Minor League Report...September 8, 2012

Good morning,

And congratulations to Manager Ray Smith and the Appalachian League Champion Elizabethton Twins. With Beloit losing game three to Clinton last night, all of the Twins minor league teams have now finished their seasons. The Snappers qualified for the playoffs by finishing second to Wisconsin in the first half with a 39-32 record. They repeated as second best to Clinton in the second half at 38-32.

The Rochester Red Wings (72-72) finished in fourth place, twelve back of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees who spent their summer sharing Rochester’s Frontier Field while their home ballpark was being renovated. Considering that the Red Wings lost over 90 games in each of the past two seasons, finishing at .500 is a successful season.

A year ago, the New Britain Rock Cats (75-67) needed to win their last game combined with the second place team losing for a chance at the wild card selection. They were in the same situation this year, entering their final game one behind Reading. Last year the Rock Cats lost and the second place team won. This year the Rock Cats won, however, so did Reading as they again missed the playoffs. Maybe next year they will find a way to secure a playoff spot before their final game? Of note for Twins fans, Oswaldo Arcia was selected the Eastern League Player of the Week for the last week of August.

The Fort Myers Miracle (32-36) finished in fourth place, seven back of Jupiter.

Read more about the exciting Elizabethton Twins’ championship and the Beloit Snappers following the jump.

Coming off a semi-final win over Danville, the Elizabethton Twins faced off against the Eastern Division champion Royals beginning Saturday night at Burlington, North Carolina. The Twins sent Angel Mata to the mound in a game they would lose, 3-2 in ten innings. Mata was excellent, allowing one run on six hits and a walk in five innings with six strikeouts. After going 7-0 with a 1.75 ERA during the regular season, Josh Burris was tagged with the loss when he allowed a run in the twelfth inning. Byron Buxton, Adam Walker and Romy Jiminez all had two hits with Walker and D. J. Hicks both hitting home runs.

The Twins returned home to Joe O’Brien Field for a must win game on Sunday. Game Two also went into extra innings with the Twins winning, 4-3 in eleven innings. Hein Robb allowed three runs in four innings before the bullpen pitched seven no-hit innings with twelve strikeouts. Tyler Duffy and Kaleb Merck both pitched two innings with J. T. Chargois pitching the last three innings for the win. Candido Pimentel had two hits while Max Kepler was 3-5 with a big two run home run in the sixth inning. D. J. Hicks singled in the bottom of the eleventh and was awarded third base after taking a wide turn at first when the throw hit him in the elbow and went into the dugout. Kelvin Mention pinch ran for Hicks. After two walks, Mention scored the winning run on a wild pitch to Travis Harrison.

The deciding game three also went twelve innings after an unbelievable comeback by the Twins. Jose Berrios was very good through three scoreless innings, however, things got out of hand in the fourth. After getting the first out, the second batter hit a ball off Berrios for an infield single. The runner went to second on a passed ball before Berrios struck out the next hitter for the second out. Berrios walked the next batter, putting runners on first and second before an error by third baseman Travis Harrison loaded the bases on what would have been the third out. That was the point when the game got away from Berrios. Another passed ball, an error by the catcher, wild pitch and two walks later, Burlington had scored four runs to take a 4-1 lead. Burlington would score two more in the eighth inning to put the Twins down, 6-1, going into the bottom of the ninth. After three walks and two outs, the Twins had the bases loaded when D. J. Hicks was hit by a pitch making it 6-2. A wild pitch with Adam Walker batting would make it 6-3 before Walker hit a huge three run home run to send the game to extra innings. With two out and the bases loaded from three walks in the twelfth inning, D. J. Hicks stepped up to the plate and hit a walk-off grand slam home run for the win and Appalachian League Championship.

Following their exciting win, Elizabethton reliever Tyler Duffy joined the Beloit Snappers for their quarterfinal best of three series with the second half champion Clinton LumberKings. Beloit traveled to Clinton, who had won ten straight and seventeen of eighteen, for the first game on Wednesday.

