Down on the Cubs Farm: Ian Happ homers, Steele impressive, highlights, more

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by - Staff Writer -
Jake Roth - USA Today Sports
Jake Roth - USA Today Sports

It was a long night down on the farm as only one team managed to pick up a win as their playoff hopes remained alive with a huge first half win.

IOWA CUBS 3 – El Paso Chihuahuas 6: The Cubs returned home to open a seven-game homestand to welcome the best record in AAA, as El Paso came to town. With Matt Swarmer on the mound, the Cubs connected for three home runs early to give him some run support. Unfortunately for Iowa, all three of those homers were solo shots as Swarmer would allow 6ER in five innings for the 6-3 loss.

El Paso got off and running early as they opened a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the second. A two-run Alex Dickenson single in the first and Franchy Cordero double in the second provided the early offense as the Chihuahuas were in control early. Iowa got on the board in the bottom of the second inning when Phillip Evans went deep for his 9th homer of the season cutting the deficit to 3-1.


The El Paso offensive barrage continued into the third inning as they gave Swarmer no room to breathe. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Aderlin Rodriguez grounded into a key double play, but with a run coming home in the process the lead grew to 4-1. A few pitchers later Esteban Quiroz went deep for his 9th homer of the season pushing the lead to 5-1.

Once again, the Cubs played long ball in the bottom of the third as they did their best to climb back into the game. Donnie Dewees was the second Iowa player to go deep for his sixth of the season as Ian Happ shortly followed that up with his 9th of the year.


Once again both were solo shots as the Cubs still trailed 5-3. Cordero would hit a solo homer in the top of the fourth to cap off the scoring as the Cubs fell 6-3.

Iowa drops to 34-25 with the loss as their lead in the division continues to shrink just a little. Mark Zagunis remained on a tear since returning to Iowa picking up two more hits in the game, joining Evans in that category. Dewees, Happ, Taylor Davis and Luis Vazquez picked up the other four hits. Since moving to the bullpen, Duane Underwood seems to be finding his groove as he tossed two scoreless innings in this one. Tony Barnette and James Norwood added a scoreless inning each in the loss.


TENNESSEE SMOKIES 0 – Montgomery Biscuits 1: If you are a fan of pitcher’s duals, Wednesday was the day for you in AA as the Smokies dropped a heartbreaker 1-0. Justin Steele toed the rubber looking to remain on his recent hot streak. Steele did just that, tossing five shutout innings of one-hit ball to go with 3BB and 6K in the no-decision. Despite a 6.40 ERA for the season, Steel has posted a sub 3.5 over his previous three starts as he is finding his groove.

The offense was at a premium I this game as the teams combined for just six hits. The Smokies had the first scoring chance in the second inning when pitches hit both P.J. Higgins and Charcer Burks, but an inning-ending double play kept things scoreless through three.

The best scoring chance of the game for the Smokies came in the fourth inning when Jared Young picked up a one-out double to get things started. With two outs, Ian Rice walked ahead of a Burks single to load the bases. Once again, the Smokies couldn’t come up with the big hit as the game remained scoreless after four.

It appeared the Biscuits were about to break through in both the fifth and sixth innings, but fabulous work from Steel and Michael Rucker helped them get through two jams to keep the score 0-0. It wasn’t until the bottom of the eighth when the scoreless tie was broken as Brett Sullivan took one of the Biscuits two hits in the game over the wall for the 1-0 lead. That proved to be all Montgomery would need as the Smokies went down in order in the ninth to fall 1-0 and drop to 28-29 on the season.

Gioskar Amaya paced the offense collecting two of the teams four hits in the game. Young and Burks grabbed the other two as the Smokies were held silent all night in the loss.

MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS 3 – Wilmington Blue Rocks 4: Despite giving the team with the best record three hard-fought games, the Pelicans were unable to pick up a win as the Blue Rocks picked up the 4-3 victory Wednesday for the series sweep.

On the mound was the struggling Alex Lange who has been pitching much better as of late. That improvement continued Wednesday night, tossing six innings of three earned ball to earn a no-decision before the Blue Rocks tagged Ryan Kellogg for the game-winning run in the 4-3 loss.

It was the Pelicans grabbing the early lead in the second inning as Cam Balego went deep for his fifth homer of the season giving Myrtle Beach a 1-0 lead. That lead would hold up until the top of the fourth inning when a Dennicher Carrasco steal of home tied things up 1-1 which was followed by a Colby Schultz single giving Wilmington the 2-1 lead.

