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Midshipmen’s Log, 6/28/21: ACL Opening Day, Brandon Williamson sparkles, Penn Murfee strong again, Taylor Dollard strong in debut

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Some very good pitching headlines this week on the farm

Seattle Mariners Summer Workouts
Brandon Williamson
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Happy ACL Opening Day to those who celebrate! It looks like we’ll now have two affiliates in action on Mondays, although there’s sadly no video feed for the ACL (formerly the AZL), so we’ll have to rely on box score tea-leaves reading for the most part (and Instagram posts from our more social media-savvy prospects, of course). But meanwhile, here are the recaps for the weeks that were for the Low-A through Double-A clubs:

Modesto Nuts (26-22) split series with Lake Elsinore Storm (SD) (23-25)

This is the only time all season Modesto will face Lake Elsinore, which is kind of a bummer because the erstwhile Cal League is tiny to begin with and San Diego has some fun prospects at this level (my 2020 draft fave Robert Hassell III, NW native Joshua Mears, defensively-plus catcher Brandon Valenzuela). Fix your scheduling, Low-A West!

Game one: Nuts lose, 5-11

A late bullpen collapse spoiled Josias De Los Santos’s best start in a while, as he surrendered just three runs over five innings while striking out five (but also walking five). Modesto carried a 4-3 lead into the the seventh thanks to a pair of RBI hits from Justin Lavey, but the bullpen duo of Juan Mercedes and Matt Willrodt surrendered four runs apiece to seal Modesto’s fate. Noelvi Marte also had an RBI double in the loss.

Game two: Nuts bullpen shut out Storm, 4-0

This is usually Connor Phillips’ start day but apparently his arm was feeling a little off, so the bullpen was pressed into service. Robert Winslow, Luis Alvarado, Kelvin Nuñez, Jorge Benitez, and Travis Ray Kuhn combined for six strikeouts and no runs on just four hits, which is great, but ten walks, which is less great. Matt Scheffler and Victor Labrada had RBI doubles, and Noelvi Marte checked in with his productive hit of the day as well, an RBI single

Game three: Bullpen day part two doesn’t work out well, Nuts lose 1-5

Adam Macko is still down with a shoulder injury so it’s bullpen day again, although with worse results than the previous game. Brayan Perez was saddled with the loss after surrendering three runs on six hits in just 2.2 innings, although on the bright side, he didn’t walk anyone. The Nuts offense was sleepy today, scoring their only run on a Marte RBI single in the second. Noelvi also had a web gem in the field:

Game four: Furious late-inning rally falls just short, Nuts lose 8-9

This one wasn’t as close as it looked, with Sam Carlson, moving up in the rotation to take the place of now-promoted Connor Phillips, surrendering eight runs on eight hits through just over four innings. To their credit, the Nuts offense steadily chipped away at that lead, scraping two runs over five innings off starter Nick Thwaits on a Dariel Gomez double and a Justin Lavey RBI single, and then tying up the game off the Storm bullpen thanks to a three-run ninth; unfortunately, Elvis Alvarado gave up the walk-off winner in the bottom of the ninth.

Game five: Nuts squeak out a win in Cal League Special, 12-11

Damon Casetta-Stubbs also moves up in the rotation but this was a tough one for DCS, giving up seven runs in five innings. It was a slow trickle of runs this time rather than the big disaster inning getting him, and he also struck out more batters (6) than he walked (4), so despite the box score, there are positives to take away from this start. The Nuts offense helped him out, too, with a big five-run third inning driven by a Victor Labrada triple and a Trent Tingelstad double, and then another trio of runs on both small ball-type runs and big fly runs (a Trent Tingelstad solo HR). The Nuts added another four runs in the sixth—another Trent Tingelstad hit, making him a #tripleshy—and they’d need every one of them to withstand a late-inning onslaught from the Storm.

