It was Military Appreciation night at Hermon Brothers field, with the home team Miners donning their camo jerseys for a game against the Glacier Pilots of Anchorage. But few fans appreciated the weather, with temperatures dipping into the 40s and wind gusting hard from right to left on a dreary day. The few who managed to hang tough until the end of the 3 and 1/2 hour battle eventually witnessed the fall of the Miners to the Pilots by a score of 9-4.
Through the first six innings, the lead changed hands several times until it settled into a 3-3 stalemate. Christian Belleque had a fairly decent outing, going 5 innings deep and surrendering three runs; the Miners pushed two across on him in the 3rd when Branden Berry drove in Erik Harbutz and Chris Taladay. Belleque was relieved by Drew Van Orden who pitched a scoreless sixth.
Miners’ starter Jake Long also surrendered three runs — one when Axel Johnson drove in Kevin Cornelius, and two on an E1 — and lasted only three innings, but Jimmy Reed came on to stabilize the situation. Andrew McGee would pitch an effective 6th inning for the Miners but came back out to handle the 7th, and that’s where things started to unravel. The Pilots put a two-spot on the board that inning courtesy of a Kevin Swick homer, tagged Aaron Luchterland for another in the 8th, and extended their score to blowout proportions in the 9th by knocking in three against Nick LaRoy. Meanwhile, the Pilots effectively suppressed the Miners’ offense; Trevor Bayless, Matt Daugherty and Travis Pitcher combined for one run on three hits over three innings of relief.
Tyler Spoon had four hits on the evening; Axel Johnson, Jordan Luplow and Kevin Swick all had two a piece. Swick also drove in 4 RBIs. For the Miners, Erik Harbutz had three hits while Nash Knight, PJ Torres and Will Jamison each had a pair.
The Pilots used a host of pitchers who had varying degrees of success; I made a few notes on most of them. The starter, Christian Belleque, showed good poise on the mound. He had a so-so outing but it could have been worse if he hadn’t knuckled down and worked out of some jams. Drew Van Orden featured an interesting hard pitch with late downward break. He threw a lot of balls but he wasn’t wild; it looked to me like he just wasn’t getting the calls. Trevor Bayless threw a solid inning. He looked like he was augmenting his fastball with a curve and a harder breaking pitch, possibly a slider. He demonstrated ability to throw his curve for a strikeout pitch. Travis Pitcher also went to his bender for the strikeout pitch and sat down three batters on strikes to close it out.
I’m starting to form a picture of Kevin Swick and I’m liking what I’ve seen so far. I’ve noted in my previous game reports that he looks like he does good work around the bag and has a plus arm, perhaps plus speed (still haven’t got a watch on him). In this game he did well with the bat and showed good hustle overall. He laid down a bunt, ostensibly to sacrifice the runs over, but dug hard and was rewarded when a rushed, poor throw allowed him to reach third, plating two runs in the process. Later he sent a homer out to right field, the opposite field, which is impressive to me. He looked like he didn’t even know it was gone, running hard until he got around second. I much prefer to see that type of play than a guy who wheels out his whole self-cheerleading routine for a “home run” that ends up banging off the wall. On the down side, his mastery of the strike zone looks like it could use some improvement and it may be too soon to draw any concrete conclusions. But if someone asked me to make a judgment today I would say he’s on the plus side of average in four of the five tools and leaves it all out on the field.
I haven’t had any notes on Tyler Spoon up to this point but I observed him a little more closely this game. From what I can see he looks like a line-drive spray hitter. He drove one into the right-field gap and another to the right-field wall, which is the opposite field for the right-handed batter. He does have a pair of homers to his credit this season so maybe he’s got some pop as well. Spoon looked aggressive at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field in this game. He showed a tendency to go after the first pitch in this game; he’s a free-swinger that doesn’t walk a lot. He swiped third third on Torres which is bold and impressive, and he made an unsuccessful diving attempt in center. In one sentence, he looks (so far) like a contact hitter who uses all fields, swings freely, will hit a few out, and will go hard for the big play.
Jeff Kremer was right on the money with his throws all night long. The Miners look like they have a pretty fast team and they tested his arm numerous times, but out of six attempts their runners were gunned down on four of them. Kremer accomplished this feat on a 2.0s throwdown with pretty good accuracy on every throw I witnessed. He added a solid leadoff hit in the 7th.
Good effort by Jordan Luplow to lay out for the catch in the second, and way to work a full-count walk in the first. Ditto that last part for Micah Green, who also reached base by legging out an “accidental bunt”. Not the most orthodox way to do it but I gotta give him credit for the effort that turned a mistake into a good thing.
Like the Pilots, the Miners went through several pitchers. Jake Long got the start and it took him 80 pitches to get through three innings. He was plagued by an inability to find the strike zone; only 45 pitches came for strikes. When he did find the plate, however, he was effective. Working with a pitch mix that looked like fastball, curveball & change-up, he kept batters guessing well enough to get five strikeouts on the relatively short outing. I witnessed another inning plus change of work by Nick LaRoy; my report on him is consistent with my last one. Effective curveball for a go-to pitch with good command. His fastball got away from him and he had trouble finding the zone with it. He also looked like he was dealing a change-up. Aaron Luchterland made a brief appearance. The Aussie out of Queensland delivered a big, slow curve out of a 3/4 arm slot. Andrew McGee looked Madduxesque in his approach (that’s not a projection of his career) in that he used a good change to augment his fastball. A good mix of speeds kept batters off balance. He gave up the Swick homer but seemed unphased. He knuckled down and finished the inning without further damage. Jimmy Reed was effective throwing out of a 3/4 slot; he threw 33 pitches, 22 of which were strikes.
Bobby Boyd showed patience at the plate to draw a full-count walk. He didn’t try to do too much in the 9th inning as the Miners tried to rally back. He looked good on the paths; earlier he ran 4.13s to first, and he made a good heads-up play in the 9th to take second on a passed ball.
PJ Torres‘ arm was tested, and like his counterpart, he was largely successful in gunning down would-be base-stealers. Good pop time and a consistently accurate throw down resulted in the elimination of three out of the four Pilots who tried to run on his arm on the evening. He had a great defensive game overall. Nothing got by him at the plate. He made a solid snag of a foul tip for the third strike and, later, hustled hard to get under a popped-up bunt in foul territory to make the out. Belleque fooled him with a curveball strikeout but he still collected two hits on the evening, driving one to the center field wall for a stand-up double in the 8th. So far this season he appears to be a solid defensive catcher who can use the whole field to pick up hits.
Bill Cullen sure can run. He looked as fast as ever; maybe one of the fastest in the league. In center field he looked like apprehensive at times. He played a Natov hit on a hop that let a run score. Another fielder might have gone for it. On another play he looked like he broke the wrong way on a fly ball, or had a bad read because of the wind possibly, but he made up for it with a nice sliding catch, showing good effort there.
Will Jamison proved to be a tough out, twice coming through for his team with two outs. Branden Berry showed good physical play when he collided with Kremer at the play; the fans think he jarred the ball loose but the umpire disagreed. Nash Knight worked the count to make Belleque throw him a pitch to hit. He drove it up the middle for a leadoff single in the 5th. He also showed good hustle to run down a foul.
I managed to snap 113 fairly decent photos of the game, despite it being so dreary. Below I’ve posted a few of my favorites, but go ahead and check out the full gallery of 113 Glacier Pilots and Miners photos here. OK, here’s my picks: