Results tagged ‘ Lynchburg Hillcats ’

Game #21 Preview – Dash vs. Lynchburg

Game #21 – Home Game #10
Winston-Salem Dash (7-13) vs. Lynchburg Hillcats (16-4)
Thursday, April 28 – 7 p.m.
BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem, NC)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Dash outfielder Mason Robbins hit for the cycle, but the Lynchburg Hillcats plated 10 runs in the fifth inning en route to a 12-6 victory Wednesday at BB&T Ballpark. The Dash look to salvage the final game of the three-game set against Lynchburg.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Mason Robbins notched the first cycle ever for a Dash player at BB&T Ballpark on Wednesday against Lynchburg (Jody Stewart / W-S Dash).

Hunter Jones – CF
Toby Thomas – 2B
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Nick Basto – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Brett Austin – C
Mason Robbins – LF
Louie Lechich – RF
Danny Mendick – SS
Spencer Adams– RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Despite the loss, Robbins made some history with his cycle, the first for a Dash hitter at BB&T Ballpark. The only other cycle came from former Lynchburg Hillcat Matt Lipka, who accomplished the feat on April 25, 2013. Robbins came up with a cycle despite only four trips to the plate. He doubled in the second, homered in the fourth, singled in the sixth and tripled in the eighth. His triple, the first of his season and 13th as a Minor Leaguer, banged off the middle portion of the 20-foot center field wall.
  • Winston-Salem has recorded a pair of cycles here in 2016. Only one other player in Minor League Baseball has a cycle (Indianapolis’ Josh Bell on April 22 vs. Louisville). Dash infielder Gerson Montilla hit for the cycle this past Friday at Salem. It was the franchise’s first cycle since May 14, 2008, the final season of the Warthogs era (Brandon Allen vs. Lynchburg). Thus, Winston-Salem waited 2,900 days for a cycle after Allen’s did it in 2008 and just five days between Montilla and Robbins’ efforts.
  • With his fifth-inning single Wednesday, Montilla pushed his hitting streak to eight, tied for the longest by a Dash hitter in 2016 (Marcus Davis) and tied for the third-longest active run in the Carolina League. During this surge, Montilla is 13-for-33 (.394) with seven RBIs and 12 runs.
  • Thanks to another 2-for-3 effort, including a leadoff homer in the second, Dash infielder Nick Basto pushed his batting average to .416, which is fifth-best in all of Minor League Baseball. Basto paces all High-A qualifiers by at least 37 points. The former fifth-round pick has amassed 32 hits, one more than James Harris of the Stockton Ports (High-A, Oakland) for the most in the Minor Leagues. In the CL, Basto stands first in on-base percentage (.471), third in total bases (46) and fourth in slugging percentage (.597).
  • Lynchburg’s 10-run fifth inning matched the biggest single-inning output for a Winston-Salem opponent during the Dash era (2009-present). The only other 10-run frame came from the bats of the Potomac Nationals in the eighth inning on July 25, 2010. Winston-Salem has not posted a double-digit offensive inning in the Dash era.
  • Lynchburg plated 11 runs on Tuesday before bettering that by one on Wednesday. This marks the first time that the Dash have surrendered 10 or more runs in back-to-back games since August 8-9, 2013 at Salem. Winston had not permitted double digit run outputs in consecutive home contests since July 7-8, 2012, against the Hillcats. In the last two games, the Dash’s team ERA has jumped from 3.83 to 4.59, which is seventh in the eight-team Carolina League.
  • Infielder Toby Thomas matched a career-high with four hits in Wednesday’s loss thanks to two singles and two doubles.
  • Winston-Salem is 3-1 when Spencer Adams, the third-best prospect in the White Sox system, pitches and 4-12 when he does not.
  • The Dash have only suffered five sweeps in the seven-season history of BB&T Ballpark, with the fifth coming against Salem in the first home set of 2016 (April 14-17).
  • After Thursday’s finale, the Dash travel to Frederick for a three-game series that begins Friday night. 

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 Dash will begin at 6:45 p.m, with the first pitch at 7 p.m.

