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Midshipmen’s Log 5/24/22: Everett sweeps, Arkansas and Tacoma go on longest winning streaks of the season

All the news that’s fit to print from down on the farm

Bryce Miller was dominating again
Shari Sommerfeld

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Midshipmen’s Log! Biggest improvement award this week goes to the Everett AquaSox, who swept the Hillsboro Hops and remembered how to score runs after being shut out in three straight games against the Tri-Cities. However, this is not to overlook Arkansas and Tacoma, who both enjoyed their longest winning streaks of the season this past week. And also, Modesto played games.

Modesto Nuts (17-22) drop anchor, series to Stockton Ports (15-24), 2-4

Development isn’t linear. but it was frustrating to see the Nuts repeat their performance against the Ports from a month ago. To be fair, in Game 1 of this series they were facing rehabbing big leaguer Cole Irvin, who struck out six over five innings of work but also gave up this massive dinger to Edwin Arroyo:

Meanwhile, the Nuts had their own rehabber in RHP Sam Carlson, who threw just shy of 60 pitches in his first action back after a knee injury. Carlson showed some predictable rust over his 2.2 innings, walking two, throwing a wild pitch, and getting called for a balk under the new and complicated (and stupid) rules in A ball this year, but was generally solid. Jordan Jackson gave up another three runs but struck out seven. The pitching staff gave the offense a chance to win it, but despite racking up 10 hits to the Ports’ seven the Nuts could only scrape across two additional runs after Arroyo’s homer, leading to a disappointing 4-3 loss.

In Game 2, Modesto’s bats came alive, as the team knocked three homers: Arroyo again, Rule 5 pick Amador Arias, and Robert “Bobby Bombs” Pérez put out his 14th one of the year. Arroyo had a three-hit day that boosted his average to .300, but the Nuts’ Oops! All Homers offense wasn’t able to overcome a shaky start from Joseph Hernández and an uncharacteristic meltdown from the normally solid Andrew Moore, who combined to give up nine runs. It’s disappointing as both Hernández and Moore have been two of Modesto’s most solid contributors, and this game was easily winnable with stronger performances, but instead was a 7-9 loss.

Game 3 was another tough one for Seattle’s 2021 third-rounder Michael Morales, although of the five runs he gave up, only three were earned. Morales hit two batters in the first three innings, escaping damage the first time around but giving up a run on an RBI triple in the third. A walk in the fourth also came around to score on an RBI single, and then things unraveled quickly in the fourth, with Morales throwing a wild pitch advancing a runner into scoring position, a batter reaching on error behind him, and then two straight singles scoring another run. Natanael Garabitos couldn’t keep a lid on things when he came in mid-inning to relieve Morales, allowing two of his inherited runners to score, including one on a wild pitch. It was a lousy effort all-around by the Nuts, who were shut out 5-0 with 14 strikeouts, including four by emergency callup catcher Junior Gonzalez, and no base hits.

Happily, the Nuts’ offense stormed back in a big way in Game 4, an 11-3 drubbing that was well-pitched by starter William Fleming (5 IP, 2 ER 4 K) despite two solo HR allowed, and the Nuts bullpen, which allowed just one more run on one hit. Jonatan Clase returned to the top of the lineup after an off-day and had two hits, including a double and stole his 17th base, and Edwin Arroyo homered again, his eighth on the season, and stole his eighth base of the year on a three-hit day. Brett Rodriguez also had three hits including a double, and his Wofford College teammate Colin Davis also chipped in a key two-out, bases-clearing, RBI double.

Proving again that development isn’t linear, however, the Nuts got shut out again in Game 5, 4-0. It spoiled a very fine outing by Jimmy Kingsbury, who one-hit the Ports through five innings, striking out eight, and continues to make a case for a promotion to Everett. Kelvin Nuñez couldn’t continue Kingsbury’s gem, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as the Nuts offense couldn’t successfully advance the few baserunners they did have. On the bright side, Milkar Pérez returned from his brief rehab stay in Arizona for a banged-up finger, and Colin Davis had another two hits including a double, continuing to break out of an early slump.

