Cubs Minor League News: PCA and Caissie raking, Canario homers, Pannone impressive, more
Canario is a top prospect for the Cubs (Photo courtesy: I-Cubs)

Cubs Minor League News: PCA and Caissie raking, Canario homers, Pannone impressive, more

by - Senior Writer -

OMAHA - In what is arguably the most anticipated AAA season in recent memory, the Iowa Cubs kicked off their season on the road against the Omaha Storm Chasers on Friday. Given some of the cuts that Craig Counsell had to make, with a lot of those cuts landing in AAA, this Iowa roster is not only one of the more talented groups in all of AAA, but you could make the case that it is the most talented roster they have ever had.

Whether it be Owen Caissie, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Alexander Canario, Ben Brown, or even Hayden Wesneski, there are no excuses for this team this season, as they should be one of the favorites to make the playoffs this year. Hoping to kick off their 2024 season with a bang, it was a tale of two games for the Cubs as they dominated through five innings before falling apart late. That proved significant in the end as the Storm Chasers battled back from a massive deficit to take down the Cubs 5-4 in 11 innings.

One of the question marks surrounding the Cubs was who would get the opening-day start. Marty Peavey elected to go with Thomas Pannone, and that move appeared to pay off. Pannone gave Iowa five strong innings of shutout baseball, walking one and striking out four. He was backed by plenty of early offense before turning it over to Keegan Thompson and the pen.

Opposing Pannone was fellow southpaw Daniel Lynch, who also got through five innings but didn't have nearly the same success that Pannone had. It didn't take long for the Cubs to grab the lead with Canario unloading for his first homer of the season in the third inning to put the Cubs in front 1-0. Canario is one of those players to keep an eye on, as a solid start to his season could force Counsell's hand quicker than usual to call him up.

Still holding their 1-0 lead in the fifth, the Iowa offense came to life in a big way as the big names in that lineup started to do the damage yet again. Crow-Armstrong got things rolling with an RBI triple to push the lead to 2-0, which is a good sign considering his rough spring.

He would come home to score on a Canario single, and just like that, it was 3-0. Forgotten in this lineup is Matt Mervis, who continues to crush AAA pitching with another RBI knock to cap off the three-run frame with the Cubs leading 4-0.

Little did the Cubs know, those would be the only runs they would score as the Storm Chasers bullpen was very good. With Pannone having his day come to an end after five innings, it was up to the bullpen to keep things where they were as Keegan Thompson was called on to pitch the sixth. Talk about a guy who needs a massive bounce back season, Thompson would love to prove he still has what it takes to make it in the majors, but this outing doesn't give anyone confidence.

Not only did he struggle with his command again, walking two and striking out one, but he served up a three-run shot to CJ Alexander to pull Omaha within 4-3. Thompson finished the inning before giving the ball to Riley Thompson, but this was a completely different game. With Riley Thompson taking care of business in the seventh, it was up to Richard Lovelady to get the game to the night.

Despite striking out the side, Lovelady was also hit extremely hard as he allowed four hits in his inning of work, including an RBI single to Alexander, which brought the game back to even 4-4 and helped force extra innings. After neither team was able to score in the 10th, it was the Storm Chasers who got the last laugh as Riley Martin uncorked an 11th-inning wild pitch, which led to the winning run and gave the Storm Chasers a 5-4 comeback win.

Caissie wasted no time introducing himself to AAA with a team-high three hits, while Canario, Mervis, and Crow-Armstrong all had two.

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