-Joe

Game #20 – Dash vs. Lynchburg

Game #20 – Home Game #9
Winston-Salem Dash (7-12) vs. Lynchburg Hillcats (15-4)
Wednesday, April 27 – 11 a.m.
BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem, NC)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Lynchburg scored 11 times from the fourth to the eighth en route to a series-opening 11-6 victory over Winston-Salem on Tuesday night at BB&T Ballpark. The Dash look to rebound bright and early on Wednesday against the Hillcats.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Gerson Montilla extended his hitting streak to seven with a 2-for-4 effort Tuesday. (Jody Stewart / W-S Dash)

Hunter Jones – CF
Toby Thomas – 2B
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Nick Basto – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Louis Silverio – RF
Mason Robbins – LF
Danny Mendick – SS
Sean O’Connell – C
Blair Walters – LHP

DASH DOTS:

  • The Dash are off to their worst home start since BB&T Ballpark opened in 2010. Winston-Salem has dropped seven of its first eight games in the Triad, with Tuesday’s decision representing the most lopsided of those losses. All six losses on the first homestand were by three runs or less. Before this year began, Winston-Salem boasted the best home record in the Carolina League since 2010 (244-176, .581 winning percentage).
  • Infielder Gerson Montilla is thriving at the plate in recent games. He launched a solo shot, his 72nd professional home run, to give the Dash a first-inning run for the fifth straight game. It also pushed his hitting streak to seven games, during which he is 12-for-28 (.429) with seven RBIs and 12 runs. This great work includes Friday’s cycle at Salem, which was the franchise’s first such accomplishment since 2008.
  • After going 11-for-19 (.579) during the four-game trip to Salem, Nick Basto collected another base hit on Tuesday. He paces the circuit with a .405 batting average, which is 18 points better than Wilmington’s Ryan O’Hearn for first place. It also stands eighth in all of Minor League Baseball. Basto’s 30 total hits are tops in the CL and tied for first in the Minors. Also, the former fifth-round pick is tied for first in on-base percentage (.463), fourth in total bases (40) and fifth in slugging percentage (.541) in the league.
  • The Chicago White Sox announced six moves affecting the Dash’s roster before Tuesday’s game. Infielder Danny Mendick, catcher Sean O’Connell and outfielder Louis Silverio have earned promotions from Low-A Kannapolis. Both Mendick (0-for-2, two walks) and O’Connell (1-for-3) played on Tuesday. To make room for this trio, catcher Chris O’Dowd was promoted to Double-A Birmingham, infielder Cleuluis Rondon was assigned to Kannapolis and utility man Michael Danner was released.
  • Southpaw Chris Sale, who pitched for the Dash in 2010, became Major League Baseball’s first five-game winner with a gem at Toronto on Tuesday. Sale needed just 100 pitches to toss eight innings, during which he surrendered one run on four hits. Sale’s 0.68 WHIP paces all American League qualifiers, while his 1.66 ERA is fifth-best in the league. The White Sox own the A.L.’s best record at 15-6. Only the Cubs and Nationals have better marks in the Majors.
  • Before Tuesday, the Dash had not given up 11 runs in a game since an 11-5 home loss against Wilmington on June 11, 2015. Winston-Salem had not allowed more than that in almost a year (12 runs at Frederick on May 5, 2015). The Dash’s bullpen let eight runs come across and now possesses a 4.95 ERA as a unit. Overall, Winston’s staff ERA stands sixth in the CL (4.20).
  • Catcher Brett Austin left Tuesday’s game after four innings. He has started 13 of the Dash’s first 19 games and leads the team with three home runs.
  • Dash starter Blair Walters pitched for Lynchburg down the stretch in the 2014 season, the final year for the Hillcats under the Braves’ umbrella. The ‘Cats joined forces with the Indians in 2015, while Carolina claimed the Braves. Walters pitched for Carolina in 2015 and worked against his former team three times.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Wednesday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio App. The Pregame Dash will begin at 10:45 a.m., with the first pitch at 11 a.m.

-Joe

Game #19 Preview – Dash vs. Lynchburg

Game #19 – Home Game #8
Winston-Salem Dash (7-11) vs. Lynchburg Hillcats (14-4)
Tuesday, April 26 – 7 p.m.
BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem, NC)

GAME BACKGROUND:

After collecting three high-scoring victories, the Dash dropped a pitcher-friendly finale at Salem on Sunday by a score of 3-2. Winston-Salem now begins the first of a three-game homestand against the Lynchburg Hillcats at BB&T Ballpark on Tuesday night.

STARTING LINEUP:

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Dash first baseman Nick Basto leads the Carolina League in average with a .414 mark (Jody Stewart / W-S Dash)