Once again, the Nuts rebounded from getting shut out with an offensive explosion, winning the final game of the series 9-1. Jordan Jackson didn’t allow a run in four innings, and organizational swing guy Chris Jefferson pitched in two more scoreless. Andrew Moore also bounced back from his poor outing last time around, spinning a perfect inning with two strikeouts. The Nuts offense was paced by a three-hit day including a home run from Ben Ramirez, and Edwin Arroyo added another two hits to boost his average safely past .300 and climb towards .310. Get your seats on the Edwin Arroyo hype train now.

The Nuts return home this week to play San Jose, which means back to video! [Shakes fist in general direction of Stockton]

Everett AquaSox (16-21) keep hoppin and they don’t stop on Hillsboro Hops (18-19), sweep shortened series 5-0

Nick remains on vacation and so I (Kate) continue to babysit the little froglets. Luckily the AquaSox were much nicer to their interim minder this week, rampaging over the Hillsboro Hops so wildly night after night they got themselves all tuckered out and easy to get down to sleep. This series was shortened with a COVID outbreak for the Hops causing Game 1 to be rescheduled, a bummer for Kyle as he had made the journey up to Everett with hopes of seeing this team play, but a win for Kyle as he got to go get some birria tacos. The AquaSox then got themselves a win in Game 2 in a nailbiter; Everett was only able to scrape one run off the Hops’ endless parade of bullpen arms over the first six innings, but Jimmy Joyce held serve all by himself for those six innings, allowing just one hit, walking no one, and striking out six. Jarod Bayless gave up a pair of runs in the seventh, but the Sox got those runs right back with some good ole small ball off Hops reliever Julio Frias. Kyle Hill came in and, despite issuing a pair of walks, nailed down the save for a 3-2 win.

Everett decided to make things much less exciting in Game 3, jumping out to an early lead with a four-run second inning. The big blow was delivered on a Noelvi Marte double that scored two. That would be all the Sox needed on the day (although they scored another pair of insurance runs on another home run by Spencer Packard in the 7th), as the pitching was outstanding, holding the Hops to one run: Juan Mercedes had yet another solid outing, giving up just four hits and one run (on a solo home run) over five innings while striking out five. Fred Villarreal, Max Roberts, and Evan Johnson combined for four scoreless innings, one-hitting the Hops through the rest of the game and striking out five more for a total of 10 on the day.

Game 4 was another close one, although more of an offensive outpouring than the first two games. Andy Thomas was the game’s hitting hero with a two-run homer and a double (and a single, making him a #tripleshy). On a day when batters 1-3 went 0-for-everything with a combined seven strikeouts (four of those from Noelvi Marte, ouch), the offense was powered by the lower half, with Thomas, Justin Lavey, and Cole Barr all having multihit days. The Sox would need all of those runs, too, as new acquisition Prelander Berroa again flashed big stuff with seven strikeouts in four innings, but also gave up three runs, two earned, with three walks. Lefty Brayan Perez also struggled to find the zone, walking more batters (3) than he struck out (2) over four innings while giving up another two runs, but Leon Hunter was able to slam the door in the ninth and preserve the 7-5 win.

Adam Macko flirted with disaster in Game 5, walking five in four innings but striking out six and somehow giving up just one run. The bullpen leaked out a couple more runs, but the offense had a pair of back-to-back innings where they scored three runs each time (the 2022 Mariners can only dream), including a two-homer inning (Alberto Rodríguez and Charlie Welch), giving Everett’s pitching of staff plenty of leeway on a 9-4 win.

Game 6 was another easy win for Everett’s suddenly red-hot offense. Looking nothing like the team that suffered multiple shutouts last week, the AquaSox got to Hops starter Marcos Tineo immediately, scoring three runs in the first two innings, and then adding another five off the Hops bullpen. Noelvi Marte had the most hits of the day, with three including a double; Alberto Rodríguez had just the one double, but his scored two runners. James Parker and Dariel Gomez contributed homers. Bryce Miller was again excellent, spinning five frames of shutout ball with nine strikeouts and pushing his ERA down to an impossibly tiny 0.82.

