1/27 Baseball Practice Notes

Saturday marked the final tune-up for the top pitching group before next weekend's season-opener. On a soggy afternoon at Sunken Diamond, two hurlers continued to shine while two others saw their struggles continue. Meanwhile, one club during the intrasquad pounded out 19 hits with multiple players excelling at the plate.

It was an offensive explosion Saturday afternoon at Sunken Diamond as every player on the Cardinal Team picked up at least one hit en route to a convincing 14-3 victory over the White squad.  Grant Escue led the 19-hit offensive attack with a 4-for-5 performance at the plate that included a home run.  Michael Taylor also homered while he and J.J. Jelmini picked up three hits apiece.

The Cardinal Team jumped all over Nolan Gallagher for four runs on eight hits in the third inning to take an early lead.  Sean Ratliff remained red-hot as he started the scoring with a ringing RBI triple off the fence in center field.  Then with two down, Taylor singled through the middle to score a run before Escue smacked a fly ball down the right field line that cleared the fence for a two-run shot.

The Cardinal squad put the game out of reach in the fifth inning scoring eight runs against a struggling Erik Davis.  The first seven batters of the frame reached base safely with all seven coming across to score.  Joey August started the onslaught with a triple to right before Taylor stepped to the plate and belted a home run to deep left field.  Escue restarted the rally with a single and immediately scored on Cord Phelps' double down the left field line.  After a walk to Jelmini, Ryan Seawell, playing in his first game in two weeks, lined a single into left center field for another run.  When the dust had settled, the Cardinal Team had scored eight runs on seven hits for a commanding 12-0 lead.

The White Team mustered six hits on the afternoon with Brendan Domaracki's 2-for-4 effort leading the way.  All three of their runs came in the ninth inning with two scoring on an error-filled play.

While Gallagher and Davis struggled pitching for the White team, the same could not be said on the Cardinal side with Jeremy Bleich and Jeff Inman.  Bleich started the contest and fired five scoreless innings before Inman worked four quality frames yielding just two hits and one earned run.


BOXSCORE

Cardinal   0 0 4  0 8 0  2 0 0   -  14  19   4
White      0 0 0  0 0 0  0 0 3   -   3   6   2

Cardinal         POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO   AVG
Sean Ratliff      CF   5   2   2   2    1   1  .444
Joey August       LF   5   1   1   0    0   0  .175
Michael Taylor    RF   5   2   3   3    0   0  .371
Grant Escue       1B   5   2   4   2    0   0  .297
Cord Phelps     3B/SS  5   1   2   1    0   1  .263
J.J. Jelmini    SS/2B  5   2   3   2    1   0  .278
Ryan Seawell      DH   5   1   1   1    0   1  .364
Matt Cano         DH   5   2   2   1    0   1  .200
Steven Swinford   DH   2   1   1   1    1   0  .438

E: August, Phelps, Moon, Inman
2B: Phelps, Jelmini
3B: Ratliff, August
HR: Taylor (2nd, 5th inning, 1 on, 0 out), Escue (1st, 3rd inning, 1 on, 2 out)
SB: Jelmini 2, Cano
CS: Ratliff

                   IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Jeremy Bleich     5.0   4   0   0   3   4
Jeff Inman        4.0   2   3   1   3   3



White             POS  AB   R   H  RBI  BB  SO   AVG
Toby Gerhart       CF   4   0   1   0    1   0  .342
Austin Yount       2B   4   0   0   0    1   0  .429
Adam Sorgi         DH   3   0   1   0    2   0  .265
Brian Juhl          C   4   1   1   0    1   1  .297
Brendan Domaracki RF/LF 4   1   2   0    0   0  .258
Adam Gaylord       SS   4   1   0   0    0   1  .351
Randy Molina       1B   4   0   1   1    1   1  .314
Stephen Brown      3B   4   0   0   0    0   3  .129
Jeff Whitlow      LF/RF 3   0   0   0    0   1  .167

E: Gaylord, Gallagher
3B: Juhl

                   IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO
Nolan Gallagher   4.0   8   4   4   1   2
Erik Davis        3.0  10  10   9   2   0
Cory Bannister    2.0   1   0   0   0   2



NOTES
* First, news on the injured players.  It was a welcome sight to see Ryan Seawell back on the practice field this afternoon.  Seawell has had a number of leg problems dating back to the summer including a hamstring injury sustained two Saturday's ago during an intrasquad.  After taking batting practice the last few days, Seawell saw his first game action in two weeks and produced one hard-hit single in five at-bats.  The senior did not play in the field and was not running at 100% on the bases as he was lifted for a pinch-runner when he singled.  Still, it would now appear that Seawell has a chance to play next weekend during the opening series at Fullerton.

More positive news as well for Brent Milleville.  The slugging sophomore tweaked his back during an intrasquad game last Tuesday and then sat out the contest on Wednesday.  During today's game, Milleville caught for the Cardinal Team during the entire contest with no obvious problems.  Apparently, swinging a bat is more of a problem for Milleville and thus he didn't hit during the game, but his activity defensively plus seeing him jog around before the game should result in his full participation shortly.  Milleville is hitting .370 (10-for-27) with a home run this preseason.

Now for the bad news.  After seeing a doctor early in the week, Jason Castro showed up at practice on Wednesday with a cast on his right, throwing hand.  This is an obvious sign that the emerging star will miss some time early this season.

