1/14 Baseball Practice Notes

The first set of preseason intrasquad games concluded Sunday afternoon at Sunken Diamond. Two-way players Austin Yount and Sean Ratliff both impressed and each appear primed to make contributions as both hitters and pitchers this season. Read on for more details plus other notes from Sunday's practice.

The first set of preseason intrasquad games concluded on Sunday afternoon with a well-pitched affair.  Five pitchers saw time on the hill during the 5 1/2 inning contest with the final score registering 1-1.  Randy Molina led the six-hit offensive attack for the White Team with a perfect 3-for-3 performance at the plate.  One of those hits, a first-inning single, drove home a run.  Meanwhile, on the Cardinal squad, sophomore infielder Cord Phelps brought home the only run with a fourth-inning, two-out single to left. 

It was a well-played game with the two clubs combining for just one error in the field.  The group of pitchers who threw also combined on a paltry total of two walks.

The top hurler of the afternoon was sophomore Austin Yount as the two-way player surrendered just one hit in three scoreless innings.  Meanwhile, junior David Stringer impressed with a game-high four strikeouts in his three innings while Sean Ratliff returned to the mound for a brief one-inning stint after missing Fall Ball with an injury.


BOXSCORE

White      1 0 0  0 0 0   -   1   6   1
Cardinal   0 0 0  1 0 X   -   1   3   0

White             POS   AB   R   H  RBI    BB  SO
Joey August        OF    3   1   1   0      0   1
Sean Ratliff      OF/P   2   0   2   0      0   0
 Austin Yount     P/DH   2   0   0   0      0   0
Brent Milleville    C    3   0   0   0      0   1
Randy Molina       1B    3   0   3   1      0   0
Brendan Domaracki  OF    2   0   0   0      0   1
Adam Gaylord       SS    2   0   0   0      0   0
Stephen Brown      3B    1   0   0   0      0   1
Jeff Whitlow       OF    2   0   0   0      0   2
Matt Cano          DH    2   0   0   0      0   0

E: Gaylord
HBP: Domaracki, Brown

                    IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Austin Yount       3.0   1   0   0   1   1
Brandt Walker      2.0   2   1   1   1   3



Cardinal          POS   AB   R   H  RBI    BB  SO
Adam Sorgi         DH    2   0   0   0      1   1
Toby Gerhart     LF/RF   3   0   0   0      0   1
Michael Taylor     CF    2   0   1   0      0   0
Grant Escue        1B    2   0   0   0      0   1
Brian Juhl          C    2   1   0   0      1   1
J.J. Jelmini       SS    2   0   0   0      0   0
Cord Phelps        2B    2   0   1   1      0   0
Wande Olabisi    RF/LF   2   0   0   0      0   0
Stephen Swinford   DH    2   0   1   0      0   0

                    IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
David Stringer     3.0   4   1   1   0   4
Max Fearnow        2.0   1   0   0   0   2
Sean Ratliff       1.0   1   0   0   0   0



NOTES
* The top two pitching groups (the group that threw Sunday and last Friday) have both looked sharp in their preseason debuts.  Look no further than the walk totals as the quartet from Friday (Nolan Gallagher, Jeff Inman, Jeremy Bleich, and Erik Davis) combined for just one walk in 11 innings.  Meanwhile, Sunday's pitchers issued just two free passes in 11 total innings.  On both days, the hitters started their at-bats with the standard 0-0 counts.

* Yount continues to show that he's going to be a key part of the bullpen this year.  Last season, the then-freshman compiled a staff-best 2.84 ERA in 16 relief appearances.  He was impressive in the Fall and then again last weekend in his preseason debut.  It was vintage Austin Yount - good location with three pitches, not afraid to throw anything at anytime, not particularly overpowering with the fastball, and a devastating change-up.  Coach Marquess told The Bootleg last month that Yount is the likely starter at second base thanks to a huge Fall season at the plate, so how the coach is able to balance that increased playing time as a position player with expected regular work out of the bullpen will be interesting to watch.

