Luis Heredia picked up his first win of the season as the Spikes drubbed the Staten Island Yankees 11-2 to finish off a three-game sweep. Heredia was not as sharp as some previous outings, but he still managed only one earned run in five innings. The Spikes offense benefited from two big innings, scoring four in the second and another four in the sixth. Every Spikes starter contributed in some way with either a hit, run scored, or RBI. DH Jacob Stallings led the way going 4-for-5 with two doubles, two runs scored, and two RBI, and catcher Ryan Hornback, centerfielder Barrett Barnes, and second baseman Yhonathan Barrios each contributed two RBIs.
Luis Heredia Records First Win
Luis Heredia registered his first win of the season, moving to 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 innings on the season after giving up one earned run in five innings tonight. However, the 17-year old righty was not as sharp tonight as some of his previous starts. His fastball sat in the low 90s, touching 94 twice, but his command was spotty throughout the evening. In the first two innings he was down in the zone, missing low at times but also inducing ground outs. Then in the later innings he left the ball up, reflected by harder hit balls in the air. According to pitching coach Justin Meccage, Heredia lost some of his good downward angle, flattening out the fastball and making it easier to hit.
“ He can get away with catching a lot of the plate if he has the downward angle on the fastball. That’s a tough angle to hit,” says Meccage.
Heredia recorded no strikeouts tonight but walked three, another indication that his location was not his best. Inducing more contact and backed up by solid defense, Heredia only needed 62 pitches (38 strikes) to finish the five innings.
One challenge for Heredia was a long wait between several innings, as the Spikes offense spent more time at the plate than normal. This waiting meant Heredia could pitch with a five-run cushion after the second inning, but also had some impact on his focus.
“He’s never pitched with a big lead. The lesson learned is you pitch like it is nothing-nothing. I think the focus kind of waivered there after he got the lead. He just wasn’t as locked in,” says manager Dave Turgeon. “But, he’s a very teachable and coachable young man who makes adjustments.”
Also worth noting is that Heredia only threw one curveball on the night. Meccage reports that using the curveball less to emphasize the fastball and change-up is part of the developmental strategy with Heredia.
“I think the breaking ball is always going to be there. In the past it has kind of been his crutch to go back to when he’s in a bind. Instead we try to stress the fastball and the importance of location with the fastball,” says Meccage.
Although Heredia has been better, it is important to remember that he is still only 17 years old and playing against much older and experienced competition. It is logical that he will not always be dominant as he develops as a pitcher, and overall, tonight’s performance was solid. His 14:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the season is still quite positive. He faced two new challenges tonight, pitching with a sizeable lead and having long breaks between innings, and he responded by notching his first victory as a Spike.
Offense impresses, Led By Jacob Stallings
The Spikes knocked around the Yankees pitchers tonight. The only starter to not record a hit was Tyler Gaffney, who still had a significant impact on the game reaching base twice and scoring both times, highlighted by aggressive base running.
Designated hitter Jacob Stallings was the offensive standout of the night, recording four hits including two doubles. This production is a positive sign for the 2012 7th round draft pick and catching prospect, as he came in to the game with a .182 batting average and paltry .490 OPS. Stallings’ game-calling and defense has been heralded by the Spikes coaches and pitching staff, but to advance levels, he will need to hit.
“Early in the year I was taking a more methodical and mechanical approach at the plate which you can never do,” says Stallings. “Especially in the past week I’ve been seeing the ball better and getting into more hitter’s counts.”
In addition, 2012 second round draftee Barrett Barnes went 1-for-3 with his team-leading 12th and 13th RBIs and ninth-rounder D.J. Crumlich was 2-for-4 to raise his OPS to a team-leading .807. Turgeon is quite pleased with his current number three and four hitting combination.
“[Barnes] always gives competitive at-bats. He sees pitches, lays off stuff, and has a plan. He’s obviously a very talented hitter with bat speed, but he generally sees a lot of pitches,” says Turgeon. “He’s got a little protection behind him now. Crumlich is a sound, solid hitter behind him.”
**Dalton Friend pitched two innings, surrendering a solo home run on a change-up he left up in the zone. Meccage is happy with Friend’s development and stuff, especially since he has just started throwing the change-up, a pitch Friend did not throw in college.
**Justin Ennis pitched the 9th inning, featuring his newly acquired knuckleball. The pitch was in the low 70s and showed a nice flutter, but he struggled to throw it for strikes consistently.
**Right-handed pitcher Jake Burnette has gone on the 7-day DL with soreness in his elbow following last night’s start. The move appears to be cautionary at this juncture.
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