The AquaSox go on the road this week to Spokane. They celebrated with a beach couture themed roadtrip, although Noelvi noted (glumly) the snowcapped mountains as their team bus crossed the pass.

Arkansas Travelers (18-21) go on the longest winning streak of the season to open series to NW Arkansas Naturals (18-20), drop the final two games

The return of Emerson Hancock AND a four-game winning streak? What a week for the Travs. The offense was the most consistent I have seen it in a bit, and the starting pitching continued to impress. The last two games did not go the way they planned, but plenty for the Travs to build on from this series.

Game One: Emerson Hancock returns, Zach DeLoach walks it off

The opening game of the series was truly the best of both worlds. It was a perfect game for those only interested in a couple of the Mariners’ bigger-name prospects, with Emerson Hancock making his long-anticipated 2022 debut and Zach DeLoach playing hero to end the night.

It was also a great game for people who enjoy really exciting baseball games.

Hancock took the hill in a competitive game situation for the first time since August 25 2021. The road to get here has not been as smooth as many expected for the former top-six pick. One of the bigger selling points for the former Georgia Bulldog was his high floor and the fact that he was closer to being MLB ready than a lot of his counterparts in the draft in 2020. That may be the case, but injuries have meant a slight detour to those plans while Hancock builds up his arm strength.

His 2021 numbers in Everett and a brief stint in Arkansas look good, and frankly, a lot better than I remembered considering all the worry that Hancock wasn’t dominating as he should be with his prospect pedigree. He had a 2.62 ERA over 44.2 innings. He also had a 2.45 FIP in three starts in Arkansas to end last season. Those numbers become even more impressive when you remember how often he threw his fastball, especially in Everett, to build arm strength.

Maybe I am misremembering, and fans were actually fine with those (good) results, and more of the criticism of Hancock was about his injuries (a very dumb thing ever to criticize someone for). Hancock has missed time dating back to his time in Athens with a few shoulder issues, and it is what ended his season early last season. Fans clutched their collective pearls when it was revealed in early March that Hancock was shut down again with a lat strain. I get the fear, especially when the Ms have been burnt by a highly regarded top pick who struggled to stay healthy, but can we please let Emerson Hancock be his own person and try not to compare him to anyone else for a bit? Let go of that trauma from the 2011 draft, please.

Results aren’t super important for Hancock right now, and showing good process is far more useful information at this stage as he starts to build up innings. However, he looked fairly impressive in his first outing of the year. He had two strikeouts on the day.

He gave up two hits, and one earned run over his 1.1 innings of work. More encouraging than the solid outing, he threw 36 pitches and is good to make his next start.

Knowing they were going to get their work in today because Hancock wasn’t going to go super deep even if he was dialed in, the bullpen did a great job to cobble things together; Peyton Alford’s three innings of work were especially huge. The bullpen did enough to keep the game close long enough for the Travs’ bats to come alive.

Trailing 5-0 in the bottom of the fifth, this looked like another night without much offense for the Travs. However, Zach DeLoach ripped a double to right, and Cade Marlowe went deep to start to claw back into it.

The Travs tacked on two more in the sixth to make it a one-run ballgame. The Naturals added one back in the top of the seventh, but a Jake Scheiner bases-loaded base knock tied things up in the bottom of the frame. Things would remain tied until the Travs took the plate in extra innings, thanks in large part to Devin Sweet and Travis Kuhn, each pitching two scoreless innings.

The Naturals chose to intentionally walk Kaden Polcovich with two outs to load the bases for Zach DeLoach. I guess I understand it in theory, you want the force at any base, especially with his above-average speed, but the risk is far greater than the reward in this situation. Beyond having to face DeLoach, who has an OPS over 100 points higher than Polcovich on the season, you also risk walking in the winning run. Unsurprisingly, DeLoach made them pay for their desire to face him and shot a single through to right field to walk it off for the Travs.

