While it should be (quickly) pointed out that 137 games remain in the 2013 Texas League season, it's hard to imagine a more impressive Double-A managerial debut than that of the RockHounds' Aaron Nieckula (nih-KOO-luh).
The RockHounds defeated the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, 5-1, Saturday night, completing a sweep of the three-game, season-opening series. The combined score of the set showed the 'Hounds outscoring Northwest Arkansas, 26-4.
Saturday's game feature some key swings of the bat … outstanding pitching (again) … and solid defense. The latter, in fact, may have been the key to the win, as the RockHounds played errorless ball while the Naturals committed three errors, two of them critical.
After Miles Head put the 'Hounds on top with a solo home run (a laser line drive on an 0-2 pitch) in the second, a two-out Naturals error opened the door in the fourth. Dusty Coleman, after falling behind 0-2, ripped a two-run double into the right field corner, scoring two runs and building the lead to 3-0. It was the only multi-RBI swing of the game.
Another miscue set the table in the sixth, when Jeremy Barfield reached on Orlando Calixte's throwing error to lead off the inning. Back-to-back one-out singles by Coleman and Jefry Marte loaded the bases and Tyler Ladendorf's sacrifice fly brought Barfield home.
Josh Bowman went 5.0 strong innings for his first Double-A win and helped his own cause defensively. After allowing a lead-off double (again on an 0-2 pitch) in the fifth, Bowman snared Whit Merrifield's line shot back up the middle, turning it into a 1-6 double play. Bowman's battery mate, Ryan Lipkin, came up big in the third inning. After a leadoff single, by Juan Graterol, Angel Franco attempted a sacrifice bunt (with the 'Hounds leading at the time, 1-0). Lipkin threw a "fastball" to second, getting Graterol and denying the sac attempt. On the next pitch, Franco attempted to steal second, and Lipkin threw him out with another terrific "strike."
Kibbles & Bits
- Dusty Coleman went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBI and a walk. Through three games, Coleman (who hit .201 with 182 strikeouts in 2012) is 5-for-10 with four walks and no whiffs.
- In the sweep, the RockHounds collected 29 hits, with 22 contributing directly to runs being scored.
- Anthony Aliotti's streak of reaching base came to an end at 10 plate appearances, but the 'Hounds first baseman is 6-for-10 with four walks.
- RockHounds pitchers struck out five with no walks Saturday, and allowed just three earned runs in the series … a 1.00 ERA.
- Reliever Sergio Perez has been placed on the disabled list after suffering a groin injury Friday night.
- Former UT-Arlington pitcher Nate Long has joined the RockHounds to fill Perez' roster spot. Nate had been assigned to the (AAA) Sacramento RiverCats to open the season but had not made an appearance for the 'Cats.
- It's a tough business: Former RockHound (2012) Dan Straily struck out 11 Houston batters Friday night and was the winning pitcher in Oakland's 8-3 victory over the Astros. Dan's reward? A ticket back to Sacramento. The right-hander, who led all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts last season (he opened the year with the 'Hounds), figures to see a lot of "shuttle time" between the Sacramento and Oakland.
- The 'Hounds now travel to North Little Rock for a three-game set with the Arkansas Travelers (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday).
Line Score R H E LOB
RockHounds 5 7 0 6
NW Arkansas Naturals 1 6 3 3
WP Josh Bowman (1-0, 1.80)
LP Sugar Marimon (0-1, 3.18)
HR RockHounds: Miles Head (1) Solo in the 2nd (off Sugar Marimon)
NW Arkansas: Brian Fletcher (1) Solo in the 4th (off Josh Bowman)
Sunday, April 7 4:10 p.m. Radio at 4:00 p.m.
RockHounds at Arkansas Travelers
Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas
RockHounds Home Opener
Thursday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m.
vs. NW Arkansas Naturals (KC Royals Double-A Affiliate)
Sunday's Probable Starters
RockHounds (LH) Carlos Hernandez
Arkansas (RH) Lay Batista