Kevonte Mitchell led off the bottom of the fourth with a walk, before a one-out Balego single put two runners on base. Grant Fannell kept the line moving with a sacrifice fly to bring the game to 2-2 as the Pelicans continued to keep the pressure on.

Nick Pratto put the Blue Rocks back in front in the top of the fifth with an RBI double for the 3-2 lead, but once again the Pelicans came roaring back as they refused to go down without a fight. Down by one in the bottom of the seventh, a two-out Fennell double started a rally in which Carlos Sepulveda tied the game up 3-3 with a single shortly after keeping Wilmington on their toes.

Still tied 3-3, the game shifted to the ninth inning as the Blue Rocks looked to finally solve Kellogg. Ricky Aracena got things going with a one-out single. Perkins followed that up with a walk before a force out from Brewer Hicklen moved runners to the corners. That is when the most heartbreaking way to lose a game happened as Kellogg committed a balk which forced in the go-ahead and eventual winning run as the Pelicans fall 4-3.

Myrtle Beach is 20-39 and occupies the worst record in High A ball this season. Sepulveda was the catalyst on offense collecting three hits in four plate appearances. Balego added two hits in the loss while Mitchell and Jimmy Herron added the final of the seven hits. Miguel Amaya was hitless on the night.

SOUTH BEND CUBS 5 – Bowling Green Hot Rods 4: With their playoff hopes resting on the balance of earning a wild-card berth and outside shot at the division, the Cubs turned to Peyton Remy in hopes of taking down the Hot Rods, whom the Cubs are currently chasing at the moment. Rem (2-2) did his part tossing five innings of 2R (1ER) ball on 2H, 1BB and 3K to lower his ERA to 3.51. That effort was just what the Cubs needed as their offense had to bail out the bullpen to hold on 5-4.

South Bend opened up the scoring in the second inning taking an early 2-0 lead. Jonathan Sierra put himself in scoring position with a one-out double. Tyler Durna followed that up with a triple to give the Cubs the 1-0 lead. Brennan Davis, last year’s second-round pick continued his tear since getting to South Bend as his single made it 2-0 through two.

It wasn’t until the fourth inning when Bowling Green was able to solve Remy. Although limited, the Hot Rods managed to push one run across in this half of an inning as Kaleo Johnson went deep for his 7th of the year to make a 2-1 game. The Cubs got that run right back in the bottom of the inning as Eric Gonzalez made it a 3-1 game following his RBI double.

The back and forth blows continued into the fifth inning as the Hot Rods pulled within a run once again. This time it was Beau Brundage bringing home a run with his fourth double of the season to make it a 3-2 lead as Remy exited the game following this inning. Looking for some much-needed insurance, it was Davis coming through in the sixth with a two-run shot (2) to push the Cubs lead to 5-2.

With a three-run advantage and the Hot Rods down to their final three outs, things were looking good for South Bend to pick up the win. That was until Bowling Green started a furious ninth-inning rally. Johnson led the inning off with a single, before advancing to second on another single from Grant Witherspoon.

Six pitches later it was Ford Proctor getting in on the action with another single as Johnson tried to score from second. However, a great relay throws from Sierra to Durna to Gonzalez kept the score 5-2 as they nailed Johnson at home for the first out. Bowling Green was not done, as a Seaver Whalen single and Roberto Alvarez sacrifice fly made it a 5-4 game with two outs in the inning. The Cubs withstood the rally as Ethan Roberts was able to strike out Brundage for his sixth save of the year to give the Cubs a huge 5-4 win.

South Bend keeps their playoff hopes alive with the win as they improve to 31-25. Durna and Davis were the focal points of the offense picking up two hits each, and combining for four RBIs in the game. Jack Patterson lowered his ERA to 3.08 following three scoreless innings of relief while Roberts spots a 2.42 following the save.


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Tags: Phillip Evans, Ian Happ, Mark Zagunis, Taylor Davis, Luis Vazquez, Duane Underwood, Tony Barnette, James Norwood, Justin Steele, Charcer Burks, Jared Young, Ian Rice, Michael Rucker, Gioskar Amaya, Ryan Kellogg, Cam Balego, Kevonte Mitchell, Carlos Sepulveda, Miguel Amaya, Peyton Remy, Jonathan Sierra, Tyler Durna, Eric Gonzalez, Ethan Roberts
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