Game #52 Preview – Dash at Potomac

Game #52 – Road Game #28
Winston-Salem Dash (18-33) at Potomac Nationals (26-21)
Monday, May 30 – 7:05 p.m.
Pfitzner Stadium (Woodbridge, VA)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Winston-Salem plated four runs in Sunday’s first three innings en route to a 4-1 win at Potomac’s Pfitzner Stadium. The Dash look to split their first-half series with Potomac on Monday.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Mason Robbins smacked his second home run of the season on Monday, helping kickstart the Dash to a 4-1 win over the P-Nats (Jody Stewart/ W-S Dash)

Hunter Jones – CF
Mason Robbins – LF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Brett Austin – C
Ryan Leonards – 2B
Louie Lechich – RF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Spencer Adams – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Winston-Salem earned its first win on a Sunday (1-7) and its second win in a day game (2-9) to snap its third five-game skid of the year. The Dash also dropped five in a row from April 14-18 and May 1-6. Still, the club has not endured a losing streak longer than five games since a seven-game rut from August 21-27, 2014.
  • For the fourth time in 2016, the Dash’s offense delivered a pair of home runs Sunday. Mason Robbins had not gone deep since April 27 at home against Lynchburg, when he posted the Dash’s second cycle of the year. The homer brought about Robbins’ third RBI in the last 16 games. Michael Suiter has recorded a long ball in back-to-back contests for the third time in the Minors, with the other two instances coming during his draft year of 2014. Last year with the Dash, Suiter hit just one tater in 41 games. Winston ended a four-game skid when hitting a home run, but the club is still just 10-13 when going deep.
  • Sunday starter Jordan Stephens earned his first Minor League victory in what was his 21st appearance and 11th start. Stephens matched season-lows in runs (1) and hits (2) and worked through five innings for the fourth straight outing. The Dash’s four runs matched the high-water mark for the club when Stephens exited a game.
  • Winston-Salem’s bullpen has enjoyed its visit to Pfitzner Stadium. Dash relievers have recorded four shutout innings in each of the last two games after Matt Cooper’s complete game in Friday’s opener. Both Kelvis Valerio and Andre Wheeler logged two shutout innings Saturday.
  • In Sunday’s victory, reigning Carolina League Pitcher of the Week Manny Martinez tossed a perfect sixth, while Jacob Morris stranded the bases loaded in the seventh. Connor Walsh followed with two scoreless frames to earn his team-leading third save. In the Dash’s previous series against Frederick, Dash relievers allowed 11 runs over 10.2 innings.
  • In his first ever outing against Potomac on May 14, righty Spencer Adams tossed a career-high eight innings, which matches the longest effort by a Winston-Salem hurler in 2016. He permitted just two runs on three hits over 89 pitches en route to his fourth and most recent victory. The third-best prospect in the White Sox system per multiple outlets, Adams is third in the Carolina League with 57.0 innings pitched.
  • Following Monday’s contest at Potomac and Tuesday’s league-wide off day, the Dash return to BB&T Ballpark for a seven-game homestand against the two teams they have yet to face this year. The Carolina Mudcats (Atlanta) invade the Triad from Wednesday through Friday before the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Kansas City) visit for a four-game set that starts Saturday. Beginning on Wednesday, the Dash will play 15 of their next 22 games at BB&T Ballpark. However, the club’s 5-19 home record is the worst in the Minors.
  • Righty Matt Cooper still leads Minor League Baseball with 75 strikeouts…His next outing is scheduled for Thursday.
  • Marcus Davis is riding an eight-game hit streak (10-for-33).

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Monday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:50 p.m., with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m.

-Joe

Game #51 Preview – Dash at Potomac

Game #51 – Road Game #27
Winston-Salem Dash (17-33) at Potomac Nationals (26-20)
Sunday, May 29 – 1:05 p.m.
Pfitzner Stadium (Woodbridge, VA)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Potomac plated five runs in Saturday’s first four innings against Thad Lowry en route to a 5-2 victory over Winston-Salem at Pfitzner Stadium.  The Dash will try and avoid a season-high six-game losing streak against Potomac.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Jordan Stephens searches for his first win of the season on Sunday (Jody Stewart/ W-S Dash).