Game six: Bullpen day again? Nuts win, 5-1

Max Roberts, Kelvin Nuñez, Jorge Benitez, and Luis Curvelo combined to give up just one run on three hits while striking out nine. (They also walked five as a staff, which is more than you want to see but indicative of the young pitching staff.) On an off-day for Noelvi Marte, the rest of the offense chipped in; Victor Labrada, Robert Perez Jr., and Dariel Gomez all had two hits including a double apiece, and Gomez, Perez, Alberto Rodríguez, and Matt Scheffler all had RBI hits.

Everett AquaSox (29-17) take series from Tri-City Dust Devils (LAA) (15-32)

Game one: Juan Then dominates, AquaSox win 6-0

Juan Then had one of the best starts of his career, giving up just two hits and no runs over five innings, and most encouragingly, walking just two while striking out six. The Sox bullpen made the shutout hold up with scoreless innings from David Ellingson, Kyle Hill, and Ben Onyshko. Everett couldn’t get anything off Dust Devils starter Brent Killam until the sixth, when Patrick Frick and Austin Shenton worked back-to-back walks, and then took some advantage of some wildness off reliever Erick Julio to quickly stack up three runs. Cade Marlowe added an RBI single off new pitcher Tyler Smith, who was also wild in the seventh, allowing Everett to add another run. Jack Larsen capped off the scoring with an RBI double in the ninth.

Game two: Everett drops game in extras, 5-4

Matt Brash struck out seven in just four innings and allowed no runs, but the bullpen let this one slip away as the Sox could only come up with three runs in regulation, all of them on singles in one inning, the eighth. That would have been enough to win the game, except Tim Elliott allowed the the tying runs in the ninth and Fred Villarreal let the winning run score in the eleventh.

Game three: AquaSox get sweet shutout revenge, win 4-0

The day after starter Matt Brash struck out seven over four shutout innings, Levi Stoudt one-upped Brash with 5.2 innings of six-strikeout, no-run ball. Dayeison Arias added another 2.1 innings of no-run ball where he struck out six, and Evan Johnson added another two in a perfect ninth inning for 13 total strikeouts on the day. The Sox scored in two innings, the third and the seventh, with the big hits a Patrick Frick homer and a Tyler Keenan RBI double.

Game four: Frogs win big, 13-3

If Wednesdays are when we wear pink, Game Four is when we have blowouts, as for the second week in a row the Sox won by double digits. The Sox hopped all over starter Zach Linginfelter, touching him up for six runs in the first inning in an inning where Zach DeLoach, the superior Zach, came up twice and had two RBI hits, a solo homer and a single. Cade Marlowe also had a bases-clearing double, proving he didn’t leave his hot bat behind in Modesto. The Sox were equally mean to Lingenfelter’s replacement Tyler Smith, driving in all Lingenfelter’s inherited runners and adding one to boot, and then adding another four runs in the second. That was more than enough offense for Sox starter Emerson Hancock, who went four strong with five strikeouts and just one walk; he allowed two runs on an RBI single after a triple to Livan Soto and an RBI forceout, but otherwise avoided getting hit hard.

Game five: Frogs rally in the ninth, win 9-6

George Kirby improved on a shaky start last week where he allowed six runs on nine hits and struck out just three; he did allow four runs over his six innings, but only two were earned thanks to some sloppy play, and he struck out nine while walking just one. Unfortunately he didn’t earn a win as the offense was slow to get cranking, scoring just one run through the first four innings (a Tyler Keenan sac fly), and then another in the fifth on another Tyler Keenan hit, this time a solo shot. That seemed to spark the Sox offense, who came back with a go-ahead homer in the sixth off the bat of Jake Anchía, and then another go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh from Cade Marlowe. and then after the Dust Devils had pulled ahead yet again in the eighth, a four-run explosion from Joseph Rosa, Zach DeLoach, and Patrick Frick.