Game Two: Dollard dominates, Travs hold on for 5-4 win

I am going to give you a quick peek behind the curtain real quick. Last Thursday, we released our first State of the Farm of the year, so I wrote up most of the Travs section before the game on Wednesday, then was going to update numbers later that night. For the most part, that didn’t mean a ton, but the one exception to that was my “Prospect Performer” I picked Taylor Dollard because he has been outstanding this season, and I want to highlight him more. The one risk to that was that if he had an awful outing on Wednesday night, I would have had to drastically alter what I wrote about him or write about someone different.

Now imagine my excitement as I am boarding the monorail (public transportation is so cool, even if this particular one is kinda a meme) to go to the Storm game (the WNBA is also so cool) when I saw that Taylor Dollard was taking the mound for the eighth inning. Pure euphoria at that moment.

Dollard was elite on Wednesday night, and I think we’re getting to the point where we legitimately need to talk about him in the same way we talk about other Mariners pitching prospects, like Stoudt and Hancock. It would not shock me at all to see him pop up on top 100 lists when they do their midseason updates. The only knock on Dollard is that he is a little older, 24, to have that same prospect shine that younger players have, but he has been the best pitcher in the Texas League this season.

The Travs scored four runs for Dollard in the first two innings, Jake Scheiner and Cade Marlowe both went deep, and that was more than enough run support for Dollard to relax and get dialed in. After giving up a hit to the game’s first batter, he did not surrender another one until the eighth inning. He walked just two batters over that span while striking out seven over the first seven innings.

Hindsight says otherwise, but I like the decision to send him back out there for the eighth inning. He was in the middle of his best outing of the season, he had a four-run lead, and the bullpen was already a little thin from the previous night. Dollard finally looked human in his final frame, giving up a leadoff single to Logan Porter, and after notching his eighth K of the game, giving up a single to John Rave. It probably isn’t a huge coincidence that those were the only two batters to reach base after the first batter of the game. A mound visit appeared to be the end of his night, but Dollard was allowed to try to escape the jam. Unfortunately, he gave up a double to the next batter, and that actually was the end of his night. An outstanding performance and I feel like a broken record at this point, but he once again set his season-high in pitch count, this time with 97.

Ben Onyshko came in to relive Dollard and decided to make things a lot more interesting with his error on a play that would have ended the inning but instead allowed two more to score to make it 5-3. He did get out of the jam the next batter. Michael Stryffeler came in to close out the game and *gasp* gave up his first earned run of the season. Thankfully the Travs had a bit of a cushion and closed out the win as the tying run stood 90 feet away.

Game Three: Connor Jones does his best Taylor Dollard impression, Travs cruise to a 5-0 win

Remember last week when I said that Connor Jones might be turning a corner after back-to-back strong outings? I appreciate Connor for making me look smart on this one.

After going six and seven innings respectively in his last two starts, Jones was able to go seven innings on Thursday night in an absolute gem. He only allowed three hits and walked one batter. He did hit two batters, but he limited the damage. Other than a shaky fifth inning where the Naturals loaded the bases, only one other baserunner reached second base on Jones.

Jones was given all the offensive support he needed in the bottom of the first. Kaden Polcovich opened the frame by being hit by a pitch, a tough way to start your day, no doubt. Joe Rizzo followed with a walk, and Zach DeLoach drove both of them in with a shot to center for his second triple of the season.

The Travs wanted to keep the pressure on Jones a bit to see how he would handle pitching in a tight contest for his entire outing. Once Jones was removed from the game after the eighth inning, the Travs figured it was time to add some insurance runs. Jake Scheiner homered to left to make it 3-0 Travs to open the eighth inning. Taking inspiration from DeLoach earlier in the game, Cade Marlowe got a triple of his own two batters later to make it 4-0, and Riley Unroe drove in Marlowe to get it to 5-0. It would’ve been cool to see Jones go back out there to try to finish the complete game shutout, especially with a five-run lead and at 92 pitches after eight, but I get it. Braden Shipley calmly finished off the job to give the Travs the win, striking out two in a perfect inning.

