Previous Years In Review can be found in the blog archives by clicking here.
As we flip the calendar from 2015 to 2016, let’s first look back at another exciting season of BlueClaws baseball.
The year saw five BlueClaws play in the All-Star Game, a sixth, outfielder Herlis Rodriguez, was named to the league’s post-season All-Star team. The highlights were long, and some of the games were quite exciting. A trip down memory lane:
Let’s Get This Party Started: Is there a better way to start a season than with a walk-off win? We think not. Opening Night (April 9th), Carlos Tocci delivered the walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the BlueClaws a 2-1 win over Kannapolis. the BlueClaws would go on to win five games in walk-off fashion this year.
Mother’s Day Meet-Up: There were few better on-field moments this year than when BlueClaws outfielder Herlis Rodriguez squared off against none other than his twin brother Helmis Rodriguez, Asheville pitcher, on Mother’s Day. The two hadn’t faced each other since they were very young back in Venezuela. Herlis, however, went 0-3.
Lock It Down: Matt Hockenberry led the BlueClaws with 19 saves, but none was as dramatic as his save on July 17th at Rome. The BlueClaws were clinging to a one-run lead. Two of the first three batters reached, one on a controversial walk. The next batter grounded into a force-out to put runners at first and third before Ozzie Albies, the runner at first base took second on indifference. So a base hit would win the game for the Braves. Hockenberry threw a breaking ball to Omar Obregon, thinking he had strike three to end the game. Called a ball. Then, from the dugout, BlueClaws manager Shawn Williams was ejected, arguing the call. After a bit of a wait (Hockenberry played catch to stay loose), he struck out Obregon to end an emotional BlueClaws win.
Out of Nowhere: No player took a more obscure path to the BlueClaws than Jairo Munoz. A former Royals prospect, Munoz spent time working in a convenience store while awaiting a second chance. But you don’t need to hear it from me. Read it from Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Long Time Coming: The Boll Weevils picked up a walk-off win over Kannpolis on July 11th on a Herlis Rodriguez RBI single. It was the first Boll Weevils win since 2000. Of course, that night, the BlueClaws became the Boll Weevils, the Phillies South Atlantic League affiliate prior to the BlueClaws coming into existence in 2001.
18th Inning Walk-Off: On August 8th, the BlueClaws and Hickory played two games, but it wasn’t your traditional double-header following a rain-out. It was just one, long game. Herlis Rodriguez drove in a run in the seventh and Hickory tied the game in the eighth. The bullpens then took over, with neither team scoring until the bottom of the 18th. In fact, neither bullpen gave up a run. Crawdads first baseman Jonathan Meyer came in to pitch the bottom of the 18th. Cord Sandberg hit a 3-run home run and the BlueClaws won 4-1. It was the second longest game in FirstEnergy Park history behind a 22-inning game against Hagerstown in 2006.
All-Star Performance: Five BlueClaws earned the chance to play in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game: OF Carlos Tocci, SS Malquin Canelo, 1B Rhys Hoskins, RHP Ricardo Pinto, and RHP Alexis Rivero.
Saved By The Bell: Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding) was at FirstEnergy Park in 2013. This year, the BlueClaws had their very own Zack Morris, a left-handed pitcher from Maryland who was drafted by the Phillies this year.
Warm Up The Bus: Scott Kingery broke a scoreless tie in the 11th inning of the BlueClaws get-away-day win on July 20th at Rome with a three-run home run on an 0-2 pitch. It made the 15-hour ride back to Lakewood a little more pleasant.
Rhys’ Pieces: After starting the season 9-40, Rhys Hoskins hit .340 over the final two months of the first half, including 21 RBIs in his final 22 games with the BlueClaws. He was promoted to Hi-A Clearwater at the All-Star Break.
All Nine: Tyler Viza became the first BlueClaws pitcher since Lisalverto Bonilla in 2011 to throw nine innings in a game when he gave up one run over nine in a 1-0 loss to Kannapolis on July 27th.
Walk-Off Pick-Off: The BlueClaws win over Hagerstown on August 26th ended like no other. Joey DeNato picked off his 16th runner of the season to end the game.
Skipping Williamsport: Scott Kingery (2nd round, Arizona) and Kyle Martin (4th round, South Carolina) made their pro debut with the BlueClaws. They were the first players to make their professional debuts with the BlueClaws since Josh Ludy in 2012.
Eight of 2,000: The BlueClaws have played over 2,000 games in their history and only eight times has a player had five hits in a game. Drew Stankiewicz became the eighth with his five hits in a 15-8 win over Greensboro on August 30th.
Three of 2,000: The BlueClaws have played over 2,000 games in their history and only three times has a player driven in seven runs in a game. Jiandido Tromp became the third with his seven RBIs (and two home runs) in a 13-3 win at Rome on July 19th.
Happy 4th: Elniery Garcia pitched to a sub-3 ERA during the second half and had one of his best games of the year on July 4th, when he threw seven scoreless innings in a win over Hagerstown.
Trading Places: July 5th was a rare day in BlueClaws history – the BlueClaws lost two of their six starting pitchers when Chris Oliver and Josh Taylor were both traded to the Diamondbacks as part of a trade to net the Phillies with additional signing slots for the international signing period which had just opened.
See you in 2016!