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Midshipman’s Log 6/28/22: Noelvi Marte heats up, Joe Rizzo shines, Bryan Woo returns, Kelenic goes oppo

Rounnnnnnnd up!

Noelvi Marte
Shari Sommerfeld

Hello! Welcome to another installment of the Midshipman’s Log. It’s a lovely day to read about minor-league baseball! [kicks last night’s Mariners game under the bed]

Modesto Nuts (33-36) improve on last outing, take series from Fresno Grizzlies (41-28), 4-2

The teeny tiny Cal League can be frustrating for players who have to see each other over and over again, but it can also be a handy way to track a team’s progress. Seeing the Grizzlies for the second time this month, this time at the Grizzlies’ more spacious former Triple-A stadium Chukchansi Park, the Nuts improved on their split series last time and took the series from the Grizzlies, 4-2.

The series didn’t get off to a great start, with Modesto dropping both Game 1 and Game 2. Fresno barely squeaked out a win in Game 1, touching up starter Jordan Jackson for three runs in the second but then not doing much else for the rest of the game, but Modesto’s comeback fell just short, 3-4, despite Ben Ramirez almost hitting for the cycle. Game 2 was another close loss, with Modesto flipping the roles of Yeury Tatíz and Joseph Hernández, who has been the team’s best starter. Tatíz went five innings and gave up three runs, which is pretty good for him, and then Hernández closed things out with three innings, surrendering just one more run. The Nuts lineup, missing Harry Ford for the second straight day, failed to get much going, despite a Jonatan Clase triple and an Edwin Arroyo double at the top of the lineup, and fell 2-4.

However, Harry Ford returned to the lineup in Game 3, and the Nuts would proceed to go on a four-game winning streak. 2021 6th-rounder and another Cal Poly Mustang (hi Mitch), Bryan Woo made his Modesto debut after a long injury recovery involving both TJ, a comebacker to the face, and, for funsies, appendicitis. He pitched three scoreless innings, striking out five. Tyler Driver, Juan Burgos, and Jorge Benitez held it down over the back end, with Benitez picking up his eighth save. Meanwhile, the Nuts offense did just enough to secure the 3-2 win. Edwin Arroyo hit his 11th homer of the season, and Ben Ramirez hit a clutch, two-RBI single.

Friday’s game was another close one, but this time more of an offensive shootout as the Nuts took Game 4, 10-8. Starter Michael Morales cruised until he hit the fifth inning, when he gave up a leadoff homer and a walk before being pulled, and then things devolved from there, almost entirely wiping away the six-run lead Modesto had built, largely on the back of yet another big hit from Ben Ramirez, this time a three-run homer. However, the back end of the bullpen would lock things down from there, setting up a thrilling ninth-inning comeback where a two-run single from Robert Pérez Jr. pushed across the tying and go-ahead runs, and then Colin Davis added another with a double.

Modesto decided to go big and go home in the final game, winning their most decisive victory of the series, 9-3. Sad to see William Fleming go (he was traded to the Royals in the Carlos Santana deal), as he’ll depart the org with one of his best starts in June: a six-inning performance where he struck out two and gave up two runs. Fleming was a solid workhorse for this rotation, which is very high upside but very high variance and inconsistent, and his experience playing D1 baseball was a valuable asset for a young pitching crew composed of high schoolers and international signees. Meanwhile, the offense decided to send him off with a run support party: Harry Ford had two doubles, as did Walking Cabrera and Ben Ramirez, and Edwin Arroyo hit yet another homer as he continues to find his power stroke in addition to his on-base abilities. Robert Pérez Jr. also bopped his 17th homer of the season, and it was, well, massive:

Everett AquaSox (33-35) splits set of games with slightly-separated scores with Spokane Indians (35-32)

Everett entered this series on their first extended hot streak of the season, winning 10 of their last 13. The Frogs were able to tread water against a team that thus far has greatly outperformed them; they currently sport a +31 run differential vs Everett’s -34. This was a series of tight games—the first five games were decided by a total of six runs. Overall, a successful series for Everett: in the six game-series landscape, it’s relatively tough to win a series.

Also, note that this will unfortunately be a wall of text, as there is even less video than usual out there this week.

Game One was a 7-6 victory for Everett, one more in the “barely held on” vein than a epic come-from-behind victory. The AquaSox staked an early lead, and were up 7-1 by the fifth inning. They were powered by an RBI double by Dariel Gomez in the first, a two-run triple by Victor Labrada (who scored on a wild pitch), and a three-run blast by Parker. Though Spokane would climb back within a run, apparent-closer Isaiah Campbell delivered another sterling ninth inning, converting his fourth save opportunity in four chances.

