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Pecker Checker: Fayetteville Victorious in Season Finale

The final Pecker Checker of the season sees Fayetteville earn a victory.

The Low-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers played their season finale on Sunday afternoon.

The Houston Astros top 30 prospects are well represented here in the southern part of North Carolina, with eight of them making their current baseball home in Fayetteville. Namely, OF Drew Gilbert (2), OF Jacob Melton (6), OF Ryan Clifford (8), RHP Alex Santos (15), RHP Miguel Ullola (20), OF Logan Cerny (22), OF/SS/3B Tyler Whitaker (25), and RHP Alimber Santa (26).

Carlos Calderon (4-6, 4.25) made the start for Fayetteville, opposite Lynchburg Hillcats starter Ryan Webb (1-1, 4.24). After the first pitch at 2:09 PM local time, Calderon worked a 1-2-3 first inning. In the bottom of the frame, Tyler Whitaker scored the first baserunner of the game with a two-out single, but was stranded there when Clifford lined out one batter later.

In the second, Calderon allowed his first baserunner when he issued a one-out walk to Isaiah Greene. Greene erased himself a moment later when he was caught stealing on a bang-bang play, as backstop Ryan Wrobleski flashed his golden laser-powered rocket-rifle arm to good effect.

In the bottom of the second, Peckers first baseman John Garcia hit a one-out double down the right-field line. It was notable in that the ball came off the bat at about 38 MPH (estimated).

Aside from that, the first three innings came and went without either team making an impression on the scoreboard. Calderon was lifted at that point, having struck out three, walked two, and surrendered zero hits or runs. He put 28-of-45 pitches over the plate. Nolan Devos relieved, and after letting runners onto the corners with nobody out, went on to strike out the side.

After an eventless bottom of the fourth, Devos again worked a 1-2-3 inning, collecting another pair of strikeouts. With the score still knotted at zero in the bottom of the sixth, Tommy Sacco got to first on a leadoff walk, then took second on a Wardquelin Vásquez wild pitch. Vasquez then issued a second walk, to Whitaker. What happened then was something that all 4,522 in attendance were waiting for:

Organizational number eight prospect Clifford went deep to center field for three runs off the already beleaguered Vásquez.

With the three run lead, Fayetteville again turned to the bullpen, this time calling in Tyler Guilfoil. The six-four righty was Houston’s eighth-round choice a few weeks ago, and since turning pro now has 31 whiffs in 17 13 innings. He’s given up one run on five hits and seven walks for a 0.692 WHIP. He didn’t surprise anyone today, striking out three Hillcats on 12 pitches. He went on to total seven whiffs in three innings, allowing no runs, no hits, and two walks.

Fayetteville didn’t have a very good season, finishing 55-75, but minor league baseball is never about wins and losses. It’s about two things, depending on where you’re sitting in the world. It’s about developing prospects, and it’s about taking pride in something so unabashedly American that it borders on camp. All that’s academic, though. Also, the good folks at MILB.TV caught an engagement on Kiss Cam!

Although the minor league season is over for these guys, the Houston Astros still have a ways to go in their quest for a second World Series Championship. In the meantime, I’ll be starting an offseason-long series on every player (all 316) to appear in the system for the Astros through the 2022 season. It starts tomorrow, with players who appeared only below the Double-A level, and will run through February 16.

I’d like to thank the good folks at Segra Stadium for making this season such a pleasure to cover, and the equally good folks who frequent the pages at Crawfish Boxes for reading.