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Woodpeckers Report: Headed Down East

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers find themselves in Kinston for the finale of their six game set against the Down East Wood Ducks.

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers were flying high.

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers had started their season with just 12 wins in their first 33 games. The Single-A affiliate for the Houston Astros then reeled off a six-game series road sweep of the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers. The Wood Ducks, who were 16-23 at the start of the present six-game set, then won four of the first five against Fayetteville. The Woodpeckers hope to salvage a second win in today’s contest. With a Fayetteville victory today, both clubs will be 20-25.

As it has been all season, Fayetteville is the baseball home of three of Houston’s top 30 prospects, according to MLB.COM. Namely, RHP Alex Santos (9) DNP, OF Tyler Whitaker (10) right field, batting fifth, and OF Logan Cerny (OF) DNP. Down East, the Single-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, have four of their top 30 prospects. SS Maximo Acosta (13) 2b, batting fourth, IF Cameron Cauley (22) SS, batting second, LHP Mitch Bratt (23) DNP, and RHP Dane Acker (24) DNP call Kinston their home-away-from-home, at least for now.

Fayetteville Woodpeckers 1, Down East Wood Ducks 5

The Woodpeckers got out to an early lead in the first inning. Kenedy Corona put his seventh double of the season down the right-field line on the first pitch of the game off starter Winston Santos. He took third on a Leosdany Molina groundout and scored on Joey Loperfido’s infield batted ball. Corona was off on the pitch, and first baseman Tucker Mitchell threw home but failed to retire Corona on the play. Resultingly, Loperfido was not awarded a hit on the play.

Starting for the Woodpeckers was right-hander Nic Swanson. He allowed a first inning run, and it was earned, but not really. Cauley started things with a one-out single, then stole second. Acosta came up with two outs, and popped it high on the infield. Yeuris Ramirez couldn’t see the ball in the sun, so Cauley, who was off with the pitch, crossed the plate easily to tie the game on a ball that was ruled a single.

After an eventless top of the second for Fayetteville, Swanson loaded the bases on walks, but induced a fly-ball out to end the frame without surrendering a run. After a few innings of a lot of baserunners for Down East, the Wood Ducks finally took the lead in the fifth. Cauley drew a walk off new Peckers reliever Christian Mejias, then stole second and third before coming home on an Acosta single to center field made it 2-1 for the home team. Later in the inning, Mejias was touched by Mitchell for a two-run homer to make it 4-1 in favor of the Ducks.

In the sixth, still facing Mejias, the Ducks got another home on a Cauley RBI-single to make it 5-1. The score held until the Woodpeckers final chance in the top of the ninth. Molina opened the frame with a single to right off reliever Jose Corniell, but he was stranded as the rest of the team went 1-2-3 to end the game.

Game Notes

  • Ian Foggo struck out three in working a scoreless fourth inning.
  • Five Fayetteville players split the team’s five hits between them. The team had one each from Corona, Molina, Loperfido, Orr, and Ramirez.
  • Why are Ducks bad drivers? Because their windows are quacked.
  • Wood Ducks baserunners were seven-of-seven in stealing bases against Peckers pitching.
  • Starter Swanson walked four over three innings, but only surrendered one run on two hits. He struggled to find the strike zone, getting 38-of-69 over the plate.
  • Opposing starter Santos, in the meantime, got a ridiculous amount of pitches in the black, plating 63-of-80. That’s 79 percent, with zero walks and 10 strikeouts to show for it.
  • Cody Orr, playing center for the Peckers, threw an absolute rocket to the plate in the bottom of the eighth on an 8-2 double play ball.

Ballpark Refinements

Grainger Stadium, built in 1949, seats 4,100 fans, of which 1,365 were present. On a Sunday afternoon with the Gametime temperature at 83°, and a first pitch set for 1PM (it was two minutes late, but that’s pretty much normal), the seats were less-than-half full. I arrived early in order to do a bit of exploring.

A single concession stand on the first base was open, along with a Dippin Dots stand behind the grandstand. Kecia (pictured, center) recommended I try the “Double Dog.” It was a footlong hot dog topped with cheese sauce, pulled pork, and BBQ sauce (in that order). Very good, but not a patch on the 2022 dog I had last week in Kannapolis.

Speaking of dogs, it was “bark at the park” at Grainger Stadium, and I saw probably 40 dogs interspersed with the crowd.

Stan, a greeter/usher, was adamant that I say something good about them. He didn’t really need to though, as all the staff were very professional and everyone was friendly. Stan wasn’t explicit in how long he had been with the team, but I’d say it’s awhile based on his familiarity with everyone coming through the gates.

The ballpark only has safety nets from home plate to as far as first and third base, allowing for liberal scooping of foul ball traffic. Unfortunately (or fortunately, dependent on your point of view), the nets will soon be extended to the foul poles in accordance with MILB’s rules expansion regarding crowd safety.

That’s all from the road today. Next up for the Woodpeckers, a six-game home series against the Fredericksburg Nationals (23-21), starting Tuesday.