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A Day at the Park: A View to a Thrill

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers opened their six-game series against the interloping Carolina Mudcats on Tuesday night.

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers opened a six-game homeset against the Carolina Mudcats on Tuesday night.

Well prior to the contest, the Peckers made several roster moves, all of them involving right-handed pitchers. Franny Cobos and Ryan Gusto were promoted to the Asheville Tourists, and Christian Mejias was promoted from the FCL Astros. Ian Foggo joined the Peckers from the Tourists, and Shea Berry was activated from the seven-day injured list.

The Mudcats are the Low-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, and have a 14-13 record entering the fray against our heroes. Their top 30 prospects are well represented with the Carolina League team. C Jeferson Quero (5), LF Hedbert Perez (8), CF Jackson Chourio (9), SS Eduardo Garcia (12), RF Hendry Mendez (15), and 3B Jheremy Vargas (30) all currently travel with the team, and all six are in tonight’s starting lineup. The Woodpeckers (9-18), Houston’s representative, still boast three. RHP Alex Santos II (10), OF Tyler Whitaker (11), and OF Logan Cerny (25).

Whitaker, still just 19-years-old, has struggled to open the season, slashing .149/.223/.188 with 38 K’s in 101 at-bats. He bats leadoff in tonight’s game and mans right field. Cerny, 22, has also had issues adjusting to this level of pitching, with a .158/.239/.287 line and 42 strikeouts in 101 at bats. He will bat second and play in center. Santos is 0-2 with a 4.76 ERA over 17 frames. He has also struck out 23 and walked 10, and is tonight’s starting pitcher for the Birds.

Although not “ranked” as a prospect, OF Joey Loperfido has been providing highlights on both sides of the ball. He leads the team with a .302 batting average and has regularly been making spectacular defensive plays through the first part of the season. A seventh-round selection in the most recent MLB draft, Loperfido was the ACC Tournament’s MVP for his performance with the Duke Blue Devils. He slashed out a .374/.474/.612 line as a senior against one of the higher caliber collegiate leagues, and has been following that up with a solid campaign for the Peckers. Turning 23-years-old on Wednesday, I look for him to be one of the club’s ranked prospects in the near future.


Fayetteville Woodpeckers 1, Carolina Mudcats 2

I got to the ballpark waaaay before the first pitch. With the sun still high in the sky, it was windy and unseasonably cool. Still, it was right around 70º, perfect weather for baseball. Only scattered cloud cover for these two Low-A ball clubs populated with mostly 19- to 23-year-old major league hopefuls.

The game started a little late due to one of the umpires coming down sick. The first pitch, scheduled for 7:05 PM, was thrown at 7:28 PM, with the wind blowing in from center field at 14MPH in front of an announced crowd of 2,171.

The game was scoreless through the first three innings, with the pitchers trading goose eggs and allowing only minimal baserunners. In the top of the fourth, the Mudcats struck first. Chourio hit a one-out single and scored from first on a Santos throwing error. Other than that, Santos kept the Peckers in the hunt.

Fayetteville struck back in their half of the fifth. Cody Orr led off with a single, then stole second. He scored on a Whitaker line-drive single into right field. Whitaker tried to make it interesting by stealing second on the next pitch, making the turn to third when the catcher threw it wild. Unfortunately, he was stranded on the hot corner when Cerny whiffed.

The Woodpeckers scored after Santos threw his final pitch, letting him off the hook for a possible tough-luck loss. He racked up five strikeouts, walked zero, surrendered three singles, and put 45-of-73 pitches over the plate. The run he allowed was unearned.

Freylin Garcia surrendered just one hit over four scoreless relief innings, giving up zero walks and striking out three. With the score still knotted at one, we entered the bottom of the ninth.

With one out, Miguel Palma popped up high to the right side, very close to the first baseman. Palma very purposely and deliberately threw a shoulder block at the fielder, allowing the ball to drop. He was called out on runner interference, but it was entertaining, after all.

Loperfido then hit a two-out single to the left side, then stole second base on the next pitch. Orr struck out looking to end the threat and send us to extra innings.

The 11th Inning

Jacob Coats induced a 4-3 groundout off Perez, moving Zack Raabe to third, then struck out Mendez looking on four pitches. Garcia drove Raabe home with a single to left. Chourio followed with a ground-rule double to leave two in scoring position. Quero lined one into center field, with what normally would have scored a run. Instead, Cerny, playing shallow, made a diving catch to keep the Birds in pecking position.

Opening with the runner on second Cerny absolutely murdered a ball to deep left, but straight at the fielder for an easy out. Leosdany Molina was then struck on the wrist by a pitch, putting a pinch-runner on first. Quincy Hamilton struck out, then Palma flew out to end the contest. A game effort, but not enough to down the Cats.

Despite an 11-inning ballgame, and a : 23-minute delay, the contest still only took two hours and 42 minutes. I guess the pitch clock really does have a beneficial effect on time of play, although I see a backlash in the future as minor league ballpark concessions will invariably take a hit.

Ballpark Refinements

For a Christmas present, my wife bought me tickets to every home Tuesday game, row 1, seats 1 & 2, right next to the home dugout on the first base side. This is the view that I gave up when I received a press pass.

...and this is the view from the press box

Now, the press box is pretty cool and all, plus it has outlets to plug in all of my important “reporting” devices, but the view....well....the view leaves something to be desired. So I thought I would show you some of the more interesting POV’s at Segra Stadium.

Here’s the view from one of the corporate boxes.

A pretty nice shot from just left of home plate.

And here’s one of my favorites, a view from the cheap seats down the right-field line.

And one from down the left field line.

Although not successful today, the Woodpeckers will get five more shots at the Mudcats through this week. In Segra Stadium, wherever you go, there’s minor league baseball playing. Saying that, there really isn’t a “bad” seat in the house.

Thanks for reading.