Jennifer Stewart - USA Today Sports
Jennifer Stewart - USA Today Sports

Down on Cubs Farm: Maples wild, Leal wins AA debut, Morel plays hero, highlights, more

by - Senior Writer -

It was finally a full slate of minor league games once again as the AAA all-star break ended. With all five teams back in action the Cubs treated fans to a 3-2 record with some positive notes to take from each game.

IOWA CUBS 4 – Round Rock Express 6: Looking to start the second half they finished the first half, the Cubs turned to Trevor Clifton looking to stay on a great roll. Clifton didn’t have the greatest of games lasting just four innings and allowing 4ER, but he managed to keep his team in the game until the bullpen let it get away late for a 6-4 defeat.

The first inning brought plenty of fireworks as Iowa came out swinging early. After a strikeout on a wild pitch brought home the games first run, Jim Adduci added an RBI single ahead of a Zack Short sacrifice fly to give Iowa a quick 3-0 lead. That lead was short lived as the Express responded with a big first inning of their own.

Already with a pair of runners on base, Clifton found himself in a bit of trouble early looking to work his way out. Unfortunately for him, Derek Fisher connected on what was his ninth homer of the season to clear the bases and just like that it was a 3-3 ball game. Iowa retook the lead in the top of the second on a Phillip Evans sacrifice fly before a Joshua Rojas double brought things even in the fourth 4-4.

With the score still tied and the game now left in the hands of the bullpen, Dillon Maples was on to pitch hoping to send the game to the ninth tied. After allowing a leadoff single, Maples followed that up with a strikeout as he was on the verge of closing things down. That is when things spiraled out of control as Maples walked the next four hitters, he faced bringing home a pair of runs putting the Express up 6-4. That proved to be the difference as the Cubs were unable to break through in the ninth falling 6-4.

Iowa has enough of a cushion to drop some games as they remain 52-39 on the season. Both Ian Happ and Adduci led the way for the offense as they each grabbed two hits. Taylor Davis and Mark Zagunis got in on the hit parade also as the Cubs tallied eight in the game. Duane Underwood Jr. remained strong in relief tossing two scoreless innings in the loss.

TENNESSEE SMOKIES 8 – Mobile Bay Bears 1: It is incredible what an off day for some teams can do as the Smokies looked refreshed entirely on Thursday. Getting the start and making his AA debut was Erick Leal who was simply brilliant on the mound. Leal not only picked up the win but did so lasting five innings and allowing just 1ER. The offense took care of the rest as they scored eight times in the 8-1 win.

The Smokies wasted no time in the first inning getting the offense going as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead with an RBI single from Vimael Machin and a Jhonny Pereda fielders’ choice. That lead doubled to 4-0 in the second as Christian Donahue kept things going with a single ahead of another Nico Hoerner single for another RBI.

The lone run of the game for Mobile came in the third inning when Jahmai Jones ripped an RBI single to left to cut things to 4-1. That was the lone blemish off Leal as he was backed by an offensive barrage to make his debut a seamless transition. Tennessee got back on the board in the sixth with a Charcer Burks RBI single to make it 5-1 before putting the game away in the seventh.

It was in the seventh when the Smokies displayed great patience and discipline, loading the bases with a pair of singles and a walk. Another walk to Jared Young pushed a run across with still no one out as Zach Davis continued the rally with a single to make it 8-1. That would be more than enough for the Smokies as the bullpen duo of Bailey Clark and Tommy Nance tossed four near-flawless innings of relief to hand Leal the 8-1 win.

Tennessee is finally back on the winning side of things as they improve to 41-49 this year. It was a balanced attack throughout, but Roberto Caro and Pereda led the way with two hits each. Five other Smokies picked up one hit in the game with Connor Myers and Young the lone two not to record a hit in the win.

MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS 4 – Potomac Nationals 5: Winning is a matter of inches sometimes in the sporting world, and that was once again the case for the Pelicans on Thursday. With Alexander Vargas doing his thing on the mound in his six innings of work it was a Pelicans debut from Ethan Roberts that left a sour taste in the mouths of fans after he allowed the game-winning runs in the eight to fall 5-4.

Miguel Amaya continues to swing a hot stick as he put the Pelicans in front 1-0 in the first with an RBI single. A Gilbert Lara single in the second tied things up 1-1, but Wladimir Galindo responded with a double in the bottom half of the second to put the Pelicans back in front 2-1.

The back and forth exchange continued into the third inning when Cole Freeman singled home another run to tie things up 2-2. Still tied and now in the sixth, Potomac was able to grab their first lead of the night when Alex Dunlap smoked his eighth double of the year to make it a 3-2 game. Not to be outdone, the Pelicans responded with some nice work in the bottom half of the inning as Grant Fennell and Galindo each picked up RBI singles to put Myrtle Beach back in front 4-3 with the bullpen taking over.

After dominating at South Bend much of the year, Roberts made his debut with the Pels posting an impressive seventh inning. Things quickly went south in his second inning of work, however, as Freeman tied things up with an RBI triple before coming home on an Aldrem Corredor single to put the Nationals back in front late 5-4. After a quick eighth inning, the Pelicans began to rally in the ninth with two hits putting the tying run at second but were unable to cash in falling 5-4.

Myrtle Beach is 32-57 as an influx of new players continues. Galindo had a great night at the plate collecting three hits to go with 2RBI’s. A pair of hits each from Fennell and Carlos Sepulveda were responsible for seven of the teams 11 hits with Amaya, Delvin Zinn, and Tyler Durna all adding one each. Manuel Rodriguez struck out the side in the ninth.

SOUTH BEND CUBS 2 – Kane County Cougars 1: The Cubs were back on the diamond Thursday night looking to put one of the best home records on the line yet again. After a disappointing series-opening loss Derek Casey took the ball in this one delivering a strong performance. In six innings, Casey allowed 1R on 4H with 0ER runs charged. However, Casey was unable to get the win as some late-game heroics lifted South Bend 2-1.

It took five innings for someone to break through as it was the Cougars striking first. With a man in scoring position, Zach Shannon broke the scoreless tie with a single as Kane County was now up 1-0. Shannon got a little too gutsy on the bases and was thrown out trying to reach second on the play keeping things at just 1-0.

Finally, in the bottom of the sixth, it was the Cubs getting on the board as Christopher Morel dropped down a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt to bring home Andy Weber as he reached first on the same play. Morel was just getting started as his biggest at-bat came in the eighth. With the game still tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Morel stepped back up to the plate with Weber once again in scoring position. Morel played hero yet again as his single broke the tie putting the Cubs up 2-1 before Brian Glowicki earned his first save in the ninth for the win.

South Bend is 48-40 on the year as they will be battling for a playoff spot all season. The Cubs received a trio of multi-hit efforts with Morel, Weber and Cole Roederer leading the way. Brennan Davis went 1-3 to keep his average near 300 for the season. Casey Ryan continued to do great work out of the pen tossing two more scoreless frames ahead of the scoreless Glowicki ninth.

EUGENE EMERALDS 5 – Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 4: Looking to cool down a red-hot Volcanoes team, the Emeralds countered with Eduarniel Nunez for the start as he looked to keep his strong season going. Nunez may not have gotten the win lasting only four innings, but he did give his team a chance as those innings were scoreless frames to set the tone in a 5-4 victory.

It was a slow start offensively for both teams as it was 0-0 through three. The fourth inning is when the scoreless tie was broken as Jake Slaughter put the Emeralds in front for good 2-0. The sixth inning is when Eugene did their best to bust things open as the third run of the game came home on the passed ball ahead of a Luis Vazquez single to make it a 4-0 game.

The lead grew to 5-0 on a wild pitch in the top of the seventh before the Volcanoes began their comeback bid. With the bases loaded, Franklin Labour picked up an RBI single to make it a 5-1 game, but the Ems got out of that inning without any further damage. It was in the eighth when things got interesting as an RBI triple from Armani Smith made it a 5-3 game heading to the night.

Down to their final outs, Salem refused to go down without a fight as the offense was at it again. Down to their last out with a man on first Tyler Fitzgerald made it a 5-4 game with a double as he now represented the tying run standing on second. Riley McCauley was able to bounce back and keep things there as he picked up his fourth save in a much-needed 5-4 win.

Eugene still has a way to go at 11-16, but this was a win they desperately needed. The Emeralds busted out 12 hits with five players picking up multi-hit efforts. Among those players, Edmond Americaan, Yonathan Perlaza, Zac Taylor, Vazquez and Slaughter, only Slaughter and Vazquez picked up RBI’s with the rest coming on defensive miscues. 28th round pick Chris Kachmar made his season debut and picked up the win in one inning of work.

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