Results tagged ‘ Ian Gac ’

The Interview Vault: Ian Gac

gac interview vault.jpgIn the last 20 seasons, no Clinton Baseball record has been more mythologized — or challenged, for that matter — than Dick Kenworthy’s single-season home run record of 22 in 1961.  After slugging corner infielders like Samone Peters, Jonathan Greene and Mauro Gomez and future Major Leaguers like John Mayberry Jr. and Mitch Moreland take runs at the record only to fall short, we finally saw Kenworthy’s mark eclipsed last season by a lanky 19-year-old shortstop with a sweet swing, Nick Franklin.

Franklin’s season was definitely one for the ages, as he belted a Midwest League-best 23 home runs to finally overtake Kenworthy in his final regular-season game as a LumberKing.  Still, it’s not the most impressive power we’ve seen in recent seasons.  Many fans will tell you that the record should not only have been broken — but obliterated — by first-baseman Ian Gac in 2008.

Originally drafted in the 26th round of the 2003 draft out of Edmonds-Woodway High School in Edmonds, Washington, the powerful Gac first came to Clinton in 2005 as a 19-year-old and held his own, hitting a solid .240 with 24 doubles, 12 home runs, 57 RBI and a .717 OPS in 91 games.  Unfortunately, his career would not take off from there.  A promotion to high-A Bakersfield in 2006 yielded a .188 average in 55 games, and he’d hit .197 in the second half of the season back in Clinton after switching places with first-baseman Freddie Thon.

The 2007 season saw Gac start in extended Spring before again joining the LumberKings in late May.  He’d play in just three games, going 1-for-11 with six strikeouts and would finish up the year re-tooling his whole approach under the guidance of Tim Hulett in short-A Spokane.  His .237 average in the Northwest League didn’t turn heads, but a league-high 17 home runs and 45 RBI in 70 games certainly kept Gac on the Rangers’ map.  His renewed value to Texas showed further when they sent him to the Hawaii Winter League, where he’d hit .303 with seven homers and 19 RBI for the Oahu CaneFires.

Despite the ’07 turnaround, Gac still entered 2008 believing it was his last chance to prove himself with the Rangers.  He’d return for a fourth stint with the LumberKings hoping just to cut down on strikeouts and hit his way back to Bakersfield, but he’d do so much more than anyone could predict.

Gac made his opening statement on Opening Night, mashing a three-run homer all the way to the player parking lot for the main highlight in a 10-6 loss to Cedar Rapids.  Just two nights later, he’d record his first multi-homer game, lifting solo blasts to pace a 4-3 win.  Gac closed the four-game series with yet another homer, this time a two-run clout in a 7-6 extra-inning win.

Through just four games, Gac had homered four times to drive in seven runs.  That turned out to be just the beginning of his torrid first month.  The week ending April 20, Gac earned his first Midwest Leage Player of the Week award, hitting .426 with four homers and eight RBI.  By month’s end, he was the league leader in home runs (9), RBI (24), on-base percentage (.485), slugging percentage (.802), extra-base hits (16) and runs scored (23), while also posting the league’s second-best batting average (.395).  All of those statistics made him an easy choice for the Texas Rangers’ Offensive Player of the Month.

Entering an afternoon tilt on May 4 at Kane County, Gac was surprisingly on a seven-game homer drought.  That temporary skid would end with his most impressive offensive display as a LumberKing.  Victimizing Cougars’ right-handers Jamie Richmond and Leonardo Espinal for three-run homers in the third and ninth innings, Gac combined to go 2-for-5 with six RBI in Clinton’s 11-4 beatdown of the Cougars.  We wouldn’t see another LumberKing enjoy a multi-homer, six-RBI game again until Blake Ochoa did it in a seven-RBI performance at Lansing last July.

Today’s edition of “The Interview Vault” revisits my interview with Gac following that game.  We talked about ending the mini slump, what the Rangers’ Player of the Month award meant to him, getting pitched around after the hot start, the lineup around him including Moreland and Tim Smith, his goals for the season and more. 