Hunter Jones – CF
Toby Thomas – 2B
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Nick Basto – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Brett Austin – C
Louie Lechich – RF
Danny Medick – SS
Mason Robbins – LF
Jordan Stephens – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Despite Sunday’s narrow loss, there were many positives to take from the Dash’s trip to Salem. In the first three games, the Dash plated 29 runs, their best three-game run since May 6-8, 2015 (31). Winston-Salem narrowly missed out on its second road sweep of four games since becoming the Dash in 2009. Thus, a four-game brooming of Myrtle Beach from April 19-22, 2010, remains the only such instance. The Dash also missed out on their first six-game road win streak since April 18 to May 1 of 2012.
  • Infielder Nick Basto submitted an incredible series in Salem over the weekend. He was 11-for-19 (.579) with two RBIs and three runs in those four games, vaulting him to the top of the Carolina League in average. His .414 mark is 36 points better than Wilmington’s Ryan O’Hearn for first place, and it stands sixth in all of Minor League Baseball. Basto also paces the CL with 29 hits, which are good for third in the Minors.
  • Basto was not the only person to shine in Salem. Hunter Jones reached in nine of his final 11 trips to the plate. Brett Austin, who sat out the series finale, is riding a six-game hit streak and five-game RBI streak. Gerson Montilla was 7-for-16 with six RBIs and nine runs scored, and he recorded the franchise’s first cycle since 2008 in Friday’s 13-8 victory.
  • The Dash will take the field at BB&T Ballpark for the first time since last Wednesday, the last day of a forgettable week-long homestand. Winston-Salem matched the worst multi-series homestand since the downtown facility opened in 2010. The Dash went just 1-6, and Salem earned just the fifth sweep by an opponent at BB&T Ballpark. It was only the second four-game sweep by a visitor. The Dash’s lone win came in walk-off fashion on Tuesday, 6-5 over Myrtle Beach. Winston plated three in the eighth to tie before Toby Thomas’ game-winning single in the ninth.
  • It will not be an easy three-game series with the Lynchburg Hillcats in town. The Hillcats had won 10 in a row before Sunday’s loss to Frederick. Lynchburg’s 14-4 record is three games better than the next-best CL club (Potomac/Salem, 11-7), and the Hillcats are tied with four other teams for the best mark in the Minors. Plus, the ‘Cats will send Julian Merryweather to the bump in Tuesday’s opener. He is one of three MiLB qualifiers who has yet to permit a run.
  • The White Sox made a couple of moves on Tuesday that affected the Dash roster. Chicago promoted catcher Chris O’Dowd to Double-A Birmingham, sent infielder Cleuluis Rondon to Low-A Kannapolis and released outfielder Michael Danner. Winston-Salem received three players from Kannapolis as part of the transactions: catcher Sean O’Connell, infielder Dan Mendick and outfielder Louis Silverio.
  • The Dash have scored first in 10 of their first 11 road games, but they only netted the game’s first tally in two of their first seven at home.
  • The Hillcats took three of four from Winston-Salem in Lynchburg on Opening Weekend, with the Dash taking the opener in 13 innings (14-6).

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 at 7 p.m.

-Joe

Game #4 Preview – Dash at Lynchburg

Game #4 – Road Game #4
Winston-Salem Dash (1-2) at Lynchburg Hillcats (2-1)
Sunday, April 10 – 2 p.m.
Calvin Falwell Field (Lynchburg, VA)

GAME BACKGROUND:  Playing with temperatures in the 30s, the Dash committed five errors on Saturday en route to a 7-2 loss against Lynchburg. Winston-Salem will try and salvage a series split on Sunday.

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Jordan Stephens will make his first appearance above rookie ball on Sunday (Kim Contreras/ Future Sox).

STARTING LINEUP:

Hunter Jones – CF
Louie Lechich – RF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Marcus Davis – 1B
Michael Danner – LF
Mason Robbins – DH
Chris O’Dowd – C
Toby Thomas – 2B
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Jordan Stephens – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Temperatures in the 30s and winds upwards of 20 miles per hour troubled the Dash’s defense. Winston-Salem committed five errors in a game for the first time since May 15, 2015, against Salem. The Dash had not posted a higher error total since their six defensive miscues on June 15, 2014, against Potomac. In the first three games of the season, Winston has committed 10 errors, while no other team on the circuit has more than five (Carolina and Myrtle Beach).
  • Two players who are expected to be key cogs in the Dash’s lineups ended season-starting slides on Saturday. Two-hole hitting Louie Lechich snapped an 0-for-14 funk with an eighth-inning double. He ended up scoring on a single from Gerson Montilla, who posted a 2-for-4 game after starting his Dash career without a hit in his first nine at-bats. However, Montilla did deliver a game-tying sacrifice fly in the ninth inning of Thursday’s thrilling victory.
  • In recent seasons, Winston-Salem has not fared well in its first series. The Dash have not won a series to begin the season since 2011 when the club took two of three in Kinston. Since then, the Dash are just 5-12 in the first set of the year. Winston can salvage a split for just the second time during this span. The Dash and Blue Rocks each took two in a series in the Triad in 2014.
  • Sunday starter Jordan Stephens will make his first appearance above rookie ball. A fifth-round pick out of Rice University this past June, Stephens did not work more than two innings in any of his 11 outings between the AZL White Sox and Great Falls. Still, the righty struck out at least one batter in every outing. He only permitted one run all season, and he is riding a nine-inning scoreless streak.
  • After recording back-to-back multi-hit games, Nick Basto (0-for-3) and Hunter Jones (0-for-5) did not muster a base hit in Saturday’s loss.
  • Dash relievers inherited five runners Saturday, and four came around to score.
  • Following this series finale, the Dash travel to Myrtle Beach for the first time since last year’s Southern Division Championship Series. The Pelicans eliminated the Dash a year ago with back-to-back wins by a single tally in South Carolina.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 1:45 p.m., with the first pitch at 2 p.m.

