Down on the Cubs Farm: Zagunis and Maples impressive, Higgins carries Smokies, more
Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Down on the Cubs Farm: Zagunis and Maples impressive, Higgins carries Smokies, more

by - Senior Writer -

The Cubs managed to go 2-2 on the farm last night but came three outs from going 3-2. Had it not been for heavy rain in South Bend, there is a good chance the Cubs win that game as they held a 5-0 lead in the fourth. The good news is, as three of the team’s head to the all-star break Monday, the entire system appears to be playing better baseball than in previous weeks which could make for a strong second half.

IOWA CUBS 6 – Sacramento River Cats 7 (10 innings): After taking two of three at Fresno to open the road trip, the Cubs turned to Matt Swarmer on the hill with hopes of kicking off a new series on the right foot. Swarmer, was much better Saturday than what he has been in previous starts, allowing 4ER in 6 innings of work to go with 1BB 9K. That effort was good enough to earn him a no-decision as the Iowa offense did just enough to send the game to extras before the bullpen let it get away late 7-6 in 10 innings.

It was not a good start for the Cubs as the River Cats took a commanding lead right away in the first inning. Five batters into the game, Sacramento had a 3-0 advantage as they opened the game with five consecutive hits off of Swarmer. The River Cats added to their lead in the third inning when Abiatal Avelino went deep for the fifth time of the season pushing the lead to 4-0 after three.

The Cubs bats finally got going in the fourth inning as they used that frame to not only break the shutout but crawl back into the game in a big way. Ian Happ continued his stretch of patience at the plate taking another walk to lead off the inning. Mark Zagunis followed that up by lacing his seventh double of the season to make it a 3-1 game. Zagunis was thrown out at third on the play trying to take an extra base.

Now with two outs, Phillip Evans kept the inning alive ripping a double down the left field line. After losing his power stroke for a few weeks, it seems as if Trent Giambrone has rediscovered that stroke taking one out for his team-leading 12th homer of the season cutting the lead to 4-3 heading to the bottom of the fourth.

As both offenses cooled off for a while, the Cubs managed to grab the lead in the seventh as suddenly Swarmer was in line or the win. With one down, Dixon Machado put himself in scoring position with a double as he represented the tying run. After an Erick Castillo walk put two runners on base, Zagunis continued to swing a hot bat for Iowa connecting for his second double of the game to give the Cubs their first lead 5-4. That lead was short lived as an eighth-inning single from Levi Michael tied the game at 5-5 as we headed to extras.

Iowa managed to strike first in the 10th hoping they would be able to hold on. Three pitches into the tenth, Robel Garcia smoked a double to score Happ from second giving Iowa the 6-5 lead. With Randy Rosario called upon to close things out, he would walk the first hitter putting the winning run on base. That proved to be his undoing as Ryan Howard ripped a bases-clearing double six pitches later to give the River Cats the walk off 7-6 win.

With about three weeks to go until the AAA all-star game, Iowa still sits in first as they have most of this season with a 37-32 record. Iowa received a pair of hits each from Zagunis, Giambrone and Wynton Bernard to pace the offense. Taylor Davis was 1-3 with 2BB in the contest while Happ was hitless. Dillon Maples was impressive in relief, needing just 16 pitches to strike out the side in one inning of work.

TENNESSEE SMOKIES 2 – Pensacola Blue Wahoos 1: Sometimes, it only takes one start to get a pitcher going in the right direction. For Thomas Hatch that may be the case as he delivered another impressive outing. After struggling mightily for a month, Hatch has now responded with four straight starts continued by his winning effort last night of six innings of work, 1ER on 6H, 1BB 5K to improve to 4-6 on the season. His ERA is now 4.65 but is under a three in June as the Smokies backed him with just enough run support for the 2-1 win.

Despite scoring just one run in the ballgame, Pensacola broke through first grabbing the early lead in the third inning. With Taylor Grzelakowski at first following his leadoff single, Jaylin Davis gave the Blue Wahoos the 1-0 lead connecting for a one-out double. That would be the only run of the game for Pensacola as Tennessee was impressive on the mound.

The Pensacola lead didn’t last long as the Smokies were ready to go in the fourth. Looking for a big inning, Roberto Caro and Vimael Machin continued to wreak havoc at the top of the order picking up a walk and single to start things off to put two runners on base and nobody out. Now with one out and runners at the corners, P.J. Higgins manufactured a run with a groundout to tie things up 1-1, but that was it as the Smokies wasted an excellent opportunity for more.

With the game still tied 1-1 heading to the sixth, it was the top of the Tennessee order once again that kept the pressure on the Pensacola staff. A leadoff single from Caro followed by a Machin walk put two runners on once again with no outs putting Tennessee in the same situation; they were in during the fourth. Once again, with runners on the corners and one out, Higgins came through at the plate with a single putting the Smokies up 2-1. That would be all they would need as Jordan Minch, and Wyatt Short tossed three shutout innings of relief to hold on for the 2-1 win.

Tennessee improves to 32-36 as they have one more game before the all-star break. Despite just five hits in the game, Tennessee made them count with Caro leading the way with two. Machin, Higgins and Jhonny Pereda added the other three hits in the win. Short picked up his fifth save in relief and lowered his ERA to 1.24.

MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS 3 – Down East Wood Ducks 1: After struggling to beat Down East the first two months of the season, the Pelicans have a chance at a series split to end the first half following their 3-1 win on Saturday. The Pelicans got everything they could have asked for from Alexander Vargas on the mound as he tossed five innings of one-run ball to improve to 1-1 on the season with a 2.78 ERA.

The Pelicans gave Vargas an early lead, scoring immediately in their first at-bats. With two outs, the Pelicans did something they have a hard time doing in any situation, and that is string hits together. A Miguel Amaya single kept the inning going before Tyler Payne followed him up with another single to put him in scoring position. Two pitches later Kevonte Mitchell kept the two-out rally going with a third straight single, and the lead was 1-0 Myrtle Beach.

That score would hold up until the fourth inning when Down East was finally able to break through on Vargas. A one-out Ryan Dorow double put the tying run at second base, but when he didn’t score on a two-out single, Vargas was on the verge of getting out of the inning run free. That was not meant to be as Yohel Pozo tied the game 1-1 with a single as Myrtle Beach came to bat in the bottom of the fourth.

It was in that inning when the Pelicans did what they needed to do to grab control of the game before turning things over to their pen. An Aramis Ademan leadoff single got the inning started before Jimmy Herron singled to put two runners on with no outs. Now with the bases loaded following a Luke Reynolds walk, the Pelicans had a golden chance to break the game open as there were still no outs.

Looking for the huge base hit was Zach Davis who could only beat one into the ground for what seemed like an easy double play at the time. However, the speed on Davis allowed him to beat the play on the back end bringing home a run in the process for the 2-1 Pelicans lead. The lead grew to 3-1 without the strength of a hit as Herron was able to trot home on a throwing error from Wood Ducks catcher Pozo on a pickoff attempt. That would be all they would need as the Pelicans used the combination of Manuel Rondon, Brian Glowicki, Jesus Camargo to seal the deal out of the pen for the 3-1 win.

Myrtle Beach is 21-45 as they eagerly await the first half to come to a close. Both Payne and Mitchell led the way hitting wise, collecting two hits apiece in the eight-hit effort. After struggling much of the first half, Amaya picked up another hit to bring his average up to .216 but is hitting a .250 in June thus far.

SOUTH BEND CUBS vs. West Michigan White Caps (Cancelled): Weather was a big issue in the Midwest last night as prevalent rain showers washed through the Illinois and Indiana areas all night. South Bend was undoubtedly affected by this as their game with West Michigan was called after four innings and will not be made up this season. The tough part about this was, had they been able to get through one more frame, the Cubs would have been victorious as they held a 5-0 advantage at the point of cancelation. Stats do not count for this game, but Tyler Durna and Delvin Zinn combined for three RBI’s as Durna would have five in the series.

EUGENE EMERALDS 0 – Hillsboro Hops 4: A night after getting shutout at the hands of the Emeralds, the Hops returned the favor Saturday picking up a 4-0 win. On the mound was Kohl Franklin making his first start of 2019. After a promising start to the game, Franklin labored through the middle innings to finish the night with 3 2/3 innings of work and 1ER allowed despite pitching in and out of trouble all night.

It took four innings for someone to score finally, but the David Garza RBI groundout would be all the Hops would need as they took the 1-0 lead. At that time, Hillsboro didn’t think one run would be enough, so they went to work in the fifth with hopes of delivering the knockout punch.

Steven Leyton led the fifth off with a walk as the Hops were off to a great start. With one down, Leyton used his legs to steal second ahead of the Jesus Marriaga single and just like that it was 2-0 Hops. A Kristian Robinson walk put two runners on base, but with two outs, Hillsboro was in danger of wasting a golden scoring chance. Ryan January wouldn’t let that happen as single made it a 3-0 Hops lead before a the added a run in the sixth off a wild pitch to pick up the rather easy 4-0 shutout win.

Offensively, the Emeralds have been challenged in two games as the hits have been hard to come by. With just five hits, Jake Slaughter led the way as he picked up two of those five hits. Joining him was Fernando Kelli, Yonathan Perlaza and Caleb Knight rounding out the hits for the Emeralds. Despite going 0-1, Edmond Americaan reached base three times by taking three walks. Alfredo Colorado was sharp in relief allowing 1ER in three innings of work.

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