The second game, on the other hand, was a 9-8 nail-biter that Everett unfortunately came out on the wrong end of, though it was an epic, truly back-and-forth game with six lead changes. While both teams’ offenses clearly were contributing well, defense also played a part - the teams combined for five errors, four of which led to runs scoring. Juan Mercedes had another strong outing, going 5 solid innings, giving up two earned runs and one unearned run, recording six strikeouts along the way.

Shortstop Mike Salvatore, a recent add to the Everett roster, led the way for the AquaSox offense. Salvatore saw his 2021 season end last May due to an injury that kept him out until about two weeks ago, when he went on a rehab assignment to the Arizona Complex League. He’s been in the mix for a couple weeks, and recorded 4 RBIs in game two of this series on a double and a three-run home run.

The homer actually tied the game 8-8 in the top of the eighth, getting Everett into extra innings. Leon Hunter Jr., one of the best relief pitchers in the farm this season, locked down the ninth inning, but gave up the winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the tenth. Death to the Manfred Man.

The good news of Game Three: Bryce Miller is back after a scary comebacker took him out of his last start. The bad news: Miller had his least-sharp outing of the year and Everett took another tough one-run loss, this time 6-5. Miller gave up a season-high four runs in his four innings pitched, giving up three walks against six strikeouts. Salvatore recorded another couple home runs, this time a two-run bomb that gave the Sox an early lead and a solo shot in the eighth inning as Everett mounted an attempt at a comeback that fell a run short. Alberto Rodríguez drove in Noelvi Marte in the ninth to bring Everett within one. The pair of Cotuisanos combined for four hits in the game.

Everett got back in the win column for Games Four and Five. Prelander Berroa continues to impress since his trade from San Francisco in the 7-5 win on Friday. We saw him deliver four innings of one-run ball, racking up six strikeouts along the way. The offense worked their usual plate-discipline magic (they lead the league with an 11.8% BB rate), working nine walks that kick-started their big five-run seventh inning. A pair of back-to-back bases-loaded base-on-balls from Berto and Andy Thomas drove Shelby Lackey out of the game. Myles Miller then took his replacement for a ride, driving in a pair more on a single before a Parker groundout scored the fifth run, putting the Frogs ahead for good.

Game Five was the Noelvi Show - he recorded four RBIs in this game, leading Everett to a 5-4 victory. He started and ended the scoring for the game, with a sacrifice fly in the first in first inning for the Frogs’ first lead of the game before he blasted a go-ahead three-run bomb in the fifth inning to wrap up the scoring. The bullpen also shined in this one - Fred Villarreal, Leon Hunter Jr. and Campbell combined for four scoreless innings to hold on to the win. Campbell earned his fifth save in as many opportunities.

Game Six was the first not-so-close game, as Everett got pounded 8-2. Jimmy Joyce took the loss despite throwing 4.1 innings and giving up only one earned part because he gave up a couple more unearned runs on a wild pitch and a throwing error by former Nut call-up, catcher Ty Duvall. Duvall also drove in one of the only runs of the game for Everett on a solo home run, but also allowed another runner to score on his second throwing error - you win some, you lose some, I guess?

Up Next: Everett makes the drive from Spokane over to Eugene to play the Emeralds, by far the best team in the Northwest League this year. The San Francisco Giants’ affiliate is currently sitting 14 games over .500 at (40-26).

Arkansas Travelers (36-33) win some baseball games, also lose some baseball games to Frisco RoughRiders (36-33)

Hi. Over the last few years, I (Kyle) have struggled with how much writing about sports actually matters in the grand scheme of things. Yes, it is a great escape for people and a distraction from real-world travesties, but distractions are not always the thing we need, and as a woman-led site with people of all gender identities and sexualities on staff, we have been particularly struggling to process recent events. Arkansas is the lone state featuring a Mariners full-season affiliate directly impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. There are stories from the last week about abortion clinics canceling appointments in Arkansas and helping patients rebook in states five hours away that don’t have trigger laws. If you are inclined/able to, here is a link to donate to help those in need in Arkansas specifically, and here is another one. (Both organizations have been shared by the magazine Scalawag, which focuses on Southern politics and culture in solidarity with oppressed communities.)

Anyway, I guess I can talk about baseball a tiny bit, as meaningless as it feels in a week like this.

Game One: Late rally not enough as Travs lose in extras

Facing a 6-1 deficit in the seventh inning, the Travs started slowly clawing back. Jake Anchía drove in two with his home run in the seventh. The Travs added one in the eighth on a Riley Unroe base knock. A Joe Rizzo ground-rule double put the tying run in scoring position.

