Rome followed Lynchburg’s lead, winning Game 1 then losing Game 2 6-2, forcing a win-or-go-home game tonight. Greg Ross was off to a great start, holding Asheville scoreless through five innings before a Taylor Featherston homer capped a 3-run sixth inning. Ross only walked one batter, but the two strikeouts mean a lot of batted balls, aka hits. The bullpen further exasperated the situation by allowing three runs the next two innings.
Offensively, Ross Heffley got the scoring started with a solo homer in the third. That was the only mistake by Tourists starter Tyler Anderson, who walked none and struck out nine in six innings. Heffley, William Beckwith, and Will Skinner all had two hits, as those three accounted for all but one baserunner for the night.
Chris Jensen goes for Asheville tonight, a mediocre pitcher despite his 12-3 record. He had a 4.47 ERA with a skillset of an average walk rate, below-average K’s, and below-average groundballs. Think Jeremy Hellickson without the really low BABIP. A.J. Holland starts for Rome, hoping to use his high groundball tendencies to offset his poor control and lack of swing-and-miss stuff.
The Hillcats squeaked by Wilmington 2-1 to advance to the Carolina League Championship Series. The long ball provided all the scoring, with Guelin Beltre giving them the early lead with a solo homer. Andrelton Simmons responded the next half inning with his one solo shot, and Braeden Schlehuber hit his first homer since the first half of the season to put the R-Braves ahead for good in the eighth. Juan Jaime got the save, pumping gas in upwards of 99 MPH.
Lynchburg now moves on to play the Winston-Salem Dash, the White Sox affiliate, in a best-of-five series starting tonight. They dominated the Carolina League, going 87-51, scoring almost a run per game more than the second-best offense while also getting above-average pitching. They do not have any Top 100 prospects, but they have an older team that has beat up on young pitching.
Cyle Hankerd put up an Evan Gattis-like .325/.411/.615 line in his 74 games in Winston-Salem. Like Gattis, he is 27 years old, resurfacing in the minors after a stint in the independent American Association. 1B Dan Black, CF Trayce Thompson, and OF Michael Earley have been other key contributors in the lineup. Game 1 starter Stephen McCray has the nice 3.30 ERA, but he has put up nearly exactly average peripherals, good for a 4.07 FIP. The strength of the pitching comes from the bullpen, led by Terance Marin and his 6:1 K/BB ratio.