Hunter Jones – CF
Michael Suiter – RF
Mason Robbins – LF
Keon Barnum – DH
Marcus Davis – 1B
Toby Thomas – 2B
Ryan Leonards – 3B
Daniel Gonzalez – C
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Jordan Stephens – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Toby Thomas’ two-run blast snapped the Dash’s 20-inning scoring drought, which started with the fifth frame on Thursday against Frederick. Still, the Dash failed to surpass three runs for the 22nd time in 50 games this year. Winston-Salem is 1-21 when scoring three runs or less this year. Overall this season, the Dash are sixth in the Carolina League in runs per game (3.9).
  • For the third time this season, Winston-Salem has dropped five consecutive games. The Dash also lost five in a row from April 14-18 and May 1-6. During last year’s playoff season, Winston only had two skids of five games, while the club has not endured a losing streak longer than five since a seven-gamer from August 21-27, 2014. Because of this current funk, the Dash have fallen a season-worst 16 games under .500 and 15.5 games back of first place in the division.
  • Sunday starter Jordan Stephens shined in his first and only duel with Potomac. On May 13 at BB&T Ballpark, Stephens permitted just three runs over a career-high seven innings. This will be Stephens’ 21st appearance and 11th start as a professional, and he has never earned a win. His six losses are tied for the most in the CL, while the Dash are 1-8 in games that Stephens starts (lone win – May 13).
  • Cleuluis Rondon has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games, including his 1-for-3 effort Saturday. During this surge, he is hitting .333 (16-for-48), which has raised his season-long average 83 points (.120 to .203). Marcus Davis is riding a seven-game hitting streak, during which he has a .290 average (9-for-31). Within the CL, Hunter Jones is first in hits (58), second in total bases (87) and fourth in runs (36) and steals (22).
  • Due to his 12-strikeout performance in Friday’s series opener, right-hander Matt Cooper paces the Minor Leagues with 75 strikeouts.Tyler Glasnow of Indianapolis (Triple-A, Pittsburgh) places second in the Minors with 69, while Carolina’s Max Povse is the CL’s second-best strikeout pitcher, though he only has 57. Cooper is scheduled to pitch again Thursday night against the Carolina Mudcats at BB&T Ballpark.
  • Winston-Salem is 1-9 in day games this season (first pitch at or before 4 p.m.).
  • Gerson Montilla has failed to drive home a run in his last five games after surging for 17 RBIs in his previous 11 contests.
  • Zach Fish struck out in his first High-A at-bat (pinch hit in ninth inning Saturday).

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 12:50 p.m., with the first pitch set for 1:05 p.m.

-Joe

Game #50 Preview – Dash at Potomac

Game #50 –  Road Game #26
Winston-Salem Dash (17-32) at Potomac Nationals (25-20)
Saturday, May 28 – 6:35 p.m.
Pfitzner Stadium (Woodbridge, VA)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Winston-Salem righty Matt Cooper tossed the club’s first complete game of 2016, but Potomac scratched across a pair of runs against him and claimed Friday’s series opener 2-0 at Pfitzner Stadium. The Dash will try and snap a four-game slide tonight against the Nationals.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Matt Cooper threw his first career complete game on Friday (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Hunter Jones – CF
Mason Robbins – LF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Toby Thomas – 2B
Brett Austin – C
Louie Lechich – RF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Thad Lowry – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • With his 12 strikeouts Friday, Cooper claimed the top spot in Minor League Baseball with 75 on the season. The former University of Hawaii star owns a six-strikeout advantage on Tyler Glasnow of Indianapolis (Triple-A, Pittsburgh), while no other Minor League hurler has more than 65 whiffs. Cooper, who had never started a game professionally before this season, has punched out 11.4 batters per nine innings this year and 12.3 men per nine innings in his career.
  • Cooper finished six of his eight innings with a strikeout, while he ripped off six in a row at one point late in the contest (final out of the sixth through the second out of the eighth). His 12 strikeouts are tied for the second-most by a Winston hurler in a game during the Dash era (2009-present). Fellow righty J.B. Wendelken whiffed 13 Frederick Keys over seven innings on July 30, 2014. One of two pitching prospects the White Sox dealt in the Brett Lawrie trade this offseason with Oakland, Wendelken made his Major League debut with the Athletics on May 8.
  • Cooper’s eight-inning gem was the longest complete game by a Dash pitcher since July 20, 2014, when Tony Bucciferro took a no-hitter into the ninth inning at Frederick. The Dash had three complete games in 2015, though none were longer than seven frames.
  • Even though Cooper delivered a masterpiece, Potomac was able to limit the Dash to just five hits. Winston-Salem suffered its sixth shutout defeat, tying the Dash with Wilmington for the most in the Carolina League. The Dash have scored three runs or less in 22 of their 49 games so far this season, and the club is 1-21 in those contests. Winston’s two scoring threats came in the third and fourth, but the P-Nats stranded two Dash runners in both instances.
  • Shortstop Cleuluis Rondon continued his recent resurgence by delivering a single and a walk in three trips to the plate on Friday. Rondon has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games. During this stretch, the former Boston farmhand is 15-for-45 (.333), which has raised his overall average to an even .200. This marks the first time that his High-A average has been at or above .200 since April 15 (.214). Last year, Rondon’s average did not surpass .200 after May 23.
  • Friday’s series opener was the shortest nine-inning game in Minor League Baseball thus far this season. The 2-0 contest ended in one hour and 52 minutes. This quick-moving contest came almost two years to the day of a battle between Winston-Salem and Potomac that spanned just one hour and 48 minutes (May 28, 2014). That proved to be the shortest nine-inning game in the Minors for 2014. That night at BB&T Ballpark, Myles Jaye spun a complete game shutout in a 4-0 Winston-Salem triumph.
  • Gerson Montilla has failed to drive home a run in his last four games after surging for 17 RBIs in his previous 11 contests.
  • Hunter Jones leads the Carolina League in hits (57) and games (49), while he is second in total bases (86), second in triples (6), fourth in runs (36), fourth in stolen bases (22) and 10th in average (.294).