Listen: 
Ian Gac (following 2 HR, 6 RBI game on 5.4.08).mp3 

Gac’s May and June months wouldn’t be quite as blistering, but he’d continue to hit for power and drive in runs.  He’d go into the All-Star Break with 17 homers and 52 RBI in just 229 at-bats, only five clouts away from tying Kenworthy’s record with a half-season under his belt.  While some minor excitement brewed in Clinton over Gac’s proximity to the record, most hardcore fans realized that his days as a LumberKing were numbered.

After a spectacular performance in the Home Run Derby at Great Lakes in which he hit 16 majestic homers before falling to Fort Wayne’s Felix Carrasco in the finals, Gac returned for one more week with the LumberKings before finally getting the much-deserved call back up to Bakersfield.  He’d finish his final Clinton stint with a .310 average, 19 homers and 60 RBI in just 255 at-bats, taking home the MWL Post-Season All-Star award at DH despite playing in only 67 games.  The 19 blasts are still tied alongside Dale Rohde (1961) and Bobby Smith (1959) for eighth-most in Clinton franchise history, while his 38 career home runs with the LumberKings are most likely amongst the top five in team history.

So what happened to “Gac Blast Fever” following mid-season ’08?  He’d finally have some success in the Cal League in the second half, hitting 13 more homers and driving in 49 RBI while batting .257 for the Blaze.  All told for 2008, Gac hit .284 (142-for-500) with 32 home runs and 109 RBI, leading the entire Rangers’ organization in RBI and finishing second to Nelson Cruz (37) in homers.

Gac hit 22 more roundtrippers for the Blaze in 2009, but reverted to a .238 batting average and drove in just 55 runs in 104 games.  After seven seasons of varying success, none above high-A, the Rangers let him go.  He resurfaced in the Chicago White Sox organization last year, hitting .276 with 20 home runs and an impressive 91 RBI with the Kannapolis Intimidators, a low-A entry in the South Atlantic League.

Now 25 years old and a nine-year veteran of professional baseball, the mighty Gac still hopes to advance to the elusive double-A level.  While he continues to fight for that achievement in his second organization, Clinton fans will not soon forget his four stints as a LumberKing including his legendary 2008 season. 

-DL

The Interview Vault: Mitch Moreland

theinterviewvault.jpgIt’s time for another edition of “The Interview Vault”, the blog segment that relives past interviews with former LumberKings’ players and coaches and other notable figures.  This week, I’m turning the page back to July of 2008 when I visited with LumberKings’ first-baseman Mitch Moreland.

In case you missed Game 3 of the ALCS last night, Moreland drove in a pair with a line single to right in the midst of a six-run ninth inning, helping his Texas Rangers defeat the Yankees, 8-0 at Yankee Stadium.  He’s now 4-for-8 with two runs scored and three RBI in the series, heads and tails more productive than his Yankee counterpart (and former Rangers super-prospect), Mark Teixeira.  Teixeira is 0-for-11 thus far.

Watch Moreland’s big hit:  http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=12856707&c_id=tex

Moreland’s path from little-known 18th round pick out of Mississippi State to MLB playoff heroics is one of relative obscurity until only recently.  While guys like Teixeira and later Justin Smoak would arrive in the Rangers system as “heir apparents” to the first base position, Moreland was looked at more as an “experienced colllege hitter from a competitive program”, one of many drafted by the Rangers every season.  In other words, no major fanfare, no immediate spotlight and no clear-cut path to the Major Leagues.


Thumbnail image for mitch moreland.jpgSo, Moreland made the path himself.  He’d arrive on the scene in Clinton two weeks late as a result of a neck injury and would find himself in the shadow of first-baseman Ian Gac’s monster start.  Gac, a third-year veteran of the LumberKings had already blasted four home runs in seven games before Moreland joined the club. Thankfully, his ability to play right field would get him into the lineup immediately, and his bat would help him stay there.

Moreland doubled twice and drove in five runs over his first two games wearing the black and green, only a sign of things to come.  He’d hit .357 in April, .315 with five homers and 18 RBI in May, .313 with 20 RBI in June, .269 with seven homers and 26 RBI in July and would finish with a .380, five-homer, 23 RBI month of August.  On the final day of the regular-season in Cedar Rapids, he ripped his 18th home run and drove in three to finish with a Midwest League-best 99 RBI, the third-highest single-season RBI total in Clinton baseball history.  Moreland would be voted by the league’s managers as the top first baseman and would narrowly miss out on league MVP honors to Beloit speedster Ben Revere.

