Tonight’s Interview: Mike McGee (Vol. 2)

It was a Sunday for celebration for your LumberKings as they defeated Beloit 5-2 yesterday, extending their winning streak to eight-straight games and clinching a second-half playoff spot.  Mike McGee singled home a run in the first inning (listen: McGee RBI single 8.28.11) and Stefen Romero added a sacrifice fly to put the Kings ahead 2-0, but the Snappers came back to tie the game against right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen on a solo home run by Lance Ray and RBI single by Nate Roberts.

The game stayed tied 2-2 until the seventh, when the Kings scored three runs with just one hit off the combination of Snappers’ right-handers Manuel Soliman and Adrian Salcedo.  Mickey Wiswall reached first on an error by Ray in left and took second as Kalian Sams walked.  Kevin Rivers bunted both over into scoring position, setting up the winning play.  Anthony Phillips sent a chopper to Jairo Perez at third base and Perez threw home on Wiswall, but catcher Tobias Streich put a high tag down after Wiswall’s foot had crossed the plate.  Carlos Ramirez added a safety squeeze bunt to score Sams and Julio Morban lined the only hit of the inning to score Phillips (listen:  Morban RBI single 8.28.11).

Right-hander Matt Bischoff won for the fourth time in relief with 3.0 scoreless innings after Kohlscheen’s exit.  Right-hander John Taylor finished off the game with his first Midwest League save, striking out Roberts on a 3-2 pitch (listen: Taylor First Save, Playoffs Clinched 8.28.11).

Weighing in on yesterday’s clincher is McGee, a pivotal contributor to the most-recent two wins.  The Kings’ center-fielder talks about his home run to beat the Snappers on Saturday, the importance of scoring runs early during this tremendous two-week run, the team’s focus for the final eight regular-season games, the new-found confidence of the offense and more.

Listen Here:  McGee Interview 8.29.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.29.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:  8.29.11 lineup

As McGee indicated, there’s still work to be done in these final eight games.  The LumberKings lead Kane County by 4.0 games for the West Division’s top playoff spot and have a magic number of five to edge the Cougars.  Left-hander Anthony Fernandez (7-3, 2.86) gets the start in game three of this four-game set against Beloit tonight, while the Snappers counter with right-hander A.J. Achter (4-7, 4.63).    First pitch on “Ashford University and Clinton Community College Back to College Night” is scheduled for 6:30 PM.  Listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Today’s Interview: John Taylor

The win streak is seven and the magic number is one after the LumberKings’ 6-2 win over the Beloit Snappers last night.  Mike McGee had a huge performance in the three hole, going 3-for-4 with a game-winning solo home run in the fifth inning off left-hander Ryan O’Rourke (listenMcGee Solo HR (#4) 8.27.11).  John Hicks extended his hitting streak to nine-straight games with a 2-for-4 game including a two-run triple off lefty Nelvin Fuentes that broke the game open (listen: Hicks 2-R triple 8.27.11).  Left-hander Tony Butler allowed two runs over 5.2 innings and pulled off a nifty double play to help his cause (listen:  Butler Double Play 8.27.11).  Left-hander Ryan Kiel tossed 2.1 scoreless innings and right-hander Tyler Burgoon worked a scoreless non-save ninth to give Butler his third win of the year.  O’Rourke fell to 5-4 with the loss.

The math today is simple, beat Beloit and a playoff spot is secured.  The Kings also have a 3.0 game lead on Kane County for the top playoff spot in the West and are tied with Quad Cities for first place in the division, just their second day with a share of first all season (the other being June 24, the second day of this half).

Read more in today’s Game Notes:  8.28.11 kingsnotes

Today’s Lineups:  8.28.11 lineup

Usually I don’t do an interview on Sundays, but I caught up with Kings’ right-hander John Taylor (pictured) yesterday.  Taylor, Seattle’s 22nd round pick out of the University of South Carolina in 2011, worked his third hold in the finale of the series at Cedar Rapids.  He talks about his unique submarine-style delivery and when he picked it up, the pitches he throws from the drop-down angle, his experience with the two-time College World Series Champion USC Gamecocks, the playoff push with Clinton and more.

Listen Here:  Taylor Interview 8.27.11

Taylor and the LumberKings go for the playoff berth today, first pitch at 2:00 PM.  Right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen, 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA in five starts, gets the call for Clinton today.  Beloit has right-hander Manuel Soliman (7-10, 4.08 ERA) slated to start.  Listen to the broadcast online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: John Hicks (Vol. 2)

Three, it’s the magic number.  Literally.

And yet it was almost still four as the LumberKings watched a 4-1 lead suddenly turn into a 4-4 tie heading into the 10th last night in Cedar Rapids.  A pair of two-out hits from Julio Morban and another from Kevin Rivers helped the Kings establish the early lead behind right-hander Carter Capps, who gave up just one run over 5.0 innings and struck out seven.  Right-handers John Taylor and Ben Versnik combined on 3.0 scoreless innings, but right-hander Jonathan Arias allowed a two-run single to Brian Hernandez in the ninth and issued a wild pitch on what was supposed to be the final strike of the game on Jean Almanzar.

Instead of Almanzar going down swinging and Arias locking down his 10th save, the ball kicked to the left of catcher John Hicks for a wild pitch, scoring Ricky Alvarez to tie the game.  Arias recovered to strand runners at second and third, and in the 10th, Hicks lifted a sacrifice fly scoring Morban to put the Kings back ahead (listen:  Hicks GW sac fly 8.26.11).  Right-hander Jessie Nava then worked the Kernels 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th to secure Clinton’s sixth-straight win (listen: Nava Strikes out Cruz for 3rd Save 8.26.11).

Hicks saw a string of three-straight three-hit games come to an end as he went a mere 1-f0r-4 last night, but he still extended his hitting streak to eight games and notched the game-winning RBI in the latest “must-win game” for the LumberKings.  Now, he joins me for the pregame interview for the second time this season.  We talk about the wild pitch that scored the tying run in the ninth, his game-winning sacrifice fly in the 10th, his recent offensive hot-streak (which he credits to work with hitting coordinator Jose Castro and Terry Pollreisz), catching Capps last night and more.

Listen Here:  Hicks Interview 8.27.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.27.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:  8.27.11 lineup

It’s an action-packed opening night of the final homestand of the year as the LumberKings take on the Beloit Snappers.  Once the nearest challenger to the Kings for the Wild Card spot, the Snappers are now fighting to catch up to Kane County as they trail the Cougars by 6.0 games for the West’s final playoff spot.  Clinton can secure their trip to the postseason with two wins against the Snappers in this four-game set. 

Left-hander Tony Butler (2-3, 3.16), 1-0 with a 0.57 ERA against the Snappers back in 2007, gets the game-one nod tonight.  He’ll take on Beloit left-hander Ryan O’Rourke (5-3, 3.05).  First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.  And, if you’re coming to the game, we’ve got post-game fireworks sponsored by WQAD-TV and post-game karaoke by Fat Dawgs Productions.  Should be a good time on this final regular-season Saturday.

-DL

Friday Notes (8/26)

It’s another “show-and-go” night as the LumberKings finish off a three-game series at Cedar Rapids tonight.  Thus, no pregame interview for you.

The Kings look for the sweep of the Kernels tonight after a 5-2 victory at Perfect Game Field last night.  Clinton manufactured their way to the game’s first run in the third inning as Tim Morris walked, stole second, took third on a sacrifice bunt by Anthony Phillips and scored on a groundout by Robbie Anston.  They never trailed after that.  Left-hander Roenis Elias gave up two runs over 6.0 innings to win for the third time on the road this year, and Morris added an RBI on a sacrifice fly in the fifth, Mike McGee doubled home another run in the sixth, Phillips added a double to drive in a run in the seventh and John Hicks capped a 3-for-4 game with his second home run of the year (listen:  Hicks Solo HR (#2) 8.25.11).  Right-handers Matt Bischoff and Tyler Burgoon combined on 3.0 scoreless innings in relief of Elias.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.26.11 kingsnotes

The LumberKings are eight games up on Beloit for a playoff spot with 11 games remaining.  Right-hander Carter Capps (1-0, 3.72) makes his third start tonight looking to get Clinton a step closer to clinching.  The Kernels counter with right-hander Brian Diemer (9-10, 4.11).  First pitch is at 6:35 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Thursday Notes (8/25)

A show-and-go trip to Cedar Rapids mixed with a switching train stuck on the tracks means I have little time to compose the proper blog post for today, but here’s some game notes:  8.25.11 kingsnotes

LHP Roenis Elias (2-1, 4.18) on the hill against the Kernels tonight, they counter with right-hander Justin La Tempa (3-8, 4.60).  First pitch at 6:35 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.  I’ll be that out-of-breath guy that sounds like he just finished filling out his scorebook.

-DL

Retro Interview: Anthony Vasquez

In case you missed it, left-hander Anthony Vasquez became the eighth former LumberKing to make a Major League debut this season as he defeated the Cleveland Indians with six runs (five earned) on nine hits over 5.1 innings in the Mariners’ 12-7 win on Tuesday night.

Vasquez, now a potential candidate for Eric Wedge’s six-man rotation, pitched for the LumberKings in 2009 and 2010.  Since my old audio links from ’09 are now dead (due to the WordPress conversion), I thought I’d re-post my interview with the Mariners’ 18th round pick out of USC.

I caught up with Vasquez following his August 1, 2009 debut with Clinton, a win over the Great Lakes Loons at Dow Diamond.   Listen Here:  Anthony Vasquez Interview 8.2.09

And, since Vasquez was back as a LumberKing again last season, here’s my interview with him from 2010:  Vasquez Interview 4.20.10

In case you’re keeping count, Vasquez is the 232nd former Clinton player to reach the Major Leagues since 1937.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Brad Miller

Your LumberKings own the top playoff spot in the West Division after last night’s 4-2 win over the Kane County Cougars.  The victory capped a 3-games-to-1 series victory over the Cougars and finished off a successful 5-2 homestand (including 2-1 against Quad Cities).  Both the Kings and the Cougars own identical 32-25 records and are tied for second in the standings, but Clinton owns the head-to-head tiebreaker (8 wins vs. 5 losses).

John Hicks finished the series 8-for-10, including 3-for-3 last night with two more doubles and two runs scored.  After the Kings fell behind 1-0 in the first inning, Hicks doubled down the right-field line to lead off the third and scored on a double by Anthony Phillips to tie the game (listen: Phillips RBI double 8.23.11).  Brad Miller, expecting to get his first day off since joining the Kings, came on to replace Carlos Ramirez and lifted a go-ahead double scoring Hicks in the fifth inning (listen: Miller RBI double 8.23.11).  Stefen Romero added an RBI triple scoring Mike McGee for insurance, extending his hitting streak to nine games (listen: Romero RBI triple 8.23.11).  Pitching-wise, it was another two-man show last night as right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen allowed a run over 6.0 innings for his fourth win and right-hander Jonathan Arias struck out five over the final 3.0 innings for his ninth save.

For tonight’s interview, I thought it appropriate to talk with Miller, Seattle’s second-round pick in 2011 out of Clemson Unversity and the newest cog to the LumberKings’ red-hot lineup.  The 2011 ACC Player of the Year talks about his wild first 48 hours as a Mariner, his thoughts on both the ACC award and the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year award, his ties to Iowa (Miller’s dad played baseball at Northern Iowa), his unique left-handed batting stance, joining a LumberKings’ club pushing for the playoffs and more.

Listen Here:  Miller Interview 8.24.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.24.11 kingsnotes

Ace lefty Anthony Fernandez gets the game-one start in a three-game series at Cedar Rapids tonight.  Fernandez is 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA and nine quality starts in his last 12 outings and is 6th in the Midwest League with a 2.88 ERA.  He’ll go for win #7 tonight as he takes on the Kernels.  They’ll counter with right-hander Seth Fowler (2-3, 6.80 ERA).  First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tuesday Notes (8/23)

The LumberKings stand a game out of first place after defeating Kane County in a rout, 12-1 last night.  Showing no hesitance against Midwest League ERA leader Greg Billo, the Kings scored six runs in the first inning to take quick command of the game.  John Hicks enjoyed a career-best 3-for-4 game including two doubles and four RBI (listen: Hicks 2-R double 8.22.11 ) and Stefen Romero went 3-for-4 with his 21st double and two RBI to lead the way (listen:  Romero RBI double (#21) 8.22.11).  Brad Miller, playing in just his third game as a pro, chipped in with a 3-for-3 game including his first-career extra-base hit (listen: Miller Double (First Extra-Base Hit) 8.22.11) and first-career RBI (listen:  Miller Sac Fly (First RBI) 8.22.11).

