Nicolas Breaks Out; Nippert Comes Back

Managing Editor
Posted May 2, 2006


As the FBMLR (that's FutureBacks Minor League Report for those of you acronymically challenged out there) debuts we find Dustin Nippert bouncing back, Stephen Drew continuing to mash; Ross Ohlendorf getting the short end; Danny Richar continuing his resurgence; the JetHawks exploding and Cesar Nicolas blowing up biggest; Justin Upton continuing to come alive and Leyson Septimo enjoying hitting in front of the young superstar in training.

(13-12) Tucson 8 @ (9-15) Fresno 3

Grizzlies lead off hitter Fred Lewis led off the bottom half of the first inning with a double.  He would later score on a sacrifice fly, and the Sidewinders' Dustin Nippert thought that was just about enough.  Nippert was brilliant, throwing 58 strikes in his 89 pitches as the Sidewinders beat the Grizzlies. 

It took almost no time at all for the Sidewinders to strike back, as Scott Hairston continued his comeback after a mini-slump with a second inning single followed by cleanup hitter Chris Young's first homer of the year.  Hairston was 2-5 on the day, extending his hitting streak to a modest three games, during which he's 5-12 with two RBI and four runs scored.

Hairston wasn't the only one feasting on Grizzlies pitching last night.  Young went 3-4, and first baseman Chris Carter had three hits for the second night in a row, including a two run homer (2) in the fifth inning, but it was a pair of fourth inning, two out hits by second baseman Alberto Callaspo and shortstop Stephen Drew that put the game firmly in the control of the Sidewinders.  After loading the bases with nobody out Grizzlies starter Alfredo Simon struck out catcher Robbie Hammock and then K'd Nippert, and it looked like the Grizzlies might escape unscathed.  For Callaspo it was his second hit of the night, and Drew extended his hitting streak to 14 games, going 2-5 with a RBI.

After a horrible start the Sidewinders have now won their last four and nine of their last 10, pulling to within three games of division leading Las Vegas.

(12-12) Tennessee 2 @ (13-11) Huntsville 0 in 11 innings Game One

Ross Ohlendorf needs some love.  The Smokies right hander got the bump straight from Lo-A South Bend to Double-A Tennessee and despite an ERA of 2.61 and an average of more than six innings a start he came into the first half of Tennessee's double header against Huntsville with a record of 0-2.  Monday, unfortunately, was not the night where Ohlendorf would get his love.  Despite pitching seven scoreless innings of three hit, zero walk, five strikeout ball Ohlendorf would end up with a no decision as he was matched by the Stars Khalid Ballouli who shut down the Smokies for eight innings.

Once the game got into the bullpens it looked as if it might go on forever, as the Smokies Tony Pena came on for two scoreless innings and then Dustin Glant pitched a perfect 10th.  In the top of the 11th the Smokies finally broke through.  Augie Murillo, who had come on as part of a double-switch to play third singled, advanced to second on an error and then scored on a Miguel Montero single to center field.  Shortstop Alberto Gonzalez would score one batter later on a Danny Richar sacrifice fly, and Matt Wilkinson would come on to earn his first save of the season.

Ohlendorf deserved better, as he's now allowed just one run in his last two starts (13 innings), but for Richar and Montero it was business as usual.  Richar extended his hitting streak to eight games with his 2-4 tilt, and Miguel Montero, who entered the game in the ninth when starting catcher Phil Avlas moved to right field, picked up his team leading 21st RBI.

(12-13) Tennessee 0 @ (13-11) Huntsville 9 Game Two

In game two Clint Goocher, who has been stellar out of the bullpen this season, was lit up for five runs (four earned) in the first inning and the Smokies would never recover as Huntsville's Matt Yeatman made his first start of the season and combined with two Huntsville relievers to blank the Smokies in seven innings.  Tennessee could manage only four hits as a team, two of which came courtesy of Richar, who ran his streak to nine games with his 2-3 day.  Goocher managed a hit and Gonzalez, who had been 1-21 singled to snap that unfortunate streak.

For Goocher, it was an un-welcome back to the starting rotation.  As part of the Tennessee rotation last season Goocher had started strong, winning his first nine decisions, but he struggled during the second half and the Diamondbacks elected to move Goocher to the pen, where he was 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA coming in, but he looked uncomfortable and had trouble with his command, walking four in just three innings.

(13-11) Rancho Cucamonga 6 @ (8-17) Lancaster 10

The Lancaster JetHawks have played in the California League playoffs in each of the last three seasons, and so when they got off to a 7-17 start more than a few wondered what exactly was going on.  After all they have the #1 prospect in the Diamondbacks system, Carlos Gonzalez, a host of good pitchers like Monday's starter Matt Green, and what appeared to be a great combination of power and speed with second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and first baseman Cesar Nicolas

One reason the squad may be struggling is that Nicolas has gotten off to a horrible start.  Coming into the four game set again Rancho Cucamonga Nicolas was hitting just .171 with one homer and a pitiful three RBI.  Thankfully for Nicolas, RC came to town, and after Monday's capper it appears that perhaps the slump is over.  Nicolas started the scoring in the seven run fifth inning with a two run shot and finished the scoring as well, singling in two more runs in his second trip to the plate that inning.  Those would be his only two hits of the day, but since they drove in four runs, and his 2-4 Monday finished him at 5-15 with a double, homer, three runs scored and four RBI for the series.

The JetHawks would commit errors in the game, but turn three double plays as well, and the explosive fifth inning was more than enough to hold off the Quakes.  Chris Rahl committed his third error of the season, but also went 2-5 with three RBI and has now hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games.  In 23 games this season Rahl has had at least two hits 13 times.  Emilio Bonifacio had his second straight three hit game and though he melted down, walking five in just 1.2 innings, Chris Kinsey picked up the win in relief. 

The pitching was a mishmash of good and bad things.  Starter Matt Green went four innings, but that is still his longest outing of the season.  Kinsey looked solid, but then fell apart.  Matt Fowles came on for 2.2 innings of work and then Matt Elliott came on to earn his sixth save of the season.  Only half of the six runs the Quakes managed were earned, but Manager Brett Butler, who had missed the previous week with a viral infection, was treated to a win anyway.

(9-16) South Bend 0 @ (13-12) Cedar Rapids 6

For only the second time all season South Bend shortstop and lead off hitter Pedro Ciriaco was kept off the bases all night.  For a team already struggling it wasn't a good sign, and not surprisingly the Silverhawks slipped to 9-16 on the season after being blanked by two Cedar Rapids hurlers.  Starter Ryan Schreppel was coming off his best start of the season, but a pair of errors led to two unearned runs, and a fifth inning helped account for the other three Schreppel would allow in his five innings of work.

The real problem though was Kernels starter Robert Mosebach, who blanked the Silverhawks for eight innings, scattering seven hits.  Left fielder Leyson Septimo continued his recent hot streak, going 2-2 off Mosebach before a ninth inning walk against Cedar Rapids reliever Tim Mattison.  Monday's tallies brought his three game stretch to 7-11 with two runs scored. 

Unfortunately of the five remaining hits three belonged to third baseman Trey Hendricks which didn't leave a whole lot of hits to go around.  Justin Upton was 1-4 on the day but left four on base and right fielder Greg Thomson collected the final base knock for the Silverhawks, going 1-3 on the day.

Even those that had been perfect were not on this night, as reliever Forrest Cory allowed three hits and his first earned run of the season in two innings of work.  Jonaton Valverde allowed one hit and struck out two in his lone inning of work.



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