. It was the fourth time in four years as a Cleveland Indians affiliate that the Hillcats went to the playoffs. In that span, the club has achieved only a single League title, in 2017, when they split the Mills Cup Championship with the Down East Wood Ducks due to cancellation of finals because of an impending hurricane.
To open the season the club is marked by a veteran presence, including first-year Hillcats manager Jim Pankovits. Nine of the 13-member pitching staff toed the rubber in a Hillcats uniform last year. Reliever Jared Robinson heads up the list of veteran arms, having spent parts of the three previous seasons in the Carolina League. In addition, newcomer to the Cleveland organization, Yapson Gomez, pitched ten games for Myrtle Beach in the 2018 season, adding yet another league veteran to the pitching staff.
“We have quite a few kids back from last year that have a couple of years under their belt,” said Pankovits before the season’s first game. “I think the strength of the Indians’ organization is causing a little bit of logjam.”
The Lake County Captains kicked off the 2018 Class-A season in the chilly weather of northeast Ohio last Thursday night, hosting some big names in the Cleveland Indians’ farm system and the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
The Captains made the opener a thriller, needing a three-run ninth inning after being held to just a hit through the first eight innings, getting a game-winning walk-off single from Jorma Rodriguez. Friday’s game was suspended by snow in the fourth inning and picked up over the weekend from Fort Wayne, where the Captains won Saturday’s and Sunday’s games, in addition to the completion of the suspended game, to start the year 4-0. In three of those four games against the TinCaps, the Captains incredibly drew eight walks.
Lake County dropped game one of four in Dayton on the second leg of their road trip by a tough 3-2 final.