Friday night’s matchup between the visiting Bucs and their host, the Mat-Su Miners, was a game of firsts and lasts for the home team. A first ABL regular-season game for the club, and the last home game before embarking on a road trip against then surging Oilers. But the Anchorage Bucs, who had been pretty tough to beat up until that point, were not about to let the Miners have the upper hand in what was a key early-season game for them. The season in Alaska is short and the Bucs were hoping to throw another win on their pile in the race toward the title.
The Miners got out to an early lead, putting two on the board while pitcher Ross Mitchell seemed to be cruising. But Mitchell ran into trouble in the 4th and before the inning was over the Bucs had put up a six-spot to take the lead, once and for all. It became a game of musical-pitching-mound at that point, with each team running out a succession of hurlers — there would be 11 overall. The Miners rallied back, including a ninth-inning last-ditch effort, but Austen Williams came on for the Bucs and nailed it down to pick up the save and deny the Miners entry into the win column.
For the full game story and stats, check out the box score from the AlaskaBaseballLeague.org Pointstreak site.
As for my scouting notes, I managed to get a solid look at a few players and jot down a couple more quick thoughts on several others. As always, these are just my observations on a particular day; over the course of the season clearer trends will hopefully develop, but we are not at that point yet. I’m going to break them down by team this time. The Miners will come later, let’s start with the Bucs.
Jacob Rhame looked good overall on the mound. On 4 innings pitched he did surrender 6 hits, but he reacted well when challenged and held the Miners to just two runs, striking out four. He mixed his pitches effectively and stuck to his guns to get out of jams. He ran his pitch count pretty high for just four innings — 70 pitches — but he threw 53 of them for strikes. Sometimes it’s better to see a guy when he’s challenged rather than to just watch him cruise. Rhame passed the test.
It was good to see Andrew Ferreira again, from a different angle. From the 90-degree profile view it was obvious just how filthy his breaking ball is. It is certainly an effective pitch, and he had batters waving right over the top of it. The downside is that, tonight at least, he had trouble locating it. He issued a pair of walks with pitches that dove into the dirt. Another time he got the strikeout but the ball skipped past Rust and allowed a run to score. On another night when he could control the bender better he would have been extremely effective. If he can put the reigns on that thing and turn it into a command pitch he’ll go places. Pitch selection aside, Ferreira looks like the kind of guy who goes right after batters and doesn’t get rattled. Despite allowing the runners on base, he kept a lid on it and racked up four strikeouts in the process.
Overall, Ryan Leonards looked good at the plate. He brought good patience against pitchers who weren’t hitting their spots, drawing two walks, including one where he won a protracted full-count battle. It’s worth mentioning, however, that he did fan on a Jimmy Reed breaking pitch. Ability to hit the curve is what will decide who has a future, and Leonards will want to become a part of the can-do camp, but then again, everyone gets fooled once in a while. In the field he looked good as well, making solid throws from across the diamond.
Here’s a bunch of rapid-fire notes on other Bucs players. Chase Compton: good stolen base. Tanner Rust: same deal as last time, strong arm, needs to hit the target; looked tough playing with a busted chin. Brenden Kalfus came through in the clutch twice with a sac fly and an RBI single.
Kind of an aside, but I also talked to some of the Bucs folks at the game. I was told that the team intends to use Braden Shipley as their closing pitcher this season, and that Zach Esquerra — who’s been sitting with a minor hamstring issue — should return to action soon.
On the Miners side of the game…
Nick Laroy is a pitcher I wrote a little bit about on my Miners roster preview. His breaking ball is definitely as good as advertised, and he has no problem locating it. Excellent movement and command. It is his strikeout pitch, without a doubt, and he was very effective with it at first. Once he had been in the game a while he started to get hit a bit; it might be nice for him to acquire another pitch to mix it up because batters who can hit a breaking ball have to know it’s coming with two strikes. But that did not deter Laroy, who was confident enough in his strengths to go after batters, and it worked well for him overall.
P.J. Torres looked pretty good behind the plate tonight. As far as I can tell he kept everything in front of him; he also showed great pop to second base, right on a line, and straight to the baseman. Chase Compton managed to get in under his throw when swiping second, but I don’t know that Torres could have made a much better throw (Compton was immediately called out for stepping/being pushed/whatever off the bag anyway, which I didn’t see happen). And while we’re talking about him, I’ll give him an atta-boy for using the opposite field to drive a double down the right field line.
I have a few thoughts on Ian Miller. He had a good piece of two-out hitting when he showed line-drive power by banging one off the wall on the pull side for a double. He covered quite a bit of ground in the outfield. Good baserunning allowed him to steal a base without a throw and capitalize on a passed ball and score a run. He hinted at plus speed but I want to get a watch on him and see what kind of jump he gets on the field and basepaths before I draw a conclusion. Definitely enough upside there to make me want to see him again. On the negative, though, he fanned on three straight pitches against Ferreira; maybe he could use a little work on his pitch selection or hitting the curve.
Here’s my quick leftover notes for the Miners players. I thought Erik Harbutz looked pretty solid at shortstop. His footwork looked good in the field and helped him turn two with bagmate Nash Knight. Tanner Anderson appeared pretty decent; too bad he only three 5 pitches (4 strikes). Jimmy Reed did well locating his curve for strikes. Chris Taladay hung in there with two strikes to win one at-bat, and stretched a big drive deep to the gap into a triple in another.
With that out of the way, it’s photo time! Below are some favorites that I’ve picked out, but don’t forget, I post all of my good photos on my Picasa web albums. Click here to see the entire gallery of 119 photos, most of them tagged with player names. But the photos below are some of the cooler ones from the bunch.