When I caught up with Mitch in this 2008 interview, he had just enjoyed his first multi-homer game (a 4-for-6, 5-RBI performance on July 5 at Burlington), an effort that raised his average to .327.  We talk about the power outburst, picking up the slack after the then-recent promotions of Gac and fellow All-Star Renny Osuna, hitting in the midst of a talented Clinton lineup, getting more experience at first base and more.

Listen Here: 
Mitch Moreland (2008).mp3

From here, we know where the rest of the story goes.  Moreland would go on to hit a combined .331 with 16 home runs and 85 RBI between high-A Bakersfield and double-A Frisco in 2009, then would bat .289 with 12 blasts and 65 RBI in triple-A Oklahoma City in 2010 before getting his promotion to Texas.  With the Rangers during the regular season, he hit .255 with nine homers and 25 RBI, unseating incumbent Chris Davis to make the postseason roster.

From near-MVP in Clinton to fast-rising prospect to playoff performer, it’s clear that Moreland is fast on the rise to star status with the Rangers.  We’ll see if he comes up big again tonight in Game 4 of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium, first pitch scheduled for 7 PM central time.

Oh yeah, Cliff Lee was pretty good last night also.  In the next edition of The Interview Vault, we’ll revisit an interview with one of the players acquired by the Seattle Mariners in the deal that sent Lee to Texas.  Stay tuned for that next week, unless another former LumberKing has a huge game for the Rangers.

-DL

Greetings from Dayton

As you can probably tell by the lack of content from yesterday, the LumberKings were rained out in Bowling Green and will not play the finale of the series against the Hot Rods.  That is, unless we schedule a doubleheader for 2011.  The two teams won’t play again till then, and the Kings won’t return to Bowling Green Ballpark until 2012.

100_1816.JPGThus, the 10-game, three-city trip moves into its final leg here in scenic Dayton.  Still the “big leagues” of Midwest League parks, Fifth Third Field is home to the Dayton Dragons, the only club in A ball that continually sells out every game.  There’s additional excitement this season with former Big Red Machine right-fielder Ken Griffey on the staff as the hitting coach.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an interview sometime in the next three games.  I know some of you are probably wondering why I haven’t weighed in on Ken Griffey Jr.’s retirement yet, but I’m holding out in case I get the chance to talk to his dad.

One storyline to follow in this series.  Fifth Third Field is usually a power-hitter’s haven most seasons as the ball really jumps to left for right-handed sluggers and also gets out to right equally well.  I’ve done some checking in on Clinton’s home run numbers here over the past four seasons:

  • 2006:  6 HR in 4 games (including five in one game, two by John Whittleman)
  • 2007:  2 HR in 4 games (both by Mauro Gomez)
  • 2008:  3 HR in 3 games (two by Ian Gac, including a Grand Slam)
  • 2009:  8 HR in 3 games (Denny Almonte’s coming-out party, he hit 4 of them)

How will this year’s club fare?  The LumberKings have a league-best 57 home runs as a team and are coming off a six-HR game in pitcher-friendly Bowling Green Ballpark.  Will the likes of Kalian Sams, Nick Franklin, James Jones and Mario Martinez tee off?

One more thing to consider.  Dayton pitchers have allowed just 15 homers in 29 home games this year.  Also, don’t rule out the Dragons’ sluggers.  Chris Richburg has belted six homers (four at home) from the right side, while left-handed hitting Josh Garton has six also (three at home).   Kings’ pitchers have allowed 24 road homers this season and 35 total.

For those who regularly listen to my pregame interviews, you didn’t miss it last night, I decided not to post it with the impending rain in Bowling Green.  I sat down with James Jones to talk about his three home runs on the road trip, the six-homer game against the Hot Rods and more.

Listen Here: 
Jones Interview 6.3.10.mp3

Tonight’s Game Notes: 
6.4.10 kingsnotes.pdf 

Right-hander Taylor Stanton (5-2, 3.31), pushed back by last night’s rainout, will make the start tonight against the Dragons.  First pitch is scheduled for 6:07 PM central time, listen in on 1390kcln.com.

