Wappingers Falls, N.Y. – The end of the year is always a time to look back and reflect on the year that was, and we wanted to get in the spirit and celebrate the top 10 moments of 2022. The only problem is that there were too many to pick from. So instead of making a hard choice to leave deserving moments out, we made the easier choice to celebrate the top 12 moments instead.
Without any further ado, let’s start the year-end trip down memory lane.
No. 12 – T.J. Rumfield goes over the railing
Kicking off our countdown of the top 12 moments of the 2022 season is a pair of plays by first baseman T.J. Rumfield. Despite missing significant time with an injury this season, Rumfield displayed a strong bat and made some highlight reel plays defensively. Not once, but twice this season, the Texas native left the playing field to make tumbling catches – the first time in April ending up in the first row, and the second time in the summer falling into the dugout.
Rumfield was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies in November 2021 in exchange for RHP Nick Nelson and C Donny Sands. In his first year in the Yankees organization, he hit .284/.381/.411 in 52 games with the Renegades despite missing nearly three months with an injury. After the season, he starred in the Arizona Fall League, tying for the league lead with a .400 batting average.
No. 11 – Gomez makes highlight-caliber double play
Coming off of season-ending Tommy John surgery in 2021, the Renegades only saw Yoendrys Gomez in small spurts in 2022. He threw 28.0 innings across 10 starts, posting a fantastic 1.93 ERA in that time and showing off why he is still considered one of the top pitching prospects in the pitching-rich Yankees organization.
The biggest highlight of the season for “YoGo” came on July 15 in a start against the Greenville Drive. In the top of the third he hit Antoni Flores with a pitch to lead off the inning, but then Tyler McDonough lined an 0-1 pitch right back at Gomez, who snared the hot shot with cat-like reflexes. Then, from his knees on the pitcher’s mound, he threw back to first to double off Flores. The play netted him a spot in SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, and was one of the most memorable web gems made by Renegades pitchers in 2022.
No. 10 – Gades explode for 22 runs in Greensboro
After a challenging month of May, the Renegades had started to turn the corner in early June and entered a two-week road trip to North Carolina one game under .500 on the season at 28-29. The Gades won the first two games of their series with the Greensboro Grasshoppers before a power outage postponed the third game. Then on Friday, June 17, they erupted for their biggest power surge of the season, rolling to a 22-2 blowout of the Grasshoppers.
The fun got started in the first inning, when Cooper Bowman and Trey Sweeney both singled before Everson Pereira whacked a three-run home run to center. Carlos Narvaez added a two-run shot in the first as the rout was on. Anthony Seigler hit a three-run homer in the second, Pereira hit his second of the night in the sixth, Narvaez added another in the eighth, and Bowman added the last of six long balls with a ninth inning solo home run.
Pereira had a monster game, finishing 4-for-6 with four runs scored, two home runs, a double and seven RBIs as the Renegades pounded out 23 hits and walked nine times. Four players scored four runs, while five players drove in multiple runs. This game ranks second in runs scored by the Renegades and fourth in hits by the Gades in a single game since 2005.
No. 9 – Trey Sweeney homers on first pitch of the season
There is a scene in the film Major League (1988) where Bob Uecker, playing Cleveland broadcaster Harry Doyle says you can tell how a season is going to go by how the first batter does. Willie Mays Hayes then singles and is promptly picked off first base.
For the Renegades in 2022, the first batter of the season was Trey Sweeney, the Yankees first round draft pick in 2021. He dug into the left-handed batter’s box at Flour Field in Greenville, South Carolina, ready to face Drive right-hander Brian Van Belle. On the very first pitch of the season, Sweeney swung and hit a deep drive down the right field line that stayed fair for a solo home run.
That was a foreshadowing of the excitement that Sweeney brought to the Hudson Valley this year, leading the team in doubles and runs scored while smacking 14 home runs, and making great plays defensively. Following a slump at the start of the season, he hit .264/.380/.444 in his final 75 games with the Renegades, and had nearly as many walks as strikeouts in the final two months of the season.
No. 8 – Re-writing the record books
In year two of the Renegades being a full-season affiliate of the Yankees, it is not a surprise that a ton of team records fell. Three of the most notable was Everson Pereira breaking the team’s career home runs record, Matt Sauer breaking the team’s all-time strikeouts record, and Cooper Bowman setting a new record for most stolen bases.
Pereira hit his 23rd home run across two seasons with Hudson Valley in his final game as a Renegade on July 12 against Greenville. The record-breaker was a go-ahead two-run shot off Drive starter Shane Drohan, and propelled him past Dan Grummitt’s team record of 22 set in 1999. After a 35-game homerless drought in April and May, Pereira crushed eight long balls in his last 34 games with the Gades, earning his call up to Double-A.
After rolling up 51 strikeouts in 2021, Sauer added another 100 in 2022 before his promotion to Double-A to become the Gades all-time strikeout leader. On June 15 in Greensboro, Sauer surpassed 2021 Renegade Mitch Spence’s franchise record with his 119th of his career. It was the last of five strikeouts on the game for Sauer, freezing Yoyner Fajardo for a called third strike. He continued to rack up strikeouts for another few weeks before an early August promotion to Somerset. By season’s end, left-hander Edgar Barclay also passed Spence and sits second on the all-time list with 125.
As June and July heated up, it became clear that there was a two-man race between Bowman and James Nelson to break the Renegades’ all-time stolen base record. Nelson had a head start from playing for the Gades in 2021, but Bowman got off to a torrid start on the bases, stealing 12 bags in April and another eight in May. On July 15 against the Greenville Drive, Bowman stole his 34th base of the season, breaking Jake Fraley’s single season and career record of 33 set in 2016. He added one more bag to his tally before he was traded to the Oakland Athletics at the trade deadline in the Frankie Montas deal. Nelson ultimately finished his Renegades career with 32 steals, but more on him later in the countdown.
No. 7 – Hardman comes through in a pinch
Early in the first half, the Aberdeen IronBirds were the best team in the SAL North Division. In mid-May they rolled into Dutchess Stadium for the first series of the season between the teams. After falling on Tuesday, the Gades trailed 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Spencer Henson drove in Pat DeMarco to cut the deficit to 5-4, but then reliever Nick Roth struck out Eduardo Torrealba for the second out of the inning. Manager Tyson Blaser called on Tyler Hardman to pinch hit for Aaron Palensky, who was mired in a deep slump.
Hardman swung at a 1-0 fastball and drove it over the centerfield wall for a go-ahead two-run homer. The Renegades held on for a 6-5 victory – a huge highlight amid a tough month. Though Carlos Narvaez would also hit a pinch hit home run for Hudson Valley this season, Hardman’s was the first pinch hit home run for the team since records are readily available online (since 2005). That was just Hardman’s second home run of the season, and he would ultimately finish with a team-leading 22.
No. 6 – Sikkema dominates in final two appearances
Having pitched in only four games since he was drafted in 2019, left-hander T.J. Sikkema was finally healthy heading into 2022 and many were hopeful after a strong showing in spring training. After a minor forearm injury saw him miss April out of an abundance of caution, he pitched well throughout May and June.
It was planned to move him to the bullpen in mid-July to manage his innings after missing two whole seasons. In his first relief outing on July 10 at Jersey Shore, Sikkema turned in one of the best individual outings by a Renegades pitcher in 2022. He threw 5.0 innings out of the bullpen, striking out 11, walking one and allowing only two hits and one unearned run (an automatic runner in the 10th). At one point he retired 12 straight batters and didn’t allow a hit until his final inning.
Pressed back into the starting rotation, six days later Sikkema took the mound at The Dutch against the Greenville Drive and struck out 10 batters in 5.1 innings of work. The southpaw set down the first 14 batters he faced before hitting Gilberto Jimenez with a pitch in the fifth. He allowed his only walk and only hit in the sixth, ultimately leading to a run before he was replaced by Carlos Gomez. Across those two games, Sikkema threw 10.1 innings, striking out 21, walking two and allowing only three singles. Sadly, these games would be his last two with the Renegades, as he was traded to Kansas City as part of the Andrew Benintendi trade and finished the year with Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
No. 5 – Running wild in Jersey Shore
In addition to Bowman’s record-setting stolen base performance, the Gades shattered every meaningful stolen base record in team history this season. They stole 230 bases as a team, by far the most in team history, and on Wednesday, July 6, they set three new marks in one game.
It started in the first inning when Trey Sweeney was hit by a pitch to lead off the game and then stole second base. Following a Bowman walk, the pair executed a double steal and the Gades were off and running. In the fourth inning, Anthony Seigler stole second, third and home in the same inning, with the final swipe coming on a double steal with James Nelson.
