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River Rafters 15, Solar Sox 7: Walk this Way

The game was entertaining early, sloppy after that.

On a perfect evening at Salt River fields last night, spent with Michael McDermott and gzimmerm right behind home plate, a baseball game was played between the River Rafters and the Mesa Solar Sox. Well at least it resembled one through most of the first 4 innings.

Garrett Hill of Detroit started things off by striking out the side in the top of the first, with a little help from the pitch clock. With two strikes on him the second batter Jeremy Eierman (A’s) failed to get back in the box with only 6 seconds left on the pitch clock and penalized with a called strike, sending him back to the dugout. I wasn’t quite sure how to mark that on my scoresheet. I just wrote a backwards K with the words “box vio”. I’ll have to ask the official scorer next time I see him.

Salt River went down in order in their half of the first. In the top of the second, just as gzimmerm was sitting down with us, Brewers #9 prospect Joe Gray Jr made a spectacular running catch, slamming into the wall in deep left center to rob extra bases. The parade of outstanding Brewers performances would continue making gzim and a loud contingent of Brewers fans in attendance happy in the bottom of the 2nd. With a man on first catcher Mario Feliciano smashed a double to the wall in right center. The outfielder had trouble picking it up, allowing Feliciano to advance to third while the runner scored. After Dominic Canzone of the D-backs struck out, another Brew Crew prospect, right fielder Joey Wiemer (#23) stepped to the plate. Wiemer is a striking player to look at. Sporting a long blond haired mullet and an extremely muscular frame, he features a lot of exaggerated motions as he gets loose for his at bat, even taking a bit of a Happy Gilmore approach to his final practice swing before getting in the box. Then with an unorthodox stance, reminiscent of Hunter Pence, he launched a opposite field homer to the right field berm to give Salt River a 3-0 lead.

In the top of the 3rd, Wiemer made a terrific one hope throw from deep right field, nailing a runner trying to advance to 3rd on a base hit. There was another auto strike called to the last batter of this inning. And in the bottom of the 3rd there was an auto ball called on the Solar Sox pitcher Michael Dominguez.

In the top of the 4th the Rafter’s replaced Garrett Hill with a new pitcher, Wilmer Flores. I remarked how I couldn’t believe that was the pitcher’s name. A couple of Mets fans turned around to helpfully inform me that was actually THE Wilmer Flores’ brother. I had no idea. Here is the back story behind that.

Flores had an auto ball called against him for taking too long to deliver a pitch, and then, clearly flustered committed a balk. After a K and another walk, Joe Gray Jr made another excellent play running into the gap to snare a line drive. A base hit scored Mesa’s first run but Flores got the next batter to limit the damage.

Then came the bottom of the 4th. It started off with a thud. Literally. Cubs #14 prospect Caleb Kilian came on to pitch and plunked Wiemer in the middle of the back by a 91 MPH sinker that didn’t sink. Sitting as close as we were, you really got a sense of how much that must hurt. These guys are not like you and me, as Wiemer got up, shook it off and jogged slowly down to first. A base hit and a walk loaded the bases. Joe Gray then delivered an RBI knock, Brett Baty (Mets #2 prospect, #45 overall) tripled on a 110 MPH rocket to the right-center gap, and Spencer Torkelson singled. Rockies first base prospect Michael Toglia fouled a ball off his unprotected shin, going down in a heap. But on the very next pitched launched a deep homer to right. That was all for Kilian, who failed to record an out while giving up 7 runs. Brendon Little , also a Cubs prospect came in and faced 7 hitters , had an auto ball called him, committed a balk, walked and hit a batter, but somehow only gave up 1 more run. In all 14 men came to plate in the 8 run inning. (gzimmerm got up to get food during the pitching change and the inning was still going on when he came back more than 10 minutes later!)

From there the game devolved into a walk fest, from both sides. In all each team issued 11 walks for a total of 22 free passes. There were also 5 HBP, 3 Balks, and 2 errors. Mercifully, the game was called by mutual agreement after the top of the 8th.

Final Score. 15-7. BOX . And here is the Statcast Page for the game. Hat tip to @C_Blessing for telling us about the availability of this page for games at Salt River

It was great seeing Michael again and meeting gzimmerm. He was happy to see so many Brewers prospects excel in this game.

Michael will follow below with his observations on some of the players in the game:

Dominic Canzone, OF, 1 for 4, BB

Canzone got the start in left field and played the entire game out there. He did and really wasn’t challenged defensively as all the balls hit his way or were impossible or routine chances. Canzone likely comes up as a platoon outfielder at a corner spot and should be up by the end of the season.

In his first two trips to the plate, Canzone would face Michael Dominiguez. Dominiguez was a right-handed pitcher from the Toronto organization, although not ranked in their Top 30, who featured a fastball in the 89-91 MPH range and a curveball that hitters like Torkelson were having trouble picking up. In his first two trips, Canzone fell behind 0-2 and would work a 5 and 6 pitch AB before striking out in both trips to the plate. The first strikeout came on a 90.5 MPH 4-seamer above the strike zone and the second came on 89.9 MPH 4-seamer just a shade below the zone that he foul-tipped.

His final three trips to the plate came against left-handed pitching and he fared much better, which was a welcomed site after struggling against LHPs in his last game. He ambushed the first elevated fastball he saw from Brendon Little and drove it deep to right center field. Unfortunately the ballpark held it despite it having a good exit velo (101.3 MPH) and launch angle (31 degrees). Statcast classified it as a barrel, but an out nonetheless.

His 4th AB was arguably his most impressive of the night, which came after a double play by the previous batter. After a wild pitch by Miami RHP Justin Evans scored the runner from 3rd, which I jokingly said “There goes his RBI”, Canzone worked a 2-2 count after getting fooled on a couple breaking balls. In the final pitch of the AB, he would get a belt-high sinker at 89.9 MPH and didn’t miss. That resulted in the loudest crack I heard off his bat for a sharp single up the middle. The exit velocity also confirms this, as that hit registered at 102.7 MPH.

His last trip to the plate was a walk in a non-competitive AB by the opposing pitcher, who threw balls on 12 of his first 15 pitches. Overall a solid game for Canzone in which he made high quality contact twice and reached base twice.

Cooper Hummel, C, 0 for 0, BB

Hummel came into the game in the 6th inning as a defensive replacement for Feliciano behind the plate. Since he’s a switch hitter, he could see opportunities as a backup or even a 3rd catcher behind Carson Kelly at the MLB level. Most likely he develops into a utility guy.

I noticed more about Hummel’s defense behind the plate than any opportunities he had offensively. His only trip to the plate he would see 4 bad misses during a stretch where MIami lefty Jefry Yan threw 12 balls in a 15 pitch span, and break his bat on a foul ball off a 1-0 count. All 3 of Salt River’s wild pitches came with Hummel behind the plate although only one of them I would put on Hummel. The first one went 5 hole, which should never happen, but the other two wild pitches were pitches that landed in front of the opposite handed batter’s box.