The Snappers sent lefty Jason Wheeler to the hill. Wheeler, who had more wins than any other pitcher in the league (14-6), pitched 4.2 innings with ten hits and five runs (four earned). Recent tenth round pick, D. J. Baxendale kept the Snappers in the game with two one-hit innings before Duffy came on to pick up the win, allowing a run in 1.1 innings. Mason Melotakis pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. Entering the seventh inning down 5-3, A. J. Pettersen led off with a walk and moved to second when Nate Roberts also walked. Wang-Wei Lin moved them into scoring position with a sacrifice before top prospect Eddie Rosario tied the game with a two run single. The Snappers would take the lead in the eighth when Kennys Vargas led off with a double before a sacrifice by Drew Leachman moved him to third from where he scored on Steve Wickens single.

After Clinton tied the game, 6-6, in the bottom eighth, Pettersen led off the ninth with a single. Roberts moved him to second with a sacrifice before Lin singled putting runners on first and third. Pettersen scored on a wild pitch with Lin moving to third on a second wild pitch before scoring on a Rosario ground ball to second. With the 8-6 win in their column, the Snappers returned home for game two and three.

Cole Johnson was solid in game two, allowing five runs in seven innings. With the Snappers leading 5-4, Manager Nelson Prada sent Johnson out for the eighth. After walking the leadoff hitter, Prada called for Corey Williams who had seventeen saves during the season. After a force out, double and intentional walk, Williams walked in the tying run. Prada made another call to the bullpen for recent fourth round pick Zach Jones. Jones, who joined the Twins out of San Jose State University, had struck out twenty-five batters in fourteen innings after moving up from Elizabethton in late July. With the game tied and the bases loaded, could Jones get the Snappers out of a real jam? The answer was yes as Jones proceeded to strike out the next two hitters. He would also pitch the ninth when he would strike out the side. Now isn’t that what you want out of a short reliever, what you dream of? Five batters and five strikeouts against the hottest team in baseball was special. Unfortunately, Taylor Rogers would give up four hits and two runs in the tenth as Clinton forced game three with a 7-5 win.

The big hit for the Snappers Thursday night was a three run home run by Miguel Sano, who was selected as the Midwest League’s top prospect, in the fourth inning. After hitting a league best 28 home runs during the regular season, Sano gave the Snappers a 4-2 lead they wouldn’t hold.

The LumberKings and Snappers faced off last night with David Hurlbut leading the way for Beloit. Hurlbut lasted six innings with two hits after allowing an unearned run in the top of the first inning. The Snappers would come back to tie the game, 1-1, in the bottom of the first when Eddie Rosario singled with two outs before Miguel Sano drove him in with a double.

Neither team would score again until Clinton went up 4-1 with three runs in the top of the tenth inning. The Snappers, who had only three hits in the entire game, couldn’t come back as they watched their season end.

On the field, the Twins had two teams in the playoffs with one league champion. They also had two teams miss the playoffs, the GCL Twins and New Britain, when they lost their last game of the season.

The GCL Twins were led by the best pitching staff in the league, a staff that at 19.6 years old was half a year younger than the league average. They posted a 2.75 team ERA compared with a league average of 3.43 with ten pitchers posting an ERA of less than 2.44.

The Elizabethton Twins were a blend of good starting pitching and excellent relief with a stable of exciting position players. Six players hit .297 average or better with Candido Pimentel the league’s second best hitter at .330 (Romy Jimenez hit .347, however, didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify). Jorge Polanco, Travis Harrison and Max Kepler were amongst the league’s nine best as the Twins led the league with a .279 team average. Adam Walker tied for the league lead with fourteen home runs, while Kepler tied for the fourth most (10). Kepler had the second most runs driven in (49), while Walker had the fourth most (45). Like the GCL Twins, the Elizabethton staff had the league’s lowest ERA (3.13), which was over a half fun better than the Eastern Division champion Burlington Royals. Hudson Boyd was third best in the league at 2.95 ERA while Angel Mata finished with a 3.38 ERA.

The Beloit Snappers were led by an exciting lineup that included the player voted the top prospect in the league, Miguel Sano, who led the league with 28 home runs and 100 runs driven in. Eddie Rosario was the seventh best hitter in the league (.296 average with twelve home runs). Nate Roberts hit .299 average with a team best 27 stolen bases and Kennys Vargas hit .318 average in 154 at bats. The Snappers’ pitching staff tied for the second best ERA (3.53) in the league as they were led by the league’s winning most pitcher, Jason Wheeler.

With many exciting position players and a stable of excellent arms, the three teams from the lower half of the organization provided hope. It will be a few years before any will be ready to help the Twins, but help is on the way!

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