-Joe

Game #3 Preview – Dash at Lynchburg

Game #3 – Road Game #3
Winston-Salem Dash (1-1) at Lynchburg Hillcats (1-1)
Saturday, April 9 – 6:30 p.m.
Calvin Falwell Field (Lynchburg, VA)

GAME BACKGROUND:

After winning a bizarre 13-inning game in the season opener, the Dash fell to the Hillcats on Friday 5-4.Winston-Salem will try to bounce back from their first defeat on a chilly evening in Virginia.

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Hunter Jones has swiped a league-best three bases in the first two games (Ray Marsden).

STARTING LINEUP:

Hunter Jones – CF
Louie Lechich – RF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Nick Basto – 1B
Marcus Davis – DH
Mason Robbins – LF
Brett Austin – C
Ryan Leonards – 2B
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Thad Lowry – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Three Dash hitters are off to stellar starts in 2016. Nick Basto is even with Carolina’s Keith Curcio for the league lead with five hits, while both Michael Danner and Hunter Jones are in a nine-way tie for third with four. Here is a look at all three men’s early efforts:
    Basto: 5-for-11 (.455), 3 RBIs, 3 R
    Danner: 4-for-9 (.444), 2 RBIs, 2 R
    Jones: 4-for-10 (.400), 2 RBIs, 3 R, 3 SB
  • The winner in each of the first two games of this series has been the team to avoid letdowns after creating a run-scoring opportunity. On Thursday, Lynchburg stranded 18 runners and went 4-for-22 with men in scoring position. Winston-Salem was the team to struggle on Friday, leaving 10 men on base and six in scoring position. In the eighth, after the Dash scored a run on a bases-loaded walk, Lynchburg third baseman Claudio Bautista made a dazzling diving play to preserve the lead, which jump-started Polanco’s Houdini-like escape.
  •  Righty Matt Cooper made his first professional start in his 60th appearance on Friday night, and he turned in a solid outing. The former University of Hawaii star permitted two runs on five hits in five innings, during which he struck out seven. Cooper’s two blemishes came on back-to-back pitches in the fourth inning: a Sicnarf Loopstok RBI single and a Bautista RBI double.
  • Saturday starter Thad Lowry will make his first appearance in High-A on Saturday. A year ago, Lowry won 12 games with Low-A Kannapolis, giving him 16 for his Intimidators career. Those 16 wins are good for a share of the most by a Kannapolis hurler (Brian Miller). In addition to his record-tying effort, Lowry led the South Atlantic League with 150.2 innings pitched, which were good for fourth in all of Low-A.
  • Lowry was more well known as a catcher when he performed at the World Wood Bat Association World Championships in the fall of 2012. However, he began to make a name for himself as a pitcher at this high school showcase, and he hit 96 in a scrimmage shortly thereafter. Thus, Lowry began to focus on pitching, which quickly propelled him into the MLB Draft conversation. The White Sox selected him in the fifth round in 2013, and a $400,000 signing bonus persuaded the Texas native to pass on a scholarship to Texas Tech.
  • Lynchburg starter Luis Lugo was 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts against the Dash in 2015.
  • Former Dash star Carson Fulmer gave up five runs in 2.2 innings in his Double-A debut Friday. He gave up a grand slam to former Dash All-Star Brady Shoemaker (now with Jacksonville).

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Saturday’s game will be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:15 p.m., with the first pitch at 6:30 p.m.

– Joe

Game #1 Preview – Dash at Lynchburg

Game #1 – Road Game #1
Winston-Salem Dash (0-0) at Lynchburg Hillcats (0-0)
Thursday, April 7 – 6:45 p.m.
Calvin Falwell Field (Lynchburg, VA)

GAME BACKGROUND:

The Dash will open the 2016 season at Lynchburg. Since becoming the Dash in 2009, Winston-Salem is just 2-5 on Opening Day, though last season’s lid-lifter yielded a 13-0 shellacking of the Keys in Frederick.

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19-year-old Spencer Adams gets the Opening Day nod for the Dash (Jody Stewart/ W-S Dash).