With Castro not in action, Randy Molina and Grant Escue are splitting time at first base during drills and intrasquads.  However, assuming good health, the most likely scenario next weekend is Milleville getting the call at first base.  A natural catcher, Milleville has made improvements defensively at both that position and first base.  His bat is too good to keep out of the lineup and with junior Brian Juhl deserving of the bulk of the playing time at catcher, it was expected that Milleville would garner most of his time at DH.  Now that Castro is out, Milleville probably slides over to first.  However, he first needs to start swinging a bat during practice games and that will be something to watch in the coming days.

* As was the case during Fall Ball, Jeremy Bleich and Jeff Inman were the most consistent pitchers on the club this preseason.  In their final tune-up before next weekend, the duo combined on a six-hitter for the Cardinal Team.  Bleich had another stellar outing firing five scoreless frames while surrendering four hits with three walks and four K's.  There was very little solid contact against Bleich as only two runners reached scoring position during his stint on the mound.  Meanwhile, Inman allowed just two hits over the final four innings of the contest.  The freshman right-hander cruised through his first three innings before the White club struck for three runs in the ninth.  Because of two errors, only one run was earned as Inman finished his afternoon with three walks and three strikeouts.  Final preseason numbers (four appearances):

Jeremy Bleich - 1.80 ERA, 15.0 IP, 13 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 18 SO
Jeff Inman - 3.29 ERA, 13.2 IP, 12 H, 5 ER, 6 BB, 13 SO

Bleich is a lock to begin the season in the starting rotation while the only thing holding back Inman is a lack of experience.  If he doesn't start next weekend, Inman will certainly see significant action out of the bullpen.  The future is bright the next two years with these two hurlers expected to lead the way on the mound.

* While the two younger top pitchers continue to shine, the concerns mount for the two upperclassman expected to lead the way.  Nolan Gallagher, who has a chance to step into the role of Friday starter, has been very up-and-down this preseason.  Saturday was a prime example as the junior fired three scoreless innings but allowed four runs on some big hits in the other frame.  All total, it was eight hits allowed for Gallagher in his four innings.  The Montana native has a great curve ball, but the velocity on his fastball hasn't been the quite the same - especially when compared with his freshman year.  Thus, Gallagher is starting to become more of a finesse pitcher on the mound.  The big curve though is the chief reason why Gallagher fanned 13 in his 12 2/3 preseason innings.  However, he also allowed 23 hits.

* While Gallagher has certainly had some strong moments this preseason, the same can not be said for classmate Erik Davis.  Davis was pounded for the third straight preseason outing Saturday yielding a whopping ten hits and ten runs in just three innings.  Seven straight hitters reached base against Davis in the fifth inning on six well-struck hits and a walk.  The numbers haven't been pretty for Davis of late and it will be interesting to see how much value Mark Marquess puts into this preseason output when deciding whether Davis begins the year in the starting rotation.

* As for the Friday starter, it figures to come down to Bleich and Gallagher with an announcement expected in a few days.  At the end of last season, Gallagher, who was starting on Saturday's, was probably the favorite.  But there's no denying what Bleich has accomplished since the end of the last college season.  Over the summer, Bleich compiled a spectacular 1.77 ERA in 56 innings while pitching in the Cape (Gallagher sat at 4.46 in 42 2/3 innings).  Meanwhile, Bleich has been the better pitcher during both Fall Ball and the preseason.  But Gallagher does have more experience and he isn't a top draft prospect this year for nothing.  It will be an interesting decision for Marquess. 

* The third spot in the rotation figures to come down to Davis and Inman.  Marquess indicated to The Bootleg over the winter break that he'd like to start Davis at the beginning of the year.  This was on the heels of a very impressive Fall Ball from the Mountain View product.  We'll see if the subpar preseason performance of Davis combined with Inman's continued strong efforts may force a change.

* A lot of things to be happy with on the hitting side Saturday.  Escue has started to heat up after a slow start this preseason.  The sophomore first baseman had three solid singles to go with a home run today (his first extra base hit this month).  As we saw last May and June, when Escue gets hot he's an incredibly tough out.  It appears the Illinois native may be getting hot at just the right time again.

* It was another noteworthy effort at the plate from sophomore outfielder Sean Ratliff.  Still batting leadoff, Ratliff had his fifth straight multi-hit game of the preseason after his 2-for-5 performance.  One of those hits was a ringing triple to deep center field that drove home a run.  Ratliff now leads all hitters in batting average (.444, 16-for-36), home runs (tied - 2), and RBI (10).

* Both Michael Taylor and J.J. Jelmini recorded three hits during the game.  Taylor is the logical choice to hit third in the batting order - generally where Marquess puts his best all-around hitter.  The Preseason All-American has a chance to put up huge numbers this season that could include a .350+ batting average and 10+ home runs.  Meanwhile, Jelmini has racked up six hits in the last two games which includes a pair of doubles and a triple.  If Adam Sorgi is unable to play the field next weekend, Jelmini is definitely in the running (along with classmate Cord Phelps and freshman Adam Gaylord) to start at shortstop.

* The outfield picture is even more crowded now that Seawell has returned.  Ratliff remains hot while Toby Gerhart has cooled off slightly in recent games.  Joey August remains below the Mendoza Line, but he did rip his team-leading third triple of the preseason today.


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