Left-hander Tony Butler won for the first time since July 8 as he allowed a run on four hits over 6.1 innings and struck out eight.  Right-hander Ben Versnik lowered his ERA from 10.80 down to 6.00 with 2.2 scoreless innings of relief.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.23.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:  8.23.11 lineup

The Kings close the four-game series with the Cougars tonight with right-hander Stephen Kohlscheen on the mound (3-3, 5.14)…he’s 3-0, 1.96 over his four starts with Clinton.  Kane County counters with right-hander Yordano Ventura (3-4, 4.54).  First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Catching Up with Forrest Snow

While we get ready for the Major League debut of former LumberKings’ lefty Anthony Vasquez with the Mariners tonight, I have a special treat for you.  Former Kings’ right-hander Forrest Snow, now also knocking on the Big League door with the triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, joined me yesterday for a phone interview.  

Snow, the closer for the Kings during their run to the West Division title last season and this year’s Opening Night starter, made the jump from high-A High Desert to Tacoma in mid-July as an extra arm for a maxed-out bullpen.  After striking out nine over 6.0 innings of relief in his PCL debut at Salt Lake on July 24, Snow found his way on to the roster for a more permanent stint.  The Seattle native struck out seven in his next relief outing and eventually joined the rotation on August 9.  His best start to-date came in front of friends and family at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium, an outing in which he limited Omaha to a run on four hits over 7.0 innings and struck out nine in a no-decision.

He’s now back into the bullpen, but still pitching just one step away from reaching the team he grew up rooting for.  And, clearly still humble about the whole experience, Snow shared some time with me yesterday.

Snowman talks about getting the call to the Rainiers, advice he received from former LumberKing Kyle Seager in his first outing, the tremendous start at Cheney Stadium, being reunited with former Clinton pitching coach Dwight Bernard, watching former Kings’ right-hander Erasmo Ramirez dominate the PCL (he’s 3-0 in four starts) and plenty more. 

Listen Here:  Forrest Snow Phone Interview 8.22.11

Snow did officially go back into the pen last night, but pitched 2.0 scoreless innings at Reno in a game ultimately lost by the Rainiers, 7-6 in 12 innings.   His current stint in Tacoma (0-2, 5.40 in 6 games, 2 starts) looks to be just the beginning of big things to come for the man who squeezed the final out for Clinton’s 2010 West Division championship.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Carter Capps

After dropping the opener 7-1 to Kane County on Saturday night, the LumberKings completely flipped the script on the Cougars yesterday, winning 7-1.  Carlos Ramirez ensured the Kings would not trail from the game’s first at-bat onward as he slugged a leadoff home run (listen: Ramirez Leadoff HR (#5) 8.21.11), Clinton’s second of the series.  Kevin Rivers added a two-out RBI single to center in the second to open a 3-0 lead (listen:  Rivers RBI single 8.21.11), and after right-hander Carter Capps allowed his only run of the day in the third, Kalian Sams homered for his team-lead-tying 16th time and Stefen Romero doubled home a pair (listen:  Romero 2-R double (#20) 8.21.11) to break open a six-run advantage.  Right-handers John Taylor and Tyler Burgoon combined for 4.0 scoreless innings to help Capps secure his first professional victory.

Capps, Seattle’s supplemental third-round pick, has seemingly always been ahead of the curve.  After starting out his college career as a catcher, Capps made a conversion to the mound as a red-shirt freshman at Mount Olive College (NC), learned a slider and went 10-0 in his first season.  This past year, he went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA for the #2 ranked Trojans, taking home the NCAA Division II Pitcher of the Year award while leading his team to the National Semifinals.  While waiting to sign with the Mariners, he prepared for the pros with a 4-1, 0.60 stint for Harwich of the Cape Cod League.  Now, just two games into his pro career, he’s 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA for the playoff-hungry LumberKings.

Capps talks about his first professional win, the catcher-to-pitcher conversion, early work with pitching coach Rich Dorman, stepping in to Taijuan Walker’s rotation spot, his fantastic 2011 season at Mount Olive College, pitching in the Cape and more on tonight’s interview.

Listen Here:  Capps Interview 8.22.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.22.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineups:  8.22.11 lineup

The four-game series with the Cougars continues with the pivotal game three tonight.  Left-hander Tony Butler (1-3, 3.38) faces Kane County for the first time since May 24, 2007 when they were still an Oakland affiliate.  He’s countered by Midwest League ERA leader, Cougars’ right-hander Greg Billo (9-3, 1.56).  First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM, listen to the game online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

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