Despite collectively struggling at the plate during the season-opening homestand, the Hickory Crawdads have kept the power stroke going quite well.
Hickory hit two more Wednesday morning in support of another strong outing by top pitching prospect Hans Crouse for a 6-4 win over Asheville in front of a packed L.P. Frans Stadium.
The win keeps the Crawdads (10-3) in second place in the South Atlantic League Northern Division behind Delmarva (11-1), who earned a walk-off victory in the 11th inning of Monday’s game against Kannapolis. Hickory took two out of three from the Tourists (6-8) and finished the season-opening homestand 4-2.
Hickory and Asheville entered the series Monday with the South Atlantic League’s top two offenses. The first two games were dominated by pitching, however, as the teams swapped 2-0 contests on Monday and Tuesday with a total of 19 combined hits.
Early on Wednesday, it appeared the crowd of 4,949 was in for another pitchers’ duel. Crouse and the Tourists’ Shelby Lackey were nearly perfect through the first three innings before the bats awoke.
Asheville struck first in the fourth with two outs. Terrin Vavra singled in front of Grant Lavigne’s first homer of the season, a two-run shot over the fence in right.
That turned out to be the only mistake of the afternoon for the Texas Rangers’ consensus No. 1 prospect as Crouse was brilliant on the mound. The 20-year-old right-hander allowed just two other baserunners and struck out eight over 6.2 innings. In his past two starts, Crouse (2-0) has given up two runs on four hits and struck out 17 over 11.2 innings. He has yet to walk a batter this season.
Meanwhile, the Hickory lineup continued to look for answers at the plate. The Crawdads entered the game with just 18 runs scored in their past five and had posted a .196/.238/.405 slash line over that stretch. The longball keeps playing a big part for the team’s success, however, and it did so again on Wednesday.
Following Lavigne’s blast, Curtis Terry responded with a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth. The shot to left was his fourth of the season, which tied him with two others, including teammate Sam Huff, for the SAL lead.
Miguel Aparicio added a two-run homer in the fifth to increase Hickory’s lead to 5-2. The Crawdads now lead the SAL with 16 home runs, which includes 11 hit during the homestand. Of the 24 runs scored by Hickory in the six games played in the past week, 16 of them game via the longball.
Terry’s RBI double in the eighth gave the Crawdads an insurance run they wound up needing. Asheville’s Willie MacIver joined the SAL league lead with a two-run clout in the ninth, his fourth of the year. Daniel Montano and Coco Montes each followed with singles to bring the go-ahead run to the plate with two outs. However, Dylan Bice got Johnny Cresto to pop out to short to end the game.
Lackey (0-2) took the loss for the Tourists.
The Crawdads hit the road for three games at Columbia (S.C.) beginning on Thursday. After an off day for Easter, they’ll return Monday to start a weeklong homestand with a game against Augusta (Ga.).
GAME NOTE: Prior to the game, the Rangers announced the promotion of their top hitting prospect. J.P. Martinez was sent from the Crawdads to High-A Down East. The 23-year-old Cuban native went 10-for-40 during his 10 games with Hickory with a double, triple and a home run to go with four steals. Catcher Isaias Quiroz was added to the Crawdads’ active roster from the Rangers’ extended spring training camp.