STARTING LINEUP:

Hunter Jones – CF
Louie Lechich – RF
Gerson Montilla – 3B
Nick Basto – 1B
Mason Robbins – DH
Michael Danner – LF
Brett Austin – C
Toby Thomas – 2B
Cleuluis Rondon – SS
Spencer Adams – RHP

DASH DOTS:

  • The Dash’s 140-game journey begins Thursday night against the Lynchburg Hillcats. Winston-Salem and Lynchburg do battle through Sunday before the Dash travel to Myrtle Beach for a three-game set. The home slate starts next Thursday, April 14, with the first of four against Salem. Since the franchise became the Dash prior to the 2009 season, Winston-Salem boasts a 517-455-1 (.532) record, which is the best in the Carolina League during this span.
  • The Dash are coming off their first trip to the playoffs since 2012. Winston-Salem bounced back from its worst single-half performance in the Dash era (30-40) to its best (45-23) en route to the second-half Southern Division crown. Winston-Salem, who recorded the best second half record by a CL team since Salem in 1987 (47-23), took Game 1 of the Southern Division Championship Series. However, Myrtle Beach rallied with back-to-back one-run victories at home to eliminate the Dash. The Pelicans swept Wilmington in the Mills Cup Finals.
  • A former big league player, coach and skipper has taken over the Dash’s managerial duties. Joel Skinner replaced Tim Esmay, who is an assistant coach with Triple-A Charlotte under Julio Vinas. Skinner played nine seasons as a catcher in the Major Leagues with the White Sox, Yankees and Indians before spending 2000-09 on Cleveland’s MLB staff, including a 76-game run as the Tribe’s interim skipper in 2002.
  • Hitting coach Charlie Poe returns to Winston-Salem, while Jose Bautista takes over the role of pitching coach from J.R. Perdew, who is now in Double-A Birmingham. Bautista made 312 appearances with five MLB clubs from 1988-97. Three-time CL Athletic Trainer of the Year Josh Fallin and new strength and conditioning coach George Timke round out the Dash’s 2016 staff.
  • Of the top 30 prospects in the White Sox system according to MLB Pipeline, five of them will start the season in Winston-Salem, and all are pitchers. Right-hander Spencer Adams is the top farmhand on the roster and the third-best in the organization, behind only righty Carson Fulmer and shortstop Tim AndersonJordan Stephens (13th), Thad Lowry (21st), Danny Dopico (26th) and Andre Wheeler (30th) round out the talented group of prospect pitchers.
  • The 19-year-old Adams will take the mound for his first professional Opening Day start. Adams went 9-5 with a 3.24 ERA in 19 outings with Low-A Kannapolis before a late-season jump to Winston-Salem. While with the Dash, Adams posted a 3-0 mark and a 2.15 ERA in five strong starts, one of which was a spot start in mid-July against these Hillcats (6IP, 0R). He is the youngest player (19 years, 360 days) on the Dash’s Opening Day roster by 557 days (Lowry is second at 21 years, 186 days).
  • Over the last 12 seasons, Winston-Salem is 3-9 in its season opener. This also marks the eighth time in the last nine years that Winston kicks off the campaign away from home, with the lone exception in 2014 when the Dash lost to Wilmington at BB&T Ballpark.
  • Only 10 of the Dash’s 25 active players have played for Winston-Salem before this season… Last season, all but seven players had been with the Dash before the year began…This is one of only two trips for the Dash to Lynchburg this season…The other does not take place until August 12-14…The Dash and Hillcats split their 16-game season series a year ago.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Tonight’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. The Pregame Dash will begin at 6:30 p.m.

-Brian and Joe

Dash announce 2016 starting rotation

With the season opener in Lynchburg only one day away, the Dash have announced their starting rotation to begin the 2016 season:

Thursday at Lynchburg: RHP Spencer Adams
Friday at Lynchburg: RHP Matt Cooper
Saturday at Lynchburg: RHP Thad Lowry
Sunday at Lynchburg: RHP Jordan Stephens
Monday at Myrtle Beach: LHP Blair Walters

If everything goes accordingly (and weather cooperates), Lowry will get the start in the Dash’s home opener on April 14 against Salem.

The 19-year-old Adams, who is the third-best prospect in the White Sox system according to multiple outlets, earns the nod for Opening Day.  The right-hander made 24 starts between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem last season and posted a 2.99 ERA. Adams is the youngest player on Winston’s roster by more than a year.

Lowry joins the Winston-Salem rotation after spending 2015 with Low-A Kannapolis. The 21-year-old led the South Atlantic League last season in innings (150.2) and the Intimidators in wins (12).

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Thad Lowry led the Intimidators in innings and wins last season.  He is scheduled to pitch the Dash’s home opener on April 14. (Ray Marsden/ Kannapolis Intimidators)

Walters begins his 6th year of pro ball as the only southpaw in the rotation. Similar to Lowry, Walters pitches to contact.  After fanning 8.4 hitters per nine innings over the first three years of his career, that average has dropped to 5.9 in the last two seasons. Interestingly, his ERA has dropped as well:

2011-13: 5.34
2014-15: 2.93

The 26-year old is no stranger to the Dash organization. He started five games for the Dash in 2012 before getting shipped to Houston (in a package for big leaguer Brett Myers). After spending time in the Astros and Braves systems, he is now back in the White Sox organization.