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:20 p.m., with the first pitch set for 6:35 p.m.

-Joe

Game #49 Preview – Dash at Potomac

Game #49 –  Road Game #25
Winston-Salem Dash (17-31) at Potomac Nationals (24-20)
Friday, May 27 – 7:05 p.m.
Pfitzner Stadium (Woodbridge, VA)

GAME BACKGROUND:

On a Throwback Thursday at BB&T Ballpark, the Frederick Keys earned a 9-4 win over Winston-Salem, who donned commemorative Warthogs jerseys. The Dash will spend the holiday weekend in Woodbridge, Va., for a four-game series with the Potomac Nationals. Friday’s opener begins at 7:05 p.m. from Pfitzner Stadium.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Cleuluis Rondon has hit safely in 10 of his last 12 games (Jody Stewart/ W-S Dash).

Hunter Jones – CF
Mason Robbins – LF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Toby Thomas – 2B
Brett Austin – C
Louie Lechich – RF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Matt Cooper – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • For the first time since BB&T Ballpark opened in 2010, Winston-Salem played as the Warthogs on Thursday night. The franchise had not sported the Warthogs logo in 2,819 days (September 6, 2008). Before the nickname change to Dash in 2009, the Warthogs enjoyed a successful 14-year run from 1995-2008. During this stretch, Winston-Salem posted a 944-1004 (.485) record and claimed its most recent Mills Cup crown (2003). Eight former Warthogs became MLB All-Stars (year in W-S), including Joe Crede (1998), Carlos Lee (1997) and Aaron Rowand (1999).

  • Even with the spiffy Warthogs jerseys, Winston-Salem failed to turn things around at home. The Dash entered 2016 with an all-time record of 244-176 (.581) at BB&T Ballpark, which was the best home mark in the Carolina League during this span (2010-15). However, the Dash own the worst home record in the Minors thus far in 2016 (5-19). The only other team that has just five home wins is Syracuse (Triple-A, Washington), who has only played 16 home games.

  • From 2010-15, Winston-Salem earned 23 home sweeps, while the opposition only combined for four. However, Frederick finished the third sweep for a visitor in seven series at BB&T Ballpark this year (Salem, April 14-17; Myrtle Beach, May 2-4).

  • On this Memorial Day weekend, the Dash travel to beautiful Pfitzner Stadium for a four-game set with the Red, White and Blue defenders of Woodbridge, Va. Potomac and Winston-Salem split their first series of 2016 from May 13-16, which remains the only home set the Dash have not lost this year. After making just two trips to Potomac last season, the Dash have the fortune of playing at Pfitzner Stadium 11 times from Friday through July 24. Last year, Winston-Salem went 3-3 in Woodbridge. One of the wins at Potomac in 2015 was James Dykstra’s no-hitter in game one of a doubleheader on April 15.

  • Hunter Jones has shined throughout the month of May. Jones boasts a .358 average (34-for-95) with three homers, 11 RBIs and 18 runs in 25 games. In 23 April games, he hit .242 with no homers, six RBIs and 18 runs. Jones is one of four men in the Carolina League who has yet to miss a game (48), joining Myrtle Beach sluggers Yasiel Balaguert (46) and Ian Happ (46) and P-Nats infielder Jose Marmolejos (44). Within the CL, Jones is first in hits (57), second in triples (6) and total bases (86), fourth in runs (36) and steals (22) and 10th in batting average (.300).

  • Over 51.0 innings, Friday starter Matt Cooper has amassed 63 strikeouts, tied for second-most in Minor League Baseball. Only highly-touted Braves prospect Lucas Sims (65) has more than Cooper, who has logged at least five in all nine starts this season. Before this year, Cooper had pitched exclusively in the bullpen as a pro. He struck out 123 in 86.1 innings over 59 appearances in 2014 and 2015 (12.8 K/9IP).

  • Gerson Montilla has failed to drive home a run in his last three games after surging for 17 RBIs in his previous 11 contests.

  • Cleuluis Rondon has hit safely in 10 of his last 12, during which he boasts a .326 average (14-for-43).

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Friday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:50 p.m., with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m.