Jack Larsen grounded out to bring in a run and move Rizzo to third with two outs. Rizzo trotted across home on a wild pitch to tie things up.

The momentum was short-lived as former Mariners draft pick Josh Stowers tore the hearts out of his former organization with a three-run blast in extras to put the game out of reach.

Game Two: Travs miss out on too many opportunities, fall 3-2

The Travs are going to wish they could have this one back. Emerson Hanock was excellent in his brief outing. The former Bulldog went 3.2 innings and gave up just one hit and one walk to lower his ERA to 2.10.

The bullpen was solid, other than two runs allowed by Braden Shipley, and even still, you sign up for allowing just three hits over nine innings. The defense, particularly this play by Joe Rizzo that landed on Sportscenter, was very impressive.

Heck, even the offense was rolling, racking up 11 hits on the night. The problem was the 12 base runners left on base. It was missed opportunity after missed opportunity for the Travs offense on a cursed night. To cap off the extremely winnable game, Travis Kuhn had a throwing error to open up the ninth inning that allowed Dustin Harris to reach second. A ground out to move him over and a sac fly gave the RoughRiders the lead. The Travs had one last shot in the bottom of the frame, but Jake Scheiner was thrown out at home to end the game.

Game Three: Taylor Dollard flawless yet again, offense goes off in 9-0 win

For as awful as the last week has been, I am thrilled to report that Taylor Dollard is still good at baseball. The best pitcher in the Texas League spun another gem, going 7.1 innings and allowing just four hits and one walk. His ERA is down to a minuscule 0.82 on the season. I genuinely have no idea what Dollard has left to prove in Arkansas. Let him enjoy the summer in Tacoma.

The pitching highlight of the season was joined by the offensive highlight over the last month in Joe Rizzo. Rizzo smashed two home runs, which was more than enough run support for Dollard, not even counting the other six runs the Travs scored.

Game Four: Offense can’t keep up as Travs fall 7-4 to Jack Leiter

All things considered, the Travs did fine against the #2 pick in last summer’s draft. The Arkansas lineup worked five walks against the former Commodore with two runs on a first-inning double by Jake Scheiner to give the Travs an early 2-0 edge.

Leiter settled in after that, and although Jack Larsen immediately got to the bullpen with a two-run shot, the rough outing by Connor Jones of nine hits and six runs scattered across 4.1 innings was too much for the Travs to overcome.

Game Five: Tough start dooms Travelers in 6-3 loss

If we take out the second inning, Stephen Kolek was excellent on Friday night. Without that five-run blemish, he would’ve allowed only two hits and no runs in the other five innings; unfortunately, I guess we can’t pick and choose what we want to include.

The Travs almost fought all the way back in the seventh inning. They had the bases loaded with one out down 5-3. Jake Scheiner came up with a chance to tie the game or give the Travs the lead, but grounded into a double play to end the threat. The Travs couldn’t get anything going on offense over the final two innings.

Game Six: Travs win home run derby series finale 8-4

Juiced ball back, baby!! Remember the precious days of 2019? (parts of it sure would be nice to return to after this week) The baseballs were flying out of the park with reckless abandon. We got a taste of that at Dickey-Stephens park on the series finale on Sunday. The Travs and RoughRiders combined for six home runs and 11 of the 12 runs came via the long ball.

The weather in Arkansas over the weekend was a touch higher than the mid90s (great film) that Seattle experienced, and that heat was making the ball fly. Rizzo, Hoover, Marlowe, and Larsen all took advantage of the pristine hitting conditions on Sunday afternoon to close out the first half of the season with a victory.

Up Next: The Travelers head to Tulsa to take on the Drillers, the Dodgers Double-A affiliate, in a six-game set to open the second half of the season.

Tacoma Rainiers (28-43) go even on run differential with Sugar Land Space Cowboys (32-40) but drop 4 of 6

Bless their hearts, the Tacoma Rainiers are going through it. Not only have they lost a few primary hitters from their order to promotions to a thinning Seattle Mariners club, they have also suffered a number of injuries that simply can’t be endured easily. At the outset of this series, they sidelined speedster Forrest Wall, then were forced to place RHP Drew Steckenrider and LHP Kyle Bird on the 7-day injured list. That means a lot more call ups from the Arizona Complex League than four out of five doctors recommend.

Game One: Bats go quiet in the heart of Texas, R’s lose 3-1

Two hits won’t cut it, and this was one Tacoma has to wish they had back. Darren McCaughan, recently departed Wyatt Mills, Matt Festa, Danny Young, and Matt Koch combined for nine shutout innings, but the Rainiers could not convert a run until the Manfred runner in the 10th. Matt Brash came in to try and slam the door but smashed the dang thing off its hinges, allowing a walk and then a three-run walk off bomb.