Game Four: Travs start to like the feeling of winning baseball games, decide to win another

Longest winning streak of the season alert!! Levi continued the recent dominance of starting pitching for the Travs. While he didn’t pitch into the eight like Dollard and Jones, 5.2 innings of shutout ball is not too shabby.

I know I am probably biased because I am writing about this team twice a week, but it genuinely feels like one of the more intriguing starting rotations in minor league baseball right now. They don’t all have some outstanding prospect pedigree, but with the addition of Hancock and the emergence of Jones lately, we are dealing with a good to very good pitcher every single time out. Add a strong bullpen onto it, and it’s a wonder how this team ever loses games. Oh yeah, the offense, I almost forgot.

We had a scoreless duel in the bottom of the sixth inning; a real shame that Stoudt couldn’t pick up a win for his performance. Kaden Polcovich drove in the game’s first run on an infield single. The Travs added another run against familiar face Jonah Dipoto when he walked in a run with the bases loaded.

Those two runs were just enough for Stryffeler and Kuhn to finish off the job. Jake Haberer was impressive in his 1.1 innings of work, picking up his first win of the season. It is really encouraging for the Travs to use Stryffeler in the eighth inning instead of saving him to finish off the game. Saves are an antiquated idea in the first place, and a part of my soul is refreshed every single time Paul Sewald comes in to face the heart of the lineup in the highest leverage situation, so it is really nice to see that being passed down through the organization a bit. It’s either that or they wanted to let Stryffeler get home early during his birthday week; he turned 26 on Sunday.

Game Five: Does it even really count as an L if there’s a weather delay?

Follow-up question; can we still blame the rain delay even if the game was long over well before the delay? It was not the best outing for Stephen Kolek, giving up 11 hits and eight earned runs over five innings. The positive is that he was efficient enough to make it through five innings and save the bullpen as best as he could.

Not the best timing for Kolek to have his worst outing of the year, considering the Travs gave him four runs to work with in the bottom of the first inning, thanks in part to Joe Rizzo and Riley Unroe both hitting doubles to right field.

It didn’t matter a ton because the Naturals kept adding on, but the Travs did not pass go, did not collect $200, and did not score another run after the opening frame.

The Travs should give every fan who stayed through the 30-minute weather delay to see the end of an 11-4 game some sort of voucher for free drinks or something. Heck, build them each a plaque for that kind of dedication.

Game Six: Bad defense dooms Travs in 10-5 loss

The best part about moving the Midshipman’s Log back to once a week is that there are some weeks where I will be able to write about Emerson Hancock, Levi Stoudt, or Taylor Dollard twice in one article. Emerson gets the honor this week, making his second start of the season.

Hancock was, unfortunately, the recipient of some bad luck and bad defensive plays behind him. The Travs defense committed two errors on the day, which isn’t the end of the world, but it’s a tough break that both of those errors led to runs to score. It’ll happen every now and then, especially at the lower levels of the minors, but that shouldn’t take away from another impressive outing from Hancock.

The line looks a lot worse because of what was going on behind him, but one earned run, and three hits over 2.2 innings is more than fine for just his second start of the season. He also added three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Beyond Hancock, there’s really not much that went right for the Travs on Sunday. It was kind of over pretty early on. The Travs’ offense clawed back a little from the 10-1 deficit they faced at one point to make it look a bit more respectable.

The Travs stay at home this week to take on Amarillo.

Tacoma Rainiers (15-27) put series from Sacramento River Cats (20-22) on high shelf where it can’t be knocked down, 4-2

Boy, did the Rainiers need a series like this. Things started out great in a Game 1 8-3 win, with most of that offense being powered by Kyle Lewis, who doubled and crushed a 405-foot three-run homer (off Giants prospect and certified Tall Person Sean Hjelle), giving him a total of five RBI on the night.