-Joe

Game #48 Preview – Warthogs vs. Frederick

Game #48 – Home Game #24
Winston-Salem Warthogs (17-30) vs. Frederick Keys (22-23)
Thursday, May 26 – 7:00 p.m.
BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Winston-Salem whittled an early four-run deficit down to a single tally, but Frederick added an insurance run in the ninth and held on for a 7-5 victory at BB&T Ballpark. The Dash will close out the homestand against the Frederick Keys wearing commemorative Warthogs jerseys, in honor of the franchise’s previous name.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Thursday’s contest is the first of three Throwback Thursdays at BB&T Ballpark. The Dash will wear Winston-Salem Warthogs jerseys to commemorate the team’s last nickname (Jody Stewart/ W-S Dash)

Hunter Jones – CF
Michael Suiter – RF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Toby Thomas – 2B
Brett Austin – C
Mason Robbins – LF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Brandon Brennan – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • For the first time since BB&T Ballpark opened in 2010, Winston-Salem will wear commemorative Warthogs jerseys. The franchise has not sported the Warthogs logo in 2,819 days (September 6, 2008). Before the nickname change to Dash in 2009, the Warthogs enjoyed a successful 14-year run from 1995-2008. During this stretch, Winston-Salem posted a 944-1004 (.485) record and claimed its most recent Mills Cup crown (2003). Eight former Warthogs became MLB All-Stars, including Joe Crede (1998), Bobby Jenks (2008), Carlos Lee (1997), Aaron Rowand (1999) and Gio Gonzalez (2005).
  • Warthogs outfielder Hunter Jones has shined thus far in May. Jones boasts a .359 average (33-for-92) with three homers, 11 RBIs and 18 runs in 24 games. In 23 April games, he hit .242 with no homers, six RBIs and 18 runs. Jones has amassed at least two hits in four of his last five games and eight of the Warthogs’ last 12.
  • Jones is one of four men in the Carolina League who has yet to miss a game, joining Myrtle Beach sluggers Yasiel Balaguert (44) and Ian Happ (44) and P-Nats infielder Jose Marmolejos (42). Within the CL, Jones is first in games (47) and hits (56), second in triples (6) and total bases (85), tied for third in runs (36), fourth in steals (22) and eighth in batting average (.299).
  • Before the 2016 season began, the Warthogs boasted a 244-176 (.581) record in the club’s six years at BB&T Ballpark. During that stretch, the Warthogs collected 23 series sweeps, while their opposition had only earned four. However, the Warthogs have already clinched their sixth home series loss in seven tries, and Frederick can finish off the third sweep for a visitor in the Triad in 2016 with a victory on Thursday. Salem posted the second four-game sweep for an opponent during the first series of 2016 (April 14-17), and Myrtle Beach broomed Winston-Salem in a three-game set from May 2-4.
  • Here are some notable occurrences during the Warthogs era, which stretched from 1995-2008:
    1994: Winston-Salem played its final season with the nickname Spirits (1984-94).
    1995: In the first year of the Warthogs era, Winston-Salem went 69-68 with the help from future MLB All-Star Aaron Boone.
    1997: The Warthogs shifted affiliates from the Cincinnati Reds to the Chicago White Sox. Winston-Salem has been with the White Sox ever since this change.
    2003: Winston-Salem claimed its 11th all-time Mills Cup. The Warthogs went 71-67 in the regular season and swept both Kinston and Lynchburg in the postseason.
    2005: Leo Daigle recorded the CL’s second Triple Crown (.341, 29 HR, 112 RBIs). The only other Triple Crown belongs to fellow Winston slugger Ray Jablonski (.363, 28, 127 in 1950).
    2008: Winston-Salem was 71-68 in the final season of the Warthogs era. The organization announces the change to Dash on December 4.
  • The White Sox announced Thursday that Sean O’Connell has earned a promotion to Double-A Birmingham.
  • Fellow catcher Daniel Gonzalez and infielder Zach Fish, both of whom were with Low-A Kannapolis, have joined the Warthogs, giving them the CL maximum of 25 players.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Thursday’s game will be broadcast live on 600 AM-WSJS in the Winston-Salem area, as is the case with every Thursday game throughout the season. The game is also available on wsjs.com, as well as wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn App. The Pregame Warthog will begin at 6:45 p.m, with the first pitch at 7:00 p.m.

-Joe

Game #47 Preview – Dash vs. Frederick

Game #47 – Home Game #23
Winston-Salem Dash (17-29) vs. Frederick Keys (21-23)
Wednesday, May 25 – 7:00 p.m.
BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Frederick used a late offensive push to knock off Winston-Salem 7-1 in Tuesday’s series opener from BB&T Ballpark. The Dash will try and regain the season series edge on Wednesday night, which is tied at 2-2.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Hunter Jones is hitting .356 in the month of May (Jody Stewart/ W-S Dash).

