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Woodpeckers in Myrtle Beach: Live By the Long Ball

The Woodpeckers lived by the long ball in a win at Myrtle Beach

The Fayetteville Woodpeckers defeated the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, 5-2 on Tuesday evening.

Throughout the 2022 minor league baseball season, I’m checking out the Fayetteville Woodpeckers at various locations around the Carolina League. On Tuesday, I got to sample what Pelicans Ballpark had to offer, in Myrtle Beach, SC.

With a seating capacity of 6,599, Pelicans Ballpark was opened in 1999, and is home to the Chicago Cubs Single-A affiliate in the Carolina League, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

The Cubs top 30 prospects (according to the MLB Pipeline) are represented at the Single-A level with the Pelicans by six players. Namely, OF Kevin Alcantara (4, batting fourth, CF), 2B/SS James Triantos (5, batting third, DH), 3B/SS Reginald Preciado (11), SS/3B Kevin Made (15, batting second, SS), OF Christian Franklin (19), and LHP Drew Gray (22).

The Astros are likewise represented by three, but not only three for very much longer (hopefully). Players chosen in the 2022 major league draft may not make any sort of impact at baseball’s top level for some time, but below the Double-A level, it’s pretty much immediate, especially at the Low-A affiliates. For now, we have RHP Alex Santos (9), OF Tyler Whitaker (10, batting sixth, RF) and OF Logan Cerny (24, leading off, CF).

The game was delayed by rain, but thankfully not in the middle of the contest. Due to field conditions, start time was postponed from a scheduled time of 7:05 to 7:30.

Fayetteville Woodpeckers 5, Myrtle Beach Pelicans 2

Fayetteville had Nic Swanson (2-2, 4.24) taking his turn in the rotation. Swanson is lucky in that he has a support unit travel with him throughout the season. His parents go to I think every home and away game in which he’s scheduled to appear. Opposing him and pitching first was the Pelicans’ Tyler Schlaffer (4-3, 4.07).

With one gone in the top of the first, Joey Loperfido staked the Peckers claim to an early lead with a home run to left-center field, his sixth.

The bottom of the frame would see Loperfido’s theatrics paid in-kind by the Pelicans Kevin Made, with his eighth moon shot. Juan Mora went deep for his fifth jack of the season in the second, putting the Pelicans up by a 2-1 score.

In the third, Cody Orr drew a one-out walk. I told the guy I was sitting next to in the bleachers (one of 4,950 in attendance (not including me)), “this guy is gonna score now.” True enough, Orr stole his 35th base of the year soon afterward, then scored on a Cerny single to center field to tie the game at two. In case I haven’t mentioned it before now, Orr is greased lightning on the base paths. Kid flat out flies.

Despite the pair of homers, Swanson pitched well. He was sitting around 90 on his fastball, striking out five in as many innings. He allowed the two runs on three hits and three walks, getting 47-of-75 pitches in the strike zone.

The score remained knotted at two until the eighth inning. Rainier Rivas went deep for the fourth time this season. It was only a matter of time. This is the same guy who smacked one about one foot short of a homer to dead center on Sunday.

Just for giggles, Cerny added a two-run shot later in the inning, his 14th, for a little insurance. It only left the bat at 97 MPH, and it landed 355 feet from home, but that ball was launched at 38°. It stayed up for a long time.

And just two hours and nine minutes after the first pitch, Peckers reliever Bryant Salgado pitched the last. He pitched four shutout two hit innings, striking out four and walking none. Salgado put 34-of-55 in the strike zone.

Stadium Refinements

As a matter of course, I try and select the most “out there” culinary choice on the menu at every visiting ballpark. Today’s was the “Pizza-Burger.” It’s a burger, sure enough, but the “bun” is played by two personal pan pizzas. I was not feeling that, so Melissa (pictured above) over at Clark & Madison Grill suggested I try the Deli sandwich instead. I had the ham & provolone, and for $12, and with apologies to Jon Bois, it was pretty good.

Jorgie (below), one of three first-year workers down in the teamshop, told me all about the “Minor League Passport.” Very interested, I let her know, but then she told me that they were sold out (sad trombone). To wit, the Minor League Passport is exactly what it sounds like, and every minor league stadium has a stamp for your passport if you want to play.

Brian has been an usher here for 15 years, and he knew just about everything about the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Not only do the Pelicans have three (yes, THREE) mascots, they also have a bat dog. The dog, named Slider, gets the biggest cheers of anyone at the ballpark. Slider performs his job with a relish that just can’t be duplicated by his human counterparts, just don’t ask me what happened with his litter-mates, Curve, Change, Fast, Knuckles, and Splitty.

All in all, this was probably the best game I’ve been to. The crowd was really into it, despite their losing to our boys. Thanks for reading. Check back next time as I travel to Asheville to check out Houston’s High-A club, the Tourists, as they take on the Aberdeen Ironbirds.