Cooper and Stephens do not have any starting experience in the Minor Leagues, but both were starters in college.

As a senior at the University of Hawaii in 2014, Cooper posted a 1.60 ERA in 15 starts. Stephens, who begins his first full season of pro ball, dazzled during his collegiate career at Rice. As a sophomore in 2013, he led the Owls in innings (118.2) and finished third on the team in ERA (2.43).  With Stephens about two years removed from Tommy John surgery, the organization is ready to unleash their 2015 fifth-round pick in an expanded role.

Be on the lookout for our preview of the season opener. We’ll have it on the blog Thursday. You can catch the action on 600 AM-WSJS and the TuneIn App.

-Joe

2016 Carolina Countdown – Lynchburg Hillcats

Believe it or not, the Dash’s season starts in just 15 days! To get you ready, we’ll be previewing every team in the Carolina League. Stay tuned over the next few days as we examine each of the Dash’s seven Carolina League foes.  Yesterday, we took a look at the Frederick Keys.   Now in the batter’s box, the Lynchburg Hillcats!

Introduction: The Hillcats were established in 1963, and after three years in the Southern League, the franchise moved to the Carolina League in 1966. This will be the team’s 41st season in the CL and second as an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Lynchburg has taken home seven league championships, ranking second behind the Winston-Salem franchise for most in league history. Their most recent CL crown came in 2012, beating Winston-Salem three games to one in the Mills Cup Finals. In total, there have been nine major league organizations affiliated with this franchise.

Last Season: Lynchburg caught fire down the stretch, going 27-10 to surge into a playoff spot. The team ultimately fell to the Wilmington Blue Rocks in the Northern Division Championship Series. With a regular season record of 72-68, the Keys were the only squad in the Northern Division with an overall mark above .500.

If chicks do indeed dig the long ball, then they were definitely into the Hillcats in 2015. Lynchburg mashed 98 home runs, by far the highest total among Carolina League squads (The Mudcats were second with 72). They also led the league in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, doubles, triples and total bases.

First baseman Nellie Rodriguez, the 2015 Carolina League Player of the Year, topped the league in home runs (17), RBIs (84), slugging percentage (.495) and extra-base hits (51). Center fielder Clint Frazier, the Hillcats’ other Year-End All-Star, finished second in the league with 16 bombs.

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Nellie Rodriguez was named the 2015 Carolina League Player of the Year after an impressive campaign with the Lynchburg Hillcats last season.

 

Manager: Mark Budzinski returns for his second year as the skipper for Lynchburg. Before coming to the Hillcats, he guided the Lake County Captains to the 2014 Midwest League Championship Series in his first year as a Minor League manager.

Prior to managing, Budzinski played at the University of Richmond and was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 21st round of the 1995 Draft. He played professionally for 11 seasons, and spent the 1997 season in the Carolina League as an outfielder for the Kinston Indians (now the Carolina Mudcats).  After spending some time with the Indians, Cubs, and Brewers organizations, Budzinski made his MLB debut with the Cincinnati Reds on August 3, 2003. He would appear in four games before being sent back to Triple-A. His playing career ended in 2005.

Larry Day will join the team as the Hillcats new hitting coach, while pitching coach Rigo Beltran returns from last season.

System:  Despite finishing above .500 for a third straight season, the Cleveland Indians disappointed fans and experts alike who believed them to be a contender in 2015. A rough 7-14 start was too much to overcome, as they finished in third place in the AL Central at 81-80. Still, there’s a lot of upside with this club, and it starts with the youth on the roster.

Rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor established himself as one of the best young players in baseball, hitting .313/.353/.482 with 12 home runs in just 99 games. He finished second to Houston shortstop Carlos Correa for the Rookie of the Year award in the American League. Jason Kipnis returns at the second base to form one of the best up-the-middle combos in baseball. Also, the top four pitchers in the projected rotation (2014 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer) are all under the age of 30.

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Francisco Lindor, runner up in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2015, will play his first full season in the big leagues in 2016. (Ken Blazer/USA Today Sports)

On the minor league level, while Baseball America rates Cleveland’s farm system as just the 16th-best in baseball, there are some promising prospects on the rise.  It took just over half a season for the Carolina League to get to know outfield prospect Bradley Zimmer. Rated the 26th-best prospect in baseball by MLB.com, Zimmer hit .308/.403/.493 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs with Lynchburg. By the time he was promoted to Double-A Akron, Zimmer led all CL hitters in runs scored (60), stolen bases (32) and OPS (.896). He also swiped 44 bases in 51 attempts across both levels.