Hunter Jones – CF
Michael Suiter – RF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Toby Thomas – 2B
Brett Austin – C
Ryan Leonards – LF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Spencer Adams – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • In Tuesday’s loss, Winston-Salem’s lone run came from Hunter Jones, who laced a solo shot inside the foul pole in right in the eighth inning. Five innings prior, he delivered his sixth triple of the season. His 2-for-4 effort pushed his overall average to .297, which is its highest point since April 15 (.308). In 23 games this month, Jones boasts a .356 average with three homers, nine RBIs and 17 runs scored (April: .242, 0, 6, 18).
  • Jones has been the busiest player in the CL thus far this season. The league leader with 46 games played, Jones is one of four Carolina Leaguers who has played in all of his team’s games thus far this season. He joins Myrtle Beach sluggers Yasiel Balaguert (44) and Ian Happ (44) and P-Nats infielder Jose Marmolejos (42). In addition to his top spot on the circuit in games, Jones also leads the way in hits (54), at-bats (182) and total bases (83), while he is second in triples (6), tied for third in runs (35) and fourth in stolen bases (21).
  • For just the third time in his last 12 games, Gerson Montilla failed to drive home a run on Tuesday. In those 12 games (since May 13), he has amassed 17 RBIs, tied for the most in the Minors with Las Vegas’ T.J. Rivera during this span. His 35 overall RBIs are second in the CL.
  • Winston-Salem starter Spencer Adams will have a chance to bolster his CL-leading innings total on Wednesday night. The right-hander has logged 52.0 innings in his first eight starts. His next-closest competitor is Frederick’s Matthew Grimes, who pulled within a third of an inning after his seven frames against the Dash on Tuesday. The third-best prospect in the White Sox system per multiple outlets, Adams has worked 15 innings in his last two outings, during which he is 1-0 with a 1.80 earned run average and 12 strikeouts.
  • Both Keon Barnum and Mason Robbins posted two-hit games on Tuesday. Since returning from the disabled list on May 8, Barnum has hit safely in 13 of his 16 games. In his last seven contests, the Tampa, Fla., native is hitting .345 (10-for-29). However, he has only collected one RBI in those 16 games. Robbins has posted three multi-hit games in his last four (.438, 7-for-16). Since starting the year 3-for-26 (.115), Robbins boasts a .327 batting average (36-for-110) and has hit safely in 23 of 28 games.
  • The Dash announced Tuesday that the team will don commemorative Winston-Salem Warthogs jerseys for three “Throwback Thursday” games, with the first one being Thursday’s finale against Frederick. Before becoming the Dash in 2009, the franchise enjoyed a successful 14-year run under the Warthogs moniker from 1995-2008. The Warthogs posted a 944-1004 (.485) record and claimed Winston-Salem’s most recent Mills Cup crown (2003). Eight former Warthogs went on to become a Major League All-Star.
  • With Tuesday’s loss, Winston-Salem is now 5-17 at home, which is the worst such mark in the Carolina League.
  • The Dash have scored three runs or less in half of those 22 games. Dash alumnus Chris Sale lost his first decision on Tuesday at home against Cleveland (now 9-1).

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Wednesday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:45 p.m., with the first pitch set for 7:00 p.m.

-Joe

The Art of the Outfield Assist

A bit of advice for Carolina League base runners: think twice before trying to take an extra base on Winston-Salem’s outfielders.

This season, the Dash’s outfield has done a phenomenal job gunning down runners on the basepaths. Hunter Jones and Mason Robbins are tied for the league lead with six outfield assists (along with Myrtle Beach’s Jeffrey Baez), while Louie Lechich, who has played 29 games in right field, has three assists of his own.

Among all the stats baseball has to offer nowadays, the outfield assist remains one of the most underappreciated. Sabermetric stats have never given much weight to the play, and rarely do baseball fanatics know who leads the MLB in the category. Still, a strong throw can change the course of a baseball game.

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Hunter Jones is currently tied for the Carolina League lead in outfield assists (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Take Winston-Salem’s contest against Salem on May 23 at LewisGale Field. With the Dash up 4-3 in the eighth against the best team in the Carolina League, an outfield assist may have saved the game.

With two outs, Salem left fielder Mike Meyers stroked a lined shot off the left field wall. What could have been the start of a two-out rally ended up being the third out of the inning. Robbins played the ball cleanly off the wall and fired a bullet to second baseman Toby Thomas, who applied a tag on Meyers to end the threat. Winston-Salem won the game 5-3.

Through no fault of the outfielders, the assist remains one of the rare occurrences in all of baseball. Everything has to line up perfectly: runners on base, where the ball is hit, etc. When the chance comes to throw someone out, though, outfielders have to be prepared.

Jones, who is now in his sixth professional season and third in the White Sox organization, knows this well. “As soon as I get to the field, one of the first things I do is just make sure my shoulder and arm are nice and strong before I do anything,” says the 24-year-old.

Lechich, meanwhile, says the first thing he does when gets on the field is take note of his surroundings.

“Obviously, going to new ballparks, that’s kind of the biggest thing, knowing the dimensions and knowing the walls. I’d say that’s the trickiest, just positioning-wise where you are going to play.”

Learning the right mechanics remains the most element part of throwing runners out. Lechich cited Brad Marcelino, his assistant coach at the University of San Diego, as the one who first taught him the basics.