* Speaking of two-way players, it was good to see Ratliff back on the mound after missing all of official Fall workouts as a pitcher (injury).  The sophomore began throwing off the mound just as Fall Ball came to a close and Sunday's performance was his first intrasquad action of the school year.  Ratliff was on an extremely strict pitch count during Sunday's contest as he works himself back into pitching shape.  He allowed a one-out single to Molina, but managed to pitch around it to put up a zero on the scoreboard.  Ratliff led all Cardinal pitchers last season in strikeouts per innings pitched (30 SO in 28 IP) and if Bleich becomes a full-time starting pitcher this year, Ratliff will become the top lefty out of the bullpen.  His continued good health will be key for this pitching staff.

* Meanwhile, Ratliff also continues to show tremendous improvement as a hitter.  A High School All-American two years ago because of his hitting (in addition to work on the mound), Ratliff struggled mightily in limited early playing time last season: 0-for-14, one walk, ten strikeouts.  Last summer, Ratliff participated only as a pitcher in the Cape Cod League, but he's looked like a completely different player with the bat in his hands back on the Farm.  Ratliff hit for both average and power during Fall Ball and has picked up right where he left off at the start of preseason workouts.  On Sunday, Ratliff singled twice in his two at-bats - both times using a very solid opposite field approach.  He's now recorded four hits at the plate in the first three preseason games (behind only Molina and Michael Taylor, who both have five hits, for the team-lead).

* While Ratliff features excellent pure stuff and thus high strikeout totals shouldn't be a surprise when he's on the mound, the #2 pitcher on last year's staff in terms of K's per inning pitched may not be who you thought.  It wasn't Greg Reynolds or Nolan Gallagher, but rather David Stringer.  The walk-on from Palo Alto enjoyed a breakout sophomore campaign after not pitching in a single game as a freshman.  The local product compiled a solid 4.34 ERA in 19 appearances (four starts) totaling 47 2/3 innings as a second-year player.  And while Stringer doesn't have a blazing fastball, he managed to fan 47 batters last season. 

Stringer pitched very well on Sunday striking out four batters in his three innings.  The junior allowed a run on three hits (all singles) in his first inning before settling down over his final two frames.  Stringer, like Yount, mixed speeds very well and flat-out knows how to pitch.  That makes his fastball seem a bit faster than it really is and led to plenty of success on Sunday.  While the starting rotation will probably come from the quartet of pitchers in the first group of hurlers, Stringer could be a nice option down the road if someone falters.

* Ryan Seawell, who suffered a hamstring injury running the bases during Saturday's game, did not play on Sunday.

* If Seawell were unable to play once the regular season begins next month, look for Taylor to start in center field. 

* Of note, Toby Gerhart moved all the way up to the #2 spot in the batting order for his team on Sunday.  Certainly a reflection of how highly the coaching staff thinks of the two-sport star even after just two intrasquad games.  Gerhart was hitless in three at-bats Sunday, but again showed off his impressive speed when he beat out a potential double play on a routine ground ball to shortstop.

* Jason Castro was held out of Sunday's game for an unspecified reason.

* Molina's performance at the plate during the game was impressive, to say the least.  The junior, who is expected to remain as the starter at third base this season, was a perfect 3-for-3 (all singles) with his hits going to left, center, and right fields.  Molina doesn't have much home run power (despite good size), but he can hit for a high average as evident by his .308 mark last year as a sophomore.  Molina did struggle though at third base during pre-game infield workouts and that could be an issue all season.  Meanwhile, he played only first base during the game with Castro not participating.  Molina would appear to be an emergency option at that position.

* Brandt Walker had a nice outing on the mound showcasing explosive stuff across the board.  The freshman from Texas does struggle with control at times and had a problem finishing his pitches Sunday, but there's no denying his impressive velocity and hard-breaking off-speed pitch.  Walker isn't as far along as Inman right now, but his raw skills should give him a shot to appear in some games out of the bullpen this year.

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