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Balling in Kannapolis: Woodpeckers Report

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers closed out a six-game sweep of the Kannapolis CannonBallers at Atrium Health Ballpark on Sunday.

On Sunday, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers were on the road at Atrium Health Ballpark in Kannapolis, NC.

With a 12-21 record coming into the six-game series, the Woodpeckers had a tall order dealing with the then 17-16 CannonBallers. Five days later, both clubs sported a 17-21 record, and the Woodpeckers are attempting a six-game sweep Incidentally, the unweighted odds of a six-game sweep are one-in-64. Since last week's report, the Peckers gained RHP Rhett Khoba from the High-A Asheville Tourists and lost RHP Jacob Coats to the same place. OF Cody Orr was activated from the seven-day IL yesterday.

The CannonBallers are the Low-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The Sox’s top 30 prospects are very well represented in Kannapolis. SS Colson Montgomery (1), 3B Wes Kath (6), RHP Jared Kelley (9), RHP Tanner McDougal (18), SS Wilber Sanchez (22), OF Misael Gonzalez (28), and RHP Cristian Mena (29). All four position players repped here are in the starting lineup, as is starting pitcher Kelley (0-1, 5.56, 10K’s, 10 BBs in 11 13 innings).

The Astros Carolina League representative, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, still have three (not four, not two) of the top 30 Houston prospects. RHP Alex Santos (10), OF Tyler Whitaker (11), and OF Logan Cerny (25). Whitaker is batting sixth and playing right field, while neither Santos nor Cerny is in the starting lineup. Miguel Ullola (0-0, 3.86, 10Ks in seven IP) starts for the Peckers.

Despite his standing as Chicago’s number nine prospect, Kelley has struggled at the professional level since starting his career as a 2020 second-round pick. He’s 0-8 with a 6.94 career ERA, and 36 walks in 35 innings pitched. The Woodpeckers were looking to exploit that.

The Woodpeckers didn’t waste any time in getting to Kelley, with a leadoff walk by Quincy Hamilton and an infield single by Kenedy Corona. Unfortunately, the two runners died on the vine, as the trio of Leosdany Molina, Joey Loperfido, and Orr went down without advancing the runners.

After the Ballers went down scoreless in their half of the first, Victor Mascai opened the second with a walk, then scored from first on a Freddy Guilamo double to open the day’s scoring. Ballers starter Kelley was lifted after just 1 13 innings in place of Noah Owen.

Kannapolis took a 2-1 lead in the third inning when Kath hit his third home run of the season to right-center field, a two-run shot on a full-count pitch off Ullola.

Ullola lasted 3 23 innings, whiffing six and surrendering two earned runs on three hits and a pair of walks. He put 42-of-68 over the plate and was relieved by Freylin Garcia for the final out of the fourth.

Bryant Salgado entered to pitch the fifth, quickly striking out Gonzalez to start things off. Sanchez and Kath followed with a single each, then Montgomery reached on a Loperfido error, scoring Sanchez. Kath then tried to come home on a wild pitch but was out, 2-1 on a fine fielding play by Guilamo. Wilfred Veras struck out to end the inning.

Despite giving up the run, Salgado was soon afterward in line for the victory after a Molina ground-rule double, a Loperfido home run to left-center, his fourth, a Whitaker (2) home run to the same area, and a Yeuris Ramirez (3) two-run homer, again to the same vicinity and all off reliever Owen. In fact, all four balls ended up in nearly the same place. Suddenly, the Peckers went from trailing by two to leading by three. Owen was lifted after issuing a four-pitch walk to Guilamo and then getting the second out of the inning on a Hamilton fly to left.

The Ballers got one back on a Montgomery RBI triple in the seventh, but Kenedy Corona hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the inning to establish a four-run lead. the 8-4 margin held until the bottom of the ninth.

Ian Foggo, normally a pretty solid closer option, entered to pitch in a non-save situation. It took him 38 pitches (22 balls and 16 strikes), four walks, one hit, three runs (one earned), and a pair of strikeouts to nail down the victory and the sweep, by a final score of 8-7.

Ballpark Refinements

It was a “Jurassic Park” themed ballgame, complete with dinosaurs, dinosaur trivia quiz questions, dinosaur noises through the loudspeaker, and even dinosaur babies.

On the advice of Shelley, over at the hot dog stand, I ordered the “20.22 dog.” Get it? It’s 2022? The hot dog costs $20.22? I wish it was like, a $1.99 dog. Aaaanyway...the treat is a foot-long hot dog, split down the middle and layered with shredded cheddar, upon which a bratwurst is inserted. That’s right. A hot dog with a brat inside it. Then, honey mustard, green, red, yellow, and jalapeño peppers, sauerkraut, and onions are added. It was a lot, but not as much as the man salad back in Charlotte. I estimate it was somewhere around 1,500 calories, but I finished it in one sitting. Take caution though, this is not a hot dog that is to be eaten by conventional means. THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD!!! I paid with a mustard stain on my good shirt. Hey, at least it wasn’t my “great” shirt.

So yeah, that’s it (pictured above), with Shelley. I’m not proud, but I’m also not that sorry. You only live once, right? Four hours later and I still can’t think about eating something else. It was a pretty cool park, and did I mention there was also a ballgame playing? What more could you want? Thanks for reading. Check back next week as I join the Woodpeckers in a road set against the Down East Wood Ducks.