“The main thing is closing the distance to the ball, if it’s on the ground, as quick as you can. Because a lot of times that’ll influence the base coach to send a guy,” said Lechich. “But if you can cut the distance and have a good consistent footwork, it’ll help you a lot to get in good position to throw the ball.”

The Dash, along with the other White Sox affiliates, have had the benefit this season of working with Outfield Coordinator and former MLB All-Star Aaron Rowand. An integral part of the White Sox 2005 World Series team (he also won a ring with the Giants in 2010), the former Gold Glove winner knows how tough an outfield assist is to convert.

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2005 World Series champion and current White Sox minor league outfielder coordinator Aaron Rowand had praise for Winston-Salem’s trio of outfielders (Daily Herald).

“Some guys run through the ball and get rid of it quickly, but they don’t get much on the throw,” said Rowand, who had 62 assists in his big league career. “Then again, there are some guys who try to take four steps and then unleash the ball and try to throw a rocket somewhere. So that doesn’t work either because you are not getting rid of the ball.

“There’s a happy medium where you catch the ball, crow hop and get rid of the ball in good time and be able to make a strong, accurate throw.”

Rowand has worked with Lechich, Jones and Robbins since Spring Training and has high praise for the trio.

“They’ve done an outstanding job, and they all have good arms,” said the former 11-year MLB veteran. “They tend to take their defense seriously. It’s not just another thing they do before they go hit. I think that shows in their performance, and they work extremely hard and are very good outfielders.”

MLB history is littered with iconic throws. Who can forget the throw that introduced Ichiro to the baseball world? Or this one from Vladimir Guerrero?

What makes the assist so special is that when it’s converted, it’s a thing of beauty.

When asked to relay his most memorable throw, Lechich recalled a play during his college days at the University of San Diego.

In his junior year, the Toreros made it all the way to the NCAA Regional Final. The team faced off against UCLA and in the fifth inning, with runners on second and third, a ball was smashed right-center field gap. Lechich, who was playing in center, tracked it down and then subsequently gunned down the runner heading to third base.

“It was a pretty long throw,” said the former Torero about that play. “I had previously had a tough at-bat, so I had a little extra adrenaline in me. I threw it all the way in the air and the third baseman (current Chicago Cub and the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant) did a good job of deking the runner.”

Of course, an outfield assist cannot be completed without an infielder. In some cases, their role plays the biggest difference in if a runner is out or safe. Their movements can catch runners off guard, as Jones has found out several times this season working with Dash third baseman Gerson Montilla and shortstop Cleuluis Rondon.

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Mason Robbins, Hunter Jones and Louie Lechich have been mainstays in the Dash outfield this season (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

“It helps a lot is when you have Montilla and Rondon, who will be nonchalant,” said Jones. “They’ll be like, ‘Oh, nothing’s happening’, but at the last second tag guys quickly.”

As the Dash round out the May slate, they know that their outfield defense alone won’t bring them victories. Currently, the team sits in last place in the Southern Division, at 17-29.

Still, the Winston-Salem’s outfield will continue to enjoy making life tough on the opponent.

“It’s always a nice little boost because somebody is challenging you,” said Lechich. “They’re basically saying, ‘Hey, you can’t throw us out.’ And when you throw someone out, you say, ‘Yeah, you shouldn’t have done that’”.

-Joe

Game #46 Preview – Dash vs. Frederick

Game #46 – Home Game #22
Winston-Salem Dash (17-28) vs. Frederick Keys (20-23)
Tuesday, May 24 – 7:00 p.m.
BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

All nine hitters registered at least one hit, while six logged a multi-hit contest in Winston-Salem’s 5-3 victory at Salem in Monday’s series finale at LewisGale Field. The Dash now begin a quick three-game homestand at BB&T Ballpark against the Frederick Keys.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Marcus Davis was one of six players in the Dash lineup with two hits in Winston’s 5-3 victory over Salem on Monday (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash).