In the seventh, Carlos Narvaez stole third base for the Renegades’ 150th stolen base of the season, setting the new single season team record. Aaron Palensky, Everson Pereira and Seigler also stole bases in the frame, giving the Gades 11 steals in 11 attempts on the game. Seigler’s four steals were the most in a single game by a Renegade since 2005.
The 11 steals were the most in a single game in team history, and the most by a South Atlantic League team since the Rome Braves stole 10 bases against the Charleston RiverDogs on July 1, 2013. No SAL team has stolen 11 bases since at least 2004, and only three full-season teams across all of Minor League Baseball have matched that number since the start of the 2005 season.
No. 4 – Dominguez switch-hits home runs in Wilmington
In what turned out to be the final game of the season for the Renegades, uber-prospect Jasson Dominguez went out with a bang, putting together an amazing game. He went 4-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBIs, and clobbered two home runs. In the third inning with two outs and the bases empty, the switch-hitting Dominguez hit a line drive home run off Wilmington left-hander Dustin Saenz to give the Gades their first run of the game. Later on in the seventh, he connected for a towering solo home run off righty Orlando Ribalta for his second long ball. In doing so, he accomplished the rare feat of hitting home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game.
No. 3 – Nelson hangs on for the catch
In his first five professional seasons, James Nelson had never played a single inning in the outfield. Early in 2022, the Yankees began playing him in left field to introduce some more versatility into his game. On May 15 against Aberdeen, Nelson was playing in just his seventh career game in the outfield when he made one of the best defensive plays of the season in the South Atlantic League. In the top of the second, Billy Cook hit a foul fly ball down the left field line that Nelson raced after.
His left foot stepped on the incline of the bullpen mound in foul territory, then his right foot came down higher and he tripped. As he was falling to the ground, the ball settled in his glove just before he finished his full faceplant on the hard clay surface. He immediately popped up, showed the ball to base umpire J.T. Shaw and flipped it to shortstop Trey Sweeney to relay in to the infield. For a player with minimal experience in the outfield, it was a truly tremendous play.
Sadly, Nelson was released by the Yankees in August, a victim of a numbers crunch. He signed shortly thereafter with the Lexington Legends of the independent Atlantic League and hit .400/.476/.855 with six home runs in 17 games to close out his season.
No. 2 – Fitts flirts with perfection
Though he only appeared in five games with the Renegades, Richard Fitts put together the best single-game pitching performance of the season for the team on August 27 against Hickory. Already a special night as the Renegades were celebrating Veterans Night, Fitts turned it into a game that was extra memorable. As the Gades beat up on Hickory pitching, the right hander from Auburn University mowed the Crawdads down. He took a perfect game into the eighth inning, when Angel Aponte broke it up with a clean single to center field. Keyber Rodriguez followed with an RBI double to break up the shutout, but Fitts finished off the eighth without any further baserunners.
He was the second Renegades pitcher in 2022 to complete 8.0 innings in a start, joining Matt Sauer from an outing in Brooklyn. His final line – two hits, one run, no walks, and seven strikeouts – earned him a nod as South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week. A 6th round pick of the Yankees in 2021, Fitts went 4-0 with a 0.55 ERA, striking out 38 and walking only three in 33.0 innings with the Gades down the stretch.
No. 1 – The Martian lands
Ever since the Yankees signed him at age 16 in 2019, the anticipation to watch Jasson Dominguez play has been palpable in New York. This year, Dominguez began the season with Single-A Tampa before a much-ballyhooed promotion to Hudson Valley after the All-Star Break. When The Martian finally touched down with the Renegades, the team was in Wilmington to start the second half. On Friday, July 22, Dominguez led off and played centerfield for the Gades.
After he struck out and popped out in his first two plate appearances, he singled on a grounder to left field for his first High-A hit. He walked and scored in the eighth, touching off a three-run rally to cut the Blue Rocks lead from 5-1 to 5-4 heading into the ninth. With two outs and no one on base in the top of the ninth, Dominguez faced flame-throwing lefty Jose Ferrer. He hit a rocket home run to right-center off Ferrer to tie the game at 5-5. Although the Renegades ultimately lost 6-5 in extra innings, Dominguez made a huge mark in his first game, foreshadowing a special run for the 19-year-old over the season’s final weeks.
We can't wait to see what magical moments will take place in 2023!