Game Two: Pent up hits explode out, dousing Space Cowboys, R’s win 13-7

There are the hits! 18 of them to be precise. Every Tacoma starter reached base at least once, The Terrors of T-Town picked up starter Konner Wade who got lit up a bit himself to the tune of three big flies, with another strong bullpen showing blemished only by a solo shot credited to Anthony Misiewicz. Tacoma was powered by its backstops, with DH Brian O’Keefe and recently recalled C Andrew Knapp knocking a pair of doubles each. They were joined by tasteful big flies Knapp, recently recalled 1B/3B Drew Ellis, and OF Jarred Kelenic.

Kelenic also showed off the health of his hamstring, an encouraging sight after he missed some time a week or two back.

Kelenic’s overall numbers still look uneven, and he is indeed being hyper-aggressive to the point of a lower walk rate. That said, his game is at its best when the bat is in motion, and his strikeouts have been down the past few weeks, with just four Ks in his five games this series. He also personally drove Tacoma to the finish line in...

Game Three: Sugar Land, TX a.k.a. Comeback City, U.S.A., R’s win 4-3

This was a fun one. Despite Justus Sheffield getting punched in the mouth a bit with a two out three-run homer in the first inning, the southpaw settled in for four and a third more shutout to get himself a perfectly respectable PCL start. That still left Tacoma in a 3-2 hole through six, which had been narrowed by 3B Zach Green’s RBI double in the top of six and a bases loaded HBP to Mason McCoy that sadly was the end of the threat.

But this wasn’t the normal Tacoma Rainiers lineup. Returning supersub(?) Miguel Perez was back, the towering Dominican 21-year-old who has now received 34 plate appearances in Triple-A across 13 games, more than he got in High-A Everett last year and more than he has received in the Arizona Complex League this year. Perez is not a top prospect despite his tools, primarily centered on issues with aligning his levers into consistent contact. It’s incredibly difficult to draw conclusions on his skills from his statlines, as he’s been shuffled around the organization as much as any player in recent memory. But in the top of the 8th, with two down and trailing one, he delivered.

One of the best things about Perez’s homers is the abject indignation on the face of opposing pitchers when they yield them. This is a slider on the outer half in a 1-2 count - not a particularly bad pitch! Perez scoops it out to the deepest part of the park anyways, setting up a ninth inning stunner from that man with oh so many plans resting on his muscular shoulders.

Game Four: Vengeance from Space, R’s lose 8-4.

At least it was over early. No majestic comeback waited in the wings for the Rainiers, who dropped into an 8-2 hole by the bottom of the 3rd on a medley of errors literal and functional. Riley O’Brien got lit up, with a hit parade that did not cease. Despite not going deep once, Sugar Land put on a master class in clustered hits, going 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Once again, if nothing else, a hearty kudos to the bullpen for six innings and just two runs. Bleh.

Game Five: Plenty of fight, but they went down swinging, R’s lose 9-8

In a series of mostly competitive games, this spent much of its time looking like another laugher. Darren McCaughan’s strong start now seemingly eons in the background, RHP Daniel Ponce de Leon got nickel and dimed to death by another well sequenced series of singles and doubles from the Space Cowboys. He ended up in a 7-2 hole by the time he’d finished his fourth inning of work. The additional bleeding would prove costly late. INF Erick Mejia did a little bit of everything to keep Tacoma in the game, knocking a double, an RBI single, and a late solo shot. Kelenic also did a little bit of what everyone and their mother has been clamoring for from a hitter ostensibly known for his barrel control.

And again.

Sadly, the furious 9th inning comeback fell just short. Kelenic also was pinch-run for in the 9th and did not play Sunday, leading to uncertainty on an injury or merely a brawl-based precaution.

Game Six: Walk off into the Texas Space Night, R’s lose 3-2.

Back for more Space Cowboy action, Darren McCaughan slogged through 4.1 innings fairly effectively, but ceded to the bullpen early. That pen would keep things locked up until the 9th, when Fernando Abad relinquished a one out solo shot to Houston Astros prospect Alex De Goti. It puts the loss on Abad, but realistically Tacoma’s pen stood on their head all series and was let down once again by the bats. 2-13 w/RISP is a tough pill to swallow, and without Kelenic in the lineup they could not get things aligned. Alex Blandino lashed a RBI triple to get Tacoma on the board and Marcus Wilson knotted things in the 8th with a sacrifice fly, but the Rainiers are a roster being thinned from the top and from within. It showed by the end of this series.