Game six: Frogs win big in Dollard’s debut, 9-3

Taylor Dollard, making his High-A debut, didn’t seem to have any issues with the higher level of competition, going seven innings and striking out nine while giving up just three runs (two earned). Even better, Dollard, who could occasionally get wild in Modesto, didn’t walk a single batter. Evan Johnson and Dayeison Arias closed things out with two perfect innings and three strikeouts between them. Meanwhile, Tyler Keenan rudely welcomed Dust Devils starter Dylan King to the game with a solo blast in the first as the Sox hung five runs on him in fewer than two innings. That was the start of a two-hit day for Keenan, who also doubled, as did Jake Anchía,Cade Marlowe, and Austin Shenton (twice!). Zach DeLoach, Patrick Frick, and Kaden Polcovich also all chipped in RBI singles in the rout.

Arkansas Travelers (24-23) split series with NW Arkansas Naturals (KC) (22-23)

The Naturals announcer took time to note that these two teams are almost inverses of their 2019 incarnations, when the Travs had a prospect-packed lineup and the Naturals...not so much, which makes sneaking a series split away from super-prospect Bobby Witt Jr. and co. extra sweet.

Game one: Travs win, 4-2

Alejandro Requeña won’t blow the doors off anyone with velocity or strikeout stuff, but he’s been solid for the Travs this year, today going six strong and allowing no runs on just two hits. David Masters had two hits and an RBI single, and Connor Kopach hit his fourth homer on the season, but the big blow came from a two-run double off the bat of Connor Lien.

Game two: Travs lose 2-5

Two solo homers from Joe Rizzo and Josh Morgan were all the offense the Travs could muster off 2019 draftee and former Cal Raleigh FSU teammate Drew Parrish. Adam Hill kept the Travs in it, giving up just two runs over six innings, but the bullpen couldn’t post the necessary zeroes to push this one to extras.

Game three: Travs offense spoils Williamson’s first Double-A start, Travs lose 3-4

Ignore the loss here (10 hits that only translated into three runs) and appreciate instead Brandon Williamson announcing himself in a big way at the Double-A level, tossing an immaculate first inning in his first ever start and going five innings, allowing four runs yes but also striking out five and walking just two. Williamson did get hit around a bit, allowing four doubles and a homer, but for a first start at a challenging assignment after not pitching much in his draft year and only at the alternate sites in 2020, that’s a very solid first start indeed.

Game four: Travs win behind another strong start from Penn Murfee, 5-1

It wasn’t another CGSO, but the reigning Double-A Central Pitcher of the Week had another fine outing, as Penn Murfee tossed six innings of two-hit, one-run ball with seven strikeouts. That pushes Murfee’s record to 4-1 as he continues to demonstrate that he’s slowly mastering the Double-A level. The offense gave Murfee all the run support he needed thanks to another Bobby Honeyman double, a Brian O’Keefe solo shot, and a two-hit day from Dom Thompson-Williams.

Game five: Arkansas loses, 5-9

Devin Sweet continues to have up-and-down outings as he adjusts to the level, and today was a down outing, with Sweet giving up seven runs on nine hits over five innings. Again Sweet was stung by the longball, surrendering three home runs, something he’s going to have to work out at this level before he can advance. The Travs hit their own share of homers in the loss, with Bobby Honeyman, Stephen Wrenn, Joe Rizzo, and David Masters all going big fly.

Game six: Travs fend off late surge by Naturals, win 11-10

Emergency starter Bernie Martinez (in place of the injured Tyler Herb) was solid for two innings before giving up a five-spot in the third, and the rest of the bullpen didn’t fare much better, but the offense kept the Travs in this one by steadily piling runs on young Naturals starter Angel Zerpa, who gave up eight; a Jake “Rake” Scheiner grand slam accounted for half of those. Jordan Cowan and Joe Rizzo added big blasts of their own later, and after a late Naturals rally, Darin Gillies locked things down in 1.1 innings of relief to earn the save.

Upcoming matchups, June 29-July 4:

AA: Arkansas @ Tulsa Drillers (LAD) (how is it them again they literally just played them it feels like?), Tue-Sun 5:05 PT [on MiLB TV]

A+: Everett vs. Vancouver Canadians (TOR), Tue-Sun 7:05 PT [No MiLB TV]

A: Modesto @ Visalia Rawhide (ARI), Tue-Fri 6:00 PT, Sat 6:30 PT, Sun 1:00 PT [No MiLB TV]