Jarred Kelenic hit a single but also struck out three times in his first game for Tacoma this season. That rough start continued for Kelenic in Game 2, when he also struck out three times, although he was in good (bad) company as the Rainiers struck out 11 times as a team and got shut out, 5-0. Darren McCaughan took the loss, but the bright spot on the pitching staff was Matt Brash, who walked just one (yay!) over two innings and struck out three batters while allowing no hits.

To their credit, the Rainiers bounced right back in Game 3 and instead of being the shut out, were instead the architects of the shutout in a booming 11-0 win. Kelenic and Lewis each struck out three times, which is no good, but KLew did have an RBI single and Jarred connected on his first homer:

Everyone’s favorite Swaggy Ham, Sam Haggerty, had a three-hit day coming a #homershy of the cycle, and Erick Mejia had the big blast of the day, a three-run shot. Infielder Zach Green also homered; he leads the club with 9 HR, in the PCL, which kind of tells you how hard the Rainiers have scuffled offensively. The Rainiers pitching held Sacramento to just three hits on the day, led by starter Tommy Milone (5 IP 6 K), who was excellent in his third appearance since coming off the IL.

Game 4 featured much less offense for the Rainiers, but the same winning result. With Lewis sitting, Evan White got a turn at DH, but struck out four times. Kelenic didn’t get any hits, but also struck out only once, so that’s an improvement. Erick Mejia again delivered the big hit for the Rainers, although this time it was an RBI single; Sam Haggerty also scored on a wild pitch. But luckily, the Rainiers didn’t need offense because Konnor Wade pitched his, excuse my language, butt off, hanging six scoreless with just two hits, no walks, and six strikeouts. Roenis Elías, Patrick Weigel, and Noe Ramírez held down the fort to make the Rainiers’ 2-0 lead hold.

Saturday, Game 5, was a game I actually got to listen to most of because I was sitting in the no good very bad horrible traffic mess called Revive I-5. Thankfully, Mike Curto, the voice of the Rainiers, entertained me on that whole dumb drive, as did the Rainiers, who won a 10-6 thriller. The game started in exciting fashion, with the Rainiers jumping out to an early lead, scoring one in each of the first three innings and two in the fourth; three of those runs came on solo home runs from SS Mason McCoy, C Joe Odom, and then McCoy again. Meanwhile, Rainiers righty Daniel Ponce de Leon came out firing, starting out the game with nine straight strikeouts (seven swinging), which we’re all assuming is some kind of PCL record. Ponce de Leon would end his day after five innings having racked up 12 strikeouts, and allowing just one single and one walk. The Rainiers added on another run in the sixth when Kelenic walked with the bases loaded, a mature and encouraging plate appearance for him; it was a three-hit day for Jarred with a double and just one strikeout, which we call a win. Unfortunately Nick Margevicius lost the plot some after Ponce de Leon exited, giving up six runs on nine hits in just three innings (2.1 technically but who’s counting), bringing the Rainiers perilously close to blowing it, but Kyle Bird and Francisco Abad were able to reel things back.

After all that excitement, Tacoma closed out the series with a lackluster 1-6 loss on Sunday, with another three-strikeout game for Kelenic. Chant it with me: development isn’t linear . . . development isn’t linear... Justus Sheffield had one of his best starts of the season, striking out six in five innings and walking no one, and the team rewarded him by scoring no runs for him and sticking him with the loss. That loss probably should have gone to Matt Brash, who really struggled, needing 30 pitches to get through one inning of work, of which only 14 were strikes. He gave up five runs in that one inning: two walks followed by a three-run homer, and another walk followed by another homer. Yikesville. Deep breath. Development isn’t linear...

The Rainiers return to Cheney Stadium this week to take on the Las Vegas Aviators. You should go! Thursday is Tacoma Public Schools Night which is an opportunity to donate to TPS and also maybe bid on some cute kid-designed game-worn gear.