Frazier (MLB.com’s 27th-best prospect) is also someone worth monitoring. The fifth-overall selection in 2013 by the Indians, Frazier was the first high school position player picked in the draft that season. The 21-year old terrorized Carolina League pitching last year, leading the league in hits (143), doubles (36), and total bases (233).

Best Promotion: On May 28, the Hillcats are having their 10th Annual Swing for a Cure Breast Cancer Awareness Night & T-Shirt Giveaway. All proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen of the Virginia Blue Ridge. The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a free commemorative t-shirt.

Fun Fact: Brady Aiken became the third No. 1 overall pick in draft history not to sign in 2014, when the Houston Astros reduced their original offer due to injury concerns. The southpaw had agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus with Houston, only to have the team reduce their offer to $5 million after a post-Draft physical raised concerns about his throwing elbow. Instead of signing, Aiken enlisted in the IMG Academy post-graduate program (located in Bradenton, Fla.). Unfortunately, he injured his left elbow in his first outing with IMG after 13 pitches and underwent Tommy John surgery.

The Indians, undeterred from all that happened, selected him with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 Draft.

Hillcats in Winston-Salem: Lynchburg visits BB&T Ballpark during the first month of the season, from April 26-28.The Hillcats don’t return to Winston-Salem until three months later, next playing at BB&T from July 28-31.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, who nipped the Dash in last year’s postseason.

-Joe

Dash Top 10 – #1: First playoff clinch at BB&T Ballpark

The Winston-Salem Dash’s 2015 season is in the books, and Dash fans enjoyed many incredible moments. We whittled them down to this year’s Dash Top 10.

Previous moments:
#10 – Four-homer outburst sinks Salem
#9 – Fulmer debuts with Winston-Salem
#8 – Peter’s 14-game hitting streaks
#7 – Heidenreich named CL Pitcher of the Year
#6 – Dash win at Debbie D. Harllee Ballpark
#5 – Winston reclaims first on wild pitch
#4 – Dash power past Pelicans in SDCS Game 1
#3 – Dykstra’s dominant no-hitter
#2 – Narvaez’s walk-off on July 4

Moment #1 – August 29
Dash punch postseason ticket at home

Playoff Social MediaThe Dash have enjoyed tremendous success since moving into BB&T Ballpark in 2010. Winston-Salem has won division titles, advanced to the Mills Cup Finals, produced Major League players and posted strong attendance numbers.

However, BB&T Ballpark had never been the site of a win that clinched a playoff berth–until this season.

After the fact, the second half looks like a 68-game celebration. The Dash stood in first place for all but one day after the All-Star break. Winston-Salem recorded a remarkable 17-3 mark in one-run games. The club’s 45-23 record was the best second-half record in this league since 1987.

Entering play on August 20, though, the Dash were in second place and led Carolina by just 2.5 games for the Southern Division’s final playoff spot. It was far from certain that Winston-Salem would even make it to the postseason, let alone deliver one of the best halves in recent Carolina League memory.

The late-season surge started with the club’s walk-off wild pitch against Myrtle Beach on August 20. Over the next three days, Winston swept Carolina to extend its playoff advantage over the Mudcats to 5.5 games.

Following a rain-shortened two-game split at Myrtle Beach, the Dash returned to BB&T Ballpark for the final home set of 2015. Winston-Salem’s playoff magic number stood at six with four games against the Keys before a week-long road trip.

A team will take a playoff clincher wherever it can get it. Heck, the 2010 Dash officially wrapped up a playoff spot while on the bus. Still, a clinch at home is the preferred method.

It was not a likely scenario when that final home series began. Even if Winston were to sweep the Keys, Lynchburg would need to hand Carolina at least two losses. At the earliest, a Saturday night clinch was possible, but that would only happen with three straight Dash wins and Mudcats losses.

On Thursday, the Dash nipped Frederick 5-4, while Lynchburg’s seven-run ninth sunk Carolina 8-2.

On Friday, the Dash cruised past the Keys 6-3, and Lynchburg posted a more conventional 8-2 win over the Muddies with runs in four different innings.

So, on Saturday, the Dash had an opportunity to clinch at BB&T Ballpark, and they did not waste it.

For a third straight night, the Hillcats helped out the Dash (while also improving their playoff positioning). Lynchburg blanked the Muddies 2-0 in Zebulon.

The Dash seized the lead right away thanks to an Adam Engel leadoff home run. From there, Brandon Brennan and Brian Clark combined on a three-hit shutout, while the Dash tacked on three more runs for a 4-0 victory.

It was a dominant effort from a red-hot team with many players who had never tasted the Minor League postseason.

“That was incredible,” Dash manager Tim Esmay said after the game. “That was one of the moments right there.”

