Hillcats Looking Up…
The Hillcats are struggling recently…
They have lost four in a row and are below .500 in the second half for the first time. This, after not falling below .500 at any point in the entire first half. They managed that feat despite an eight-game losing streak from May29 – June 5. To go along with being under .500, the ‘Cats find themselves in a tie for third place. They haven’t been outside first place all season long, with the exception of sitting at 0-0 after a rain out, while the Potomac Nationals started 1-0 in the second half.
Recently, the pitching has been there. The Hillcat hurlers have allowed just 13 earned runs over 43 innings in their last five games. That’s good enough for an ERA of 2.72. However, the offense is hitting just .236 in that same stretch. What’s worse, is they’ve only scored nine runs (1.8 per game). The defense isn’t helping the cause either with seven errors leading to six unearned runs. The only game in the last five in which the ‘Cats have not committed an error was in their 3-2 win last Monday. Their only win in their last six games.
The Hillcats already wrapped up a playoff spot by winning the first half (by 8.0 games for what it’s worth). For those who think they were just going to go through the motions post All-Star Break, think again. They started the latter half 3-0 (and 4-1). Recent struggles are clearly a combination of slow bats and untimely mistakes.
The only recent call-up to Double-A from Lynchburg was RHP Andrew Wilson at the end of the first half. The rotation and lineup has remained in tact with the exception of OF Matt Lipka hitting the DL this week. Expect the Hillcats to turn things around real soon. Remember, after their eight-game slide in the first half, they went 14-3 over their next 17 games.
NEW FACE, FAMILIAR PLACE: UTL Bobby Stevens was release by the Orioles last Saturday. The Braves signed him Monday and he joined Lynchburg on Tuesday. Stevens has spent time in the Carolina League in each of the past four seasons, playing in over 300 games as a Frederick Key. He has also played three games at Triple-A and 12 games at Double-A in his career. The 25 year-old, Chicago native, brings more experience and certainly more flexibility to the Hillcats lineup. He has played over 30 games in the outfield this season to go with 20 at second base. In his career his has played double-digit games at six different positions (2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF) and he has even pitched three innings (5H, 2ER, 2HBP, 2BB, 4K).
NO-NO NORTHCRAFT: RHP Aaron Northcraft threw the first individual no-hitter in Hillcats history Friday, June 22. It was the second game of a doubleheader. He threw seven innings, walked two, and hit one. The no-no was his first ever (amateur or professional). It came in his 55th start of his career. He now has two complete games in his career, both were seven innings and both were thrown in June 2012.
PACKING A PUNCH: UTL Matt Weaver is hitting .273 through seven second half games with a double, two home runs, four RBI, and four runs scored. On the year, he’s batting .248 (32-for-129), with 15 of his 32 hits going for extra bases. He’s listed at just 6’0″ 175lbs, but he has found a consistent power stroke this year. He is tied for the active team lead in home runs with eight (25% of his hits). That’s with just 129 at-bats, as opposed to 3B Edward Salcedo (8 HR, 272 AB) and Braeden Schlehuber (8 HR, 163 AB).
The Hillcats wrap-up a road series with the Wilmington Blue Rocks tonight at 6:05pm before returning to the ‘Hill City’ for six games at home. Highlighting the homestand will be Wednesday’s July 4th celebration! The most popular night of the season to enjoy America’s pastime and of course post-game fireworks!