Hunter Jones – CF
Mason Robbins – LF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Toby Thomas – 2B
Louie Lechich – RF
Sean O’Connell – C
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Jordan Stephens – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • The Dash used a balanced attack to earn a four-game split in Salem. The top five men in the order posted multi-hit games, and each of them scored once. Winston-Salem’s 15-hit output matched its biggest single-game showing this season. Only a 20-knock explosion on April 22, also at Salem, eclipses Monday’s total. The only criticism rests in the club’s 13 runners left on base, which matches a season-high.
  • The White Sox announced Tuesday that Adam Engel has earned a promotion to Double-A Birmingham. Engel hit .327 with five RBIs and 15 runs in 14 games with Winston-Salem. Fellow outfielder Michael Suiter takes Engel’s spot after a promotion from Low-A Kannapolis. Suiter hit .243 in 11 games with the Intimidators.
  • Winston-Salem is 13.5 games behind Salem in the Southern Division standings, but the Dash have enjoyed their two trips to the Roanoke Valley this season. The Dash boast a 5-3 mark at LewisGale Field. Salem, who possesses the Carolina League’s best record at 30-14, are 3-5 at home against the Dash and 27-9 (.750) in all other contests. However, the Dash do not visit Salem again until the final road trip of the year (August 30-September 1).
  • Infielder Gerson Montilla continued his stellar RBI surge on Monday. He has driven home at least one run in his last 11 games since May 13. Montilla’s 17 RBIs during this stretch are tied with Las Vegas’ T.J. Rivera for the most in the Minors. As a result, Montilla has vaulted into a share of second place in the CL in RBIs with 35. He trails Lynchburg’s Bobby Bradley (40), while Myrtle Beach’s Yasiel Balaguert also has 35.
  • Dash outfielder Hunter Jones has shined in the month of May. In 22 games, Jones is hitting .349 with two homers, eight RBIs and 16 runs scored (.242, 0, 6, 18 in April). He is one of four Carolina Leaguers who has played in all of his team’s games. He joins Myrtle Beach sluggers Balaguert and Ian Happ (43) and Potomac’s Jose Marmolejos (41). Jones paces the CL in both games played (45) and at-bats (178). He also sits second in hits (52; 1 shy of Potomac’s Andrew Stevenson), tied for second in triples (5), third in runs (34) and fourth in steals (21).
  • The Dash announced Tuesday that the team will don commemorative Winston-Salem Warthogs jerseys for three “Throwback Thursday” games, with the first one being Thursday’s finale against Frederick. Before becoming the Dash in 2009, the franchise enjoyed a successful 14-year run under the Warthogs moniker from 1995-2008. The Warthogs posted a 944-1004 (.485) record and claimed Winston-Salem’s most recent Mills Cup crown (2003). Eight former Warthogs went on to become a Major League All-Star.
  • Former Dash star Chris Sale takes to the hill for the White Sox on Tuesday against Cleveland. Sale is 9-0 with a 1.58 ERA in his first nine starts. Only one other Major Leaguer has eight wins (Jake Arrieta of the Cubs). Sale is the first pitcher to win his first nine starts of the season and post an ERA under 2.00 since 1952. In White Sox history, only Eddie Cicotte in 1919 strung together more wins to start a season (12).
  • The Dash invaded Frederick and took two of three from the Keys in the two clubs’ only 2016 meeting (April 29-May 1).
  • Winston-Salem is 1-7 when Jordan Stephens starts, with the lone win coming in walk-off fashion on May 13 against Potomac.
  • The Dash logged two outfield assists Monday, giving them 21 on the season.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Tuesday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:45 p.m., with the first pitch set for 7:00 p.m.

-Joe

Game #45 Preview – Dash at Salem

Game #45 – Road Game #24
Winston-Salem Dash (16-28) at Salem Red Sox (30-13)
Monday, May 23 – 7:05 p.m.
LewisGale Field (Salem, VA)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Salem plated two runs in the eighth inning to knock off Winston-Salem 4-2 on Sunday at LewisGale Field. The Dash will try and split the four-game series with Salem before they head home to BB&T Ballpark for a three-game set against the Frederick Keys from Tuesday to Thursday.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Dash shortstop Cleuluis Rondon is currently riding a four-game hit streak (Jody Stewart/ W-S Dash)

Adam Engel – CF
Hunter Jones – RF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Toby Thomas – 2B
Mason Robbins – LF
Sean O’Connell – C
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Thad Lowry – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Sunday starter Matt Cooper settled for a no-decision after his team-leading fifth quality start in nine tries this season. Cooper permitted just one run on two hits over six frames, during which he struck out eight. Thus, the former University of Hawaii star has struck out 63 batters, which is good for a share of the Minor League lead. He is tied with Tyler Glasnow of Indianapolis (Triple-A, Pittsburgh), who has also logged nine starts. Within the Carolina League, Cooper owns a 16-strikeout advantage on the duo of Carolina’s Max Povse and Wilmington’s Josh Staumont.
  • Cleuluis Rondon has recorded his first four-game hit streak at the High-A level in almost exactly a year (May 19-22, 2015). On Friday and Saturday, he logged consecutive multi-hit games for the first time since August 12-13, 2014.
  • Infielder Gerson Montilla logged his Carolina League-leading sixth sacrifice fly in Sunday’s sixth inning to push his 2016 RBI total to 34. This places him third on the circuit in RBIs, trailing Lynchburg’s Bobby Bradley (40) and Myrtle Beach’s Yasiel Balaguert (35). Since last Friday (May 13), Montilla has amassed 16 RBIs, which are tied for the most in the Minor Leagues during that span. He is even with T.J. Rivera of Triple-A Las Vegas (New York Mets). During his 10 games since May 13, Montilla has registered at least one RBI in eight of them.
  • Dash outfielder Hunter Jones is one of four Carolina Leaguers who has played in all of his team’s games. He joins Myrtle Beach sluggers Balaguert and Ian Happ (42) and Potomac’s Jose Marmolejos (39). Jones does pace the circuit in both games played (44) and at-bats (173). He also stands second in hits (50), tied for second in triples (5), third in runs (33) and fourth in stolen bases (21). In 21 games this month, the former Cleveland farmhand is hitting .346 with two homers, seven RBIs and 15 runs.
  • A week-long road trip comes to an end Monday in the Roanoke Valley. Winston-Salem lost two of three at Myrtle Beach before invading Salem. The stay to BB&T Ballpark will be a short one. Winston-Salem will welcome the Frederick Keys for a three-game set from Tuesday to Thursday before playing four at Potomac over the holiday weekend to conclude the month of May. Then, the Dash will play 15 of their first 22 games in June in the Triad, where they are 5-16 in 2016.
  • For the first time since Opening Night, Marcus Davis did not play on Sunday. Davis is tied for second in the CL in games (42), while his 169 at-bats trail only Jones.
  • Including Monday’s tilt, the Dash have played 31 of their first 45 games (69%) against either Salem or Myrtle Beach.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Monday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:50 p.m., with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m.