“They never panicked. They never lost their way. We never pointed fingers. The guys stayed pretty connected, and that’s why they are where they’re at right now.

“It’s very special to me,” Engel said. “Every time you get to do something like this, what we got to do tonight, it’s never going to be the same twice. I love this team, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

The Dash would take eventual champion Myrtle Beach to the brink in a thrilling Southern Division Championship Series before eventually falling by one in the deciding third game. Even though the team fell short of a record 12th Mills Cup, Winston-Salem watched a thrilling run that culminated in a playoff clinch at home.

Another Dash Top 10 is in the books. Stay tuned throughout the offseason for more news and notes.

– Brian

Game #108 Preview – Dash vs. Lynchburg

Game #108 – Home Game #57
Winston-Salem Dash (23-13, 53-53) vs. Lynchburg Hillcats (20-17, 53-54)
Sunday, August 2 – 2 p.m.
BB&T Ballpark (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

GAME BACKGROUND:

Winston-Salem whittled a 10-0 deficit to 10-9, but couldn’t get any closer in Saturday’s contest. Sunday’s game will be the rubber match of a three-game set between the Dash and Hillcats.

Nick Basto clubbed a two-run home run to bring the Dash within one in Saturday's contest. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

Nick Basto clubbed a two-run home run to bring the Dash within one in Saturday’s contest. (Jody Stewart/W-S Dash)

STARTING LINEUP:

Eddy Alvarez– 2B
Jake Peter – CF
Trey Michalczewski – 3B
Keon Barnum – 1B
Nick Basto – LF
Jeremy Dowdy – C
T.J. Williams – DH
Nolan Earley – RF
Cleuluis Rondon – 2B
Jordan Guerrero – LHP

DASH DOTS:

  • Had Winston-Salem completed the comeback and won Saturday, the club would have earned the biggest come-from-behind win in the Dash era (2009-present). The largest comeback victory took place on May 22, 2009, when the Dash bounced back from a 7-0 hole against Salem to win 8-7. To put it into perspective, the largest deficit overcome in a Major League game is 12, and it has taken place three times. The most recent occurrence was August 5, 2001, when Cleveland overcame a 14-2 deficit through six innings to stun Seattle 15-14 in 11.
  • The club’s six-game winning streak, its longest of the season, came to an end. Winston has not won more than six in a row since its 10-game surge from August 19-29, 2013. The Dash had also rattled off six consecutive home wins. This home surge is the club’s longest of the season and matches its best such spurt in both 2013 and 2014. The Dash have not claimed more than six straight home games since a nine-game run from August 2-25, 2012.
  • Winston-Salem’s nine-run output on Saturday represents its best such effort of the second half. The Dash had not posted a better offensive showing since May 17, a 12-1 home triumph over Salem. Saturday marked the first time at home and the fifth time overall that the Dash lost a game in which they scored six or more runs.
  • The Dash’s five-run eighth was the club’s largest offensive inning since a six-run seventh against these Hillcats on June 6 in Virginia. All nine starters collected at least hit, while seven logged multi-hit contests. In all, the Dash’s 17 hits set a new high-water mark for 2015. Basto leveled his third homer with Winston-Salem this season, helping him to a season-high four RBIs. Keon Barnum extended his RBI streak to five games, while Adam Engel matched a personal best for the season by pushing his hit streak to eight.
  • Winston-Salem was in last place in the Southern Division for the final 50 days of the season’s first half. However, the Dash have enjoyed at least a share of first place for the first 38 days of half two. In their previous five halves (2013 first half to 2015 first half), the Dash were in first for a combined 33 days. The squad’s current first-place streak represents the third-longest since Winston-Salem became the Dash in 2009.
  • Winston-Salem and Lynchburg will square off in a matinee rubber match, which marks the final meeting of the regular season. Winston can clinch the 16-game season series with a victory. The Dash will also put their four-series win streak on the line, which dates back to July 19. Winston-Salem is 5-4 in rubber matches in 2015.
  • Adam Engel (48) and Eddy Alvarez (46) are fourth and fifth, respectively, in stolen bases in the Minor Leagues.
  • The Dash’s bullpen recorded six innings and did not permit an earned run, which lowers its second-half earned run average to 1.89 (23 ER in 109.1 IP). Jake Cose whiffed four in three frames, while Brad Goldberg tied a season-high for a Dash reliever with five whiffs over his three hitless innings.

BROADCAST INFORMATION:

Television coverage of Sunday’s contest will be available on My48 at 2 p.m. For a channel guide, please visit the Dash Broadcast Corner. The game will also be broadcast live on wsdash.com/broadcast and the TuneIn Radio app. The Pregame Dash will begin at 1:45 p.m., with the first pitch set for 2 p.m.

– Scott

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