-DL

A Doubleheader to Remember

In case you missed it today, the LumberKings took both ends of a doubleheader against the Peoria Chiefs at O’Brien Field.  The twinbill sweep is the first for Clinton since they did it on April 12, 2008 against West Michigan.  That itself is great news, but here’s the better news…they did it with six home runs and outscored Peoria 24-5 in the two games.

Mario Martinez went 3-for-3 with a three-run homer and six RBI in the 13-3 victory in game one, becoming the first LumberKing to drive in a half-dozen since Ian Gac did it on May 4, 2008 at Kane County.  Henry Contreras, making his first start of the year (1-for-3 as a pinch hitter/reserve) went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, a solo home run and two RBI as well.  And that was only the beginning.

Rather than hold back all the highlights until tomorrow, here’s the audio from today’s games.

As you can see, it was a fun day of baseball.  Hopefully it continues tomorrow as we close out the series in Peoria.

-DL

Predicting the 2010 Roster (Part 2)

The second and final installment of my look at the potential 2010 roster finally makes its way to the LumberBlog today.  I had originally planned on getting it out before the Hot Stove, but last week was a busy one.

In a way, it’s nice to save this second part till now.  I had the opportunity to talk with manager John Tamargo about the team during our car trips to and from the Quad City Airport in Moline, IL.  It was good to pick his brain on some of the talent he had in Everett last year.

With that being said, I want to preface my following predictions.  At this time, we do not know the 25-man LumberKings’ roster for next year.  The Seattle Mariners will not finalize that until camp breaks in early April, and at that time we will know for sure.  It is common for changes to be made even after that point.  Many people didn’t know that Scott Savastano, the man who turned into the offensive MVP of the team last year, was a last-second add to the roster.  Two years ago, Mitch Moreland was scratched from our Opening Day roster because of a minor injury.  You just never know until the bus shows up.

A First-Rounder Not Named Ackley

In my post last week regarding the Top 10 Seattle Prospects as selected by Baseball
franklin.JPG
America,
I mentioned a young man by the name of Nick Franklin (pictured right).  While Dustin Ackley has attracted most of the spotlight, Franklin is also a rising star.  The 18-year-old shortstop was Jack Zduriencik’s second first-round pick (taken 27th overall) out of Lake Brantley (FL) High and had a nice showing in six games with Tamargo’s AquaSox (.400, 3 XBH, 2 RBI in 20 at-bats).  Seattle scouting director Tom McNamara liked his confidence and fielding ability in a brief workout with the big-league club last August.  I don’t think you’ll see Ackley in Clinton next year, but Franklin could very well add some first-round flavor to the roster.

Franklin might not be the only talented shortstop to head here.  South African-born Anthony
Phillips
made 67 starts at short for Everett last season and put up some respectable power numbers at the plate.  The 19-year-old hit .247 with 8 doubles, 7 HR and 28 RBI over 68 games in the Northwest League last season.  Venezuelan shortstop Gabriel Noriega could also make the club, following an impressive second season at Pulaski.  Noriega hit .311 with 14 doubles, 4 HR and 26 RBI in 61 games last year. 

Avila Following the Gac Path?

Thumbnail image for avila.JPGStaying on the Everett infield, a lot of folks have asked me if Gerardo Avila (pictured left) might head to Clinton.  As Midwest League diehards already know, Avila is a three-season veteran with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (’06-’08), but never hit above .260 and had just one career homer in the league in 63 games.  Then, following the Ian Gac pattern, Avila went to High Desert in 2008 and found his way back to the Northwest League in 2009.  There, he finally went off for a league-high 13 HR while also finishing first in slugging (.582), second in RBI (54) and third in hitting overall (.333).  As Gac-like as this story is going, he could very well be in Clinton.  However, he could also go back to the Cal League, where he hit .303 in nine games two seasons ago as a Maverick.