-Joe

Game #44 Preview – Dash at Salem

Game #44 – Road Game #23
Winston-Salem Dash (16-27) at Salem Red Sox (29-13)
Sunday, May 22 – 4:05 p.m.
LewisGale Field (Salem, VA)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Three Winston-Salem pitchers combined on a two-hit shutout in the Dash’s 6-0 win at Salem on Saturday night. Winston-Salem eyes its fifth win in seven tries at LewisGale Field on Sunday.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Dash reliever Manny Martinez threw four perfect innings against Salem on Saturday (Jody Stewart/ W-S Dash).

Adam Engel – CF
Hunter Jones – RF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Mason Robbins – DH
Toby Thomas – 2B
Brett Austin – C
Ryan Leonards – LF
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Matt Cooper – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • For the first time in 2016, Winston-Salem earned a shutout victory on Saturday night. It was the club’s first such triumph since edging Frederick 1-0 on September 6, 2015, the penultimate game of the regular season. The triumvirate of Brennan, Martinez and Dopico limited the Red Sox to the lowest single-game hit total for a Dash foe since James Dykstra’s seven-inning no-hitter on April 15, 2015, at Potomac. Also, Martinez recorded the longest relief outing by a Dash pitcher this season. 

  • With Saturday’s victory, Winston improved to 4-2 in Salem this season. The Dash’s four wins at LewisGale Field have come by a combined 19 runs. In fact, three of the four most lopsided Winston-Salem wins have come in Salem:

    1. 14-6 (F/13) at Lynchburg on April 7
    2. 6-0 at Salem on May 21
    T-3. 7-2 at Salem on April 21
    T-3. 13-8 at Salem on April 22 

  • Keon Barnum was the only Dash hitter who did not register a base hit in the six-run win. As a result, his eight-game hitting streak came to an end. The Florida native went 10-for-30 (.333) over his previous eight games, including back-to-back two-hit showings. The club’s longest hit streak remains nine (Nick Basto, April 21-30).

  • Infielder Gerson Montilla logged his Carolina League-leading fifth sacrifice fly in Saturday’s fifth inning to push his 2016 RBI total to 33. This places him third on the circuit in RBIs, trailing Lynchburg’s Bobby Bradley (40) and Myrtle Beach’s Yasiel Balaguert (34). Since last Friday (May 13), Montilla has amassed 15 RBIs, which are second-most in the Minor Leagues during that span. He trails only T.J. Rivera (16) of Triple-A Las Vegas (New York Mets).

  • Sunday starter Matt Cooper has been one of the most prolific strikeout pitchers in the Minors thus far this season. Cooper is tied for sixth among Minor League hurlers with 55 strikeouts. When his most recent start ended on Monday, the former Hawaii star was tied for first in this category. Within the Carolina League, Cooper enjoys an eight-strikeout advantage on second-place Josh Staumont of Wilmington (47). Only three CL hurlers have more than 41 punchouts on the year. Cooper has posted at least five strikeouts in all eight starts this year, and he is averaging 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings.

  • Playing in just his 12th game of the 2016 season (10 in Winston-Salem and two in Double-A Birmingham), Ryan Leonards clubbed his first home run of the season in Saturday’s sixth inning. This marked Leonards’ fifth professional homer and his first since August 9, 2015, while with Low-A Kannapolis. The Dash improved to 9-9 in games during which they hit a home run.

  • Both Adam Engel and Hunter Jones registered multi-hit efforts on Saturday, with one hit for each being a triple. It marked the Dash’s first game with two triples since June 21, 2015, also against Salem.

  • Cleuluis Rondon also posted a two-hit game for a second straight contest, the first time he accomplished this feat at the High-A level since August 12 and 13 of 2014.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 3:50 p.m., with the first pitch set for 4:05 p.m.

-Joe

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