If Avila heads back to High Desert, Jharmidy DeJesus could be the man to fill first base.  DeJesus was amongst my predictions for last year’s club and was the #8 prospect in the Mariners’ system prior to last year.  Hailing from Jose Vallejo’s hometown of Bani, Dominican Republic, DeJesus hit .249 with 7 doubles, 4 HR and 24 RBI in 48 games with Pulaski last year.  He made 30 starts at first base in a platoon situation with 11th round pick Tim Morris (.214, 4 HR, 24 RBI in 50 games).   

Rounding Out the Infield

Second-baseman Hawkins Gebbers, Seattle’s 33rd round selection hit .301 with 13 doubles, 2 HR and 21 RBI in 54 games with Everett last year.  Cesar Fuentes (.261, 4 HR, 20 RBI) and Fred Bello (.250, 5 triples, 2 HR, 12 RBI) each split time at second base in Pulaski.  Third-baseman and 10th-round pick Vincent Catricala led Pulaski with 40 RBI, hitting .301 with 14 doubles and 8 HR in 59 games.  Blake Trinkler played the utility role for Everett, hitting .229 with 18 RBI in 41 games.

The Backstops 

Headlining the group of potential Clinton catchers is certainly Steven Baron, Seattle’s supplemental first-round pick (#33 overall) out of Ferguson (FL) High School.  Baron struggled in his first pro assignment with Pulaski, hitting .179 with 2 HR and 13 RBI in 30 games.  However, his numbers slightly improved towards the end of the season.  Baron raised his average 39 points over his final seven games.  Taking into consideration that ’09 LumberKing Nate Tenbrink hit just .198 with Everett in 2008 prior to batting .282 with 10 HR and 59 RBI last year, it’s possible that Baron comes to Clinton and improves at the plate.  However, Tenbrink was older and more experienced than Baron will be heading into 2010.  Tenbrink also didn’t have the added responsibilities of working with a pitching staff like Baron has.

If no Baron, 2009 draft picks Trevor Coleman (9th round) and Brandon Bantz (30th round) could catch for the Kings.  Coleman struggled, hitting .184 in 32 games with Everett, while Bantz produced a solid .290, 3 HR, 15 RBI stint with the AquaSox.  Given the fact that Juan Fuentes, Tommy Johnson and Henry Contreras all saw limited time behind the plate in Clinton last year and could be back, it’s quite possible that none of these three arrive in ’10.

A Wealth of Potential in the Outfield

When looking at the outfield of both Pulaski and Everett, it’s hard not to get excited about the
Rivero.jpggroup that could be coming in.  The AquaSox had both James Jones (4th round) and Matt Cerione (13th round) in their outfield last year, in addition to Jose Rivero (pictured right).  Jones hit .311 over 45 games, mashing 3 HR and 24 RBI in that span.  Cerione flashed a little more power with 7 HR, hitting .266 with 14 RBI over 43 games.  Rivero finished third on the club in RBI behind Avila and Mario Martinez with 32, going along with his .251 average and 4 HR.

Brandon Haveman (29th round) was Pulaski’s standout outfielder thanks to a .339, 5 HR, 18 RBI campaign.  Jarrett Burgess (.187, 5 HR, 22 RBI), Mark McGonigle (.283, 2 HR, 14 RBI) and Greg Waddell (.195, 2 HR, 6 RBI) all saw time in the Mariners’ outfield as well.  Burgess is still trying to find his way after a 6th round selection in the 2008 June draft.

Much like the catching corps, it’s tough to say which of these players will be LumberKings this year.  It’s more likely that we see the return of Ryan Royster, Welington Dotel, Dwight Britton and others at least at the beginning of the season.

The Rotation:  A Tough Act to Follow

It’s no question that pitching was the key to success for the LumberKings last year, specifically starting pitching.  At times last year, at least three Kings’ hurlers ranked amongst the league’s Top 10 in ERA.  Kenn Kasparek finished the season as the ERA leader, Clinton’s first since Salomon Torres in 1991.  Quite simply, it’s going to be hard to top last year.

Stanton.JPGHere’s some of the new names that might try.  Right-hander Taylor Stanton (pictured left), Seattle’s 26th round pick in 2008, had a breakout year of sorts with Everett.  In 15 starts, he went 5-3 with a 3.50 ERA.  Most notably, he led the rotation in innings (87.1), WHIP (1.23) and wins (5).  Outside of Stanton, only two other pitchers made at least 14 starts for the AquaSox…Chris Kirkland (a LumberKing briefly last year) and right-hander Luke Burnett.  Like Stanton, Burnett was an ’08 draft pick (14th round) that finally saw action last year.  He went 2-4, 4.66 in 14 starts.

Righty Taylor Lewis (3-1, 7.82 in 5 starts) and left-hander Nick Czyz (2-2, 3.34 in 5 starts) were also brief members of the Everett rotation.  Lewis also logged one start for Pulaski.

Transitioning back to the Appalachian League, the Pulaski club featured four pitchers with eight-or-more starts.  Thirty-sixth round right-hander John Housey (3-2, 2.62) was the most successful of that bunch, posting a 1.10 WHIP and a .194 opponent batting average.  Righty Brandon Maurer (3-4, 3.61 in 12 starts, 1 CG) and Jean Tome (3-4, 5.18 in 10 starts) put up very similar numbers. Eighth-round lefty James Gillheeney is the top draft pick of the group (8th round), but he went 0-3, 4.84 over six games, four starts.

This is a resounding theme, but with Kirkland, Anthony Vasquez, Maikel Cleto, Andres Esquibel and Jon Hesketh all possible returnees, its not for certain who might join the rotation this year.  One thing is for sure, they have their work cut out for them to match last year’s league-leading 3.35 team ERA.

Can the Pen Get Any Mightier? 

Much like the conversation on the starting rotation, it’s fairly clear that next year’s bullpen will have big shoes to fill.  Last year’s staff featured All-Stars Ruben Flores and Cheyne Hann,staehely.JPG plus solid set-up in guys like Brandon JosselynJose Jimenez, Brian Moran and Matt Renfree.

Next year’s pen might very well consist of some of the pitchers mentioned in the above section, but here’s a few more to consider.  Right-hander Christian Staehely (pictured right) went 4-2 with a pen-best 3.16 ERA in Everett, striking out 40 while walking only nine over 31.1 innings.  Pulaski right-handers Jorden Merry (40th round in ’09) and Chris Sorce (26th round in ’09) were the most serviceable relievers in an otherwise lackluster pen.  Merry led the club in saves, converting 5-of-6 in addition to his 2-1, 3.06 statline.  Sorce was 2-1, 3.45 with a save in two chances over seven outings.

Some AZL Standouts

At about this point, I’m sure you’re thinking “what about the guys in Peoria?”.  Well, many of the players listed above (Franklin, Rivero, Housey, etc.) did spend some time in the Arizona League last year.  I’ll list a few more below who could see Clinton this year.

First-baseman Rich Poythress, last year’s second-round pick and a Golden Spikes finalist while at Georgia made his pro debut in AZ and hit .300 with a HR and 6 RBI over six games.  It’s very possible Poythress’s college experience (.376, 25 HR, 86 RBI as a junior) will help him move directly to High Desert like fellow second-rounder Dennis Raben did a year ago. First-baseman Evan Sharpley, Seattle’s final draft choice in 2009 (50th round) had a nice showing over 37 games, hitting .333 with 12 doubles, 7 HR and 29 RBI.  Second-baseman Kevin Mailloux (45th round) hit .311 with 14 doubles, 5 HR and 37 RBI before a brief call-up to Everett.

On the mound, Peoria’s most impressive man was their closer.  Right-hander Jeff Breedlove went 2-1 with a 1.52 ERA and converted 10-of-12 saves.  Opponents hit just .205 against him over his 20 appearances.  In the rotation, Miguel Celestino (5-3, 4.73) and Chris Kessinger (5-3, 2.45) were the only pitchers with at least seven starts.  Kessinger was a 37th-rounder last season.       

And there you have it, my preview is complete.  Again, this is all speculation and we won’t know until early April who has actually made the 25-man roster.  Once that announcement is out, you’ll see it here and on LumberKings.com before anywhere else.  Finally, as I said at the finale of Part One, if there’s anyone I’ve overlooked, any mistakes you’ve caught or any differing opinions you might have, feel free to add your thoughts/comments.

-DL

Former Kings in the Cal League Playoffs

While I’ve obviously been following the Midwest League Playoffs in depth (Fort Wayne is currently up 2-0 on Burlington in the best-of-five Championship Series), I haven’t given any coverage so far to what has been a thrilling Cal League Playoffs.

That changes today.  Mention needs to be made of what several former LumberKings have done out West.


Thumbnail image for Gomez Gac.JPG

Mauro Gomez (left) and Ian Gac drove in 16 runs combined for the Blaze in eight playoff games.

Ian Gac (’06-’08), Mauro Gomez (’07), Matt Lawson (’08), Kennil Gomez (’08) and others helped power Bakersfield to the post season, and the Blaze didn’t settle with a first-round letdown.  They came back from a 1-0 deficit to oust Modesto with 13-6 and 6-1 wins. 

In the second round, they fell behind 2-0 to Cal League powerhouse San Jose (league-best 93-47 during the regular season) as Ryan Tatusko (’08) yielded just a run and lost to Clayton Tanner in game one and the bullpen failed for a disastrous eight-run eighth inning in an 8-3 loss in game two.  Tim Murphy (’08) turned in 7.0 scoreless innings, but Justin Miller and Glenn Swanson (’06-’07) were beat up in relief. 

That’s when the Blaze turned it on.  The Gomez’s teamed up for a 7-3 win in Bakersfield as Kennil Gomez stifled the Giants to a run over 6.2 innings while Mauro Gomez homered and drove in three.  They evened the series with an 11-4 win in game four thanks to Gac’s season-best six-RBI night, including a three-run blast that cleared the famed Sam Lynn Ballpark batter’s eye.  Michael Main (’08) tossed 2.0 scoreless relief innings to help Tanner Roark get the win.

Unfortunately, that’s where the dream ended.  San Jose erased an early 2-0 Blaze lead and won going away, 12-3.  The Gomez/Gac combo went 0-for-7 with three strikeouts combined as Bakersfield fell short of meeting High Desert in the Cal Leage Championship Series.

As you well know, Bakersfield was our old High A affiliate and High Desert is our new High A affiliate.  It would have been great to see the two match up in the finals, but it’s still exciting to see the Mavericks enjoy continued success.

 
Seager Hensley.JPG

Kyle Seager (left) and Steven Hensley will attempt to lead the Mavs to the title.

Three former LumberKings are with the Mavs, including Steven Hensley (’09), Travis Howell (’09), Kyle Seager (’09) and Stephen Penney (’09).

The Mavs had a first round bye thanks to a South Division-best 83-57 record.  Their second-round matchup pitted them against the Angels-affiliated Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.  That means a ton of former Cedar Rapids Kernels.

High Desert took game one behind Hensley’s outstanding complete-game, three hitter.  He struck out 10 Quakes and Jamie McOwen continued his dream season with a two-run blast to finish off a 5-0 victory.

The Mavs still wouldn’t let the Quakes on the board in game two as their second ace, former West Michigan Whitecap Mauricio Robles did his best to match Hensley with 7.0 scoreless frames in a 4-0 win.  Carlos Peguero was the man with the two-run clout this time around.

Rancho outlasted High Desert and staved off elimination with a 7-6 walk-off win in the 10th in game three.  Joe Dunigan was the offensive highlight thanks to yet another two-run homer in a 3-for-4, three RBI game.  The Quakes forced the deciding game five with an uneventful 2-1 win behind former Kernel Ryan Brasier’s 8.0 scoreless innings.

The series returned to Adelanto for the deciding game, and a 3-2 pitcher’s duel favored the Mavs through the first four innings.  Then, the bats took over.  Juan Diaz, Dunigan and Peguero all homered after the fifth and the bullpen was stellar in an 11-6 lashing to end the series.  The stiff-armed Penney was the man on the mound in a non-save ninth, and he turned in a scoreless frame to send the Mavs onward.

That sets up the best-of-five Cal League Championship Series, your High Desert Mavericks against the San Jose Giants.  The two best teams from their respective divisions rightfully meet up.  The series begins tonight in Adelanto with Hensley on the mound.

If you’re looking for more baseball to listen to, check out the Mavs tonight at 9:05 central time.  The link to the audio is here:  http://v3.player.abacast.com/player/player.php?pid=eldorado_kixw&stream=bb

-DL

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