Allen Cordoba (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Exclusive, in-depth weekly news from the St. Louis Cardinals’ rookie-level affiliate in the Appalachian League for the period of July 24-30.

Johnson City went .500 this week (4-4) to keep just off the pace in the Appalachian League Western Division. Standouts include Allen Cordoba, Andrew Knizner and Ross Vance.

Game Summaries

Sunday July 24, 2016: Johnson City Cardinals 4 at Elizabethton Twins 5

Johnson City began Sunday’s series finale in Elizabethton well, leading the Twins 4-2 after 4 ½ innings. The Cardinals, however, committed three critical errors to allow the Twins overtake them en route to a 5-4 loss. It marks the first time this season that Johnson City has been swept in a series.

The Cardinals had plenty of offensive opportunities as they pounded out 12 hits in addition to four walks but they failed to get timely hits - just 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. 2016 draftee J.R. Davis paced the attack, going 3-for-5 with two runs scored.

Starting pitcher Ian Oxnevad took the loss after working 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs (three earned) to go along with six strikeouts. Reliever Leland Tilley had a good outing, tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings, and increasing his scoreless inning streak to six.

Monday July 25, 2016: Danville Braves 6 at Johnson City Cardinals 3

The Cardinals returned home to take on the Danville Braves Monday evening and they came out on fire offensively. Johnson City jumped on Danville starter Jaret Hellinger for three runs on four hits to stake its starter Frederis Parra to an early 3-0 lead. Johnson City was also aggressive on base paths, stealing four bases in the three-run first inning. However, the offense scattered only three hits and no walks over the final eight frames.

Danville chipped away at Johnson City’s lead with one in the third, one in the fifth and two in the seventh and eighth innings to hand the Cardinals their fifth straight loss, 6-3. Parra took the defeat, moving his record to 1-3 despite pitching the most innings of any Cardinals’ starter this season with 7 1/3 frames.

Only two of the five runs charged to Parra were earned due to four Cardinals errors, one each by Allen Cordoba, Bryce Denton, Shane Billings and J.R. Davis.

Tuesday July 26, 2016: Danville Braves 10 at Johnson City Cardinals 8

Both Danville and Johnson City came out swinging Tuesday evening as the two teams combined to score 17 runs over the first four innings. The Braves held a slim 9-8 lead on the Cardinals after four innings and tacked on one more in the eighth inning to clinch the series win by a score of 10-8.

Jordan Hicks struggled mightily in his sixth start of the season as he allowed eight earned runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings. Hicks came into Tuesday’s contest ranking third in the Appalachian League with a 2.02 ERA. Following the rough outing, Hicks’ ERA shot up all the way up to 4.20.

Following Hicks’ rocky start, the Cardinals’ bullpen did an outstanding job to keep the team within striking distance, pitching 5 2/3 innings while allowing just one earned run. Lefthander Ross Vance had an especially stellar outing, striking out five Danville hitters in 2 2/3 innings.

Shane Billings had three hits and scored twice. Luis Bandes and Jonathan Rivera each plated a pair.

Wednesday July 27, 2016: Danville Braves 5 at Johnson City Cardinals 10

Riding a six-game losing streak into Wednesday’s series finale against Danville, Johnson City desperately needed a victory to keep pace in Appalachian League’s Western Division. The Cardinals rose to the occasion. A strong relief effort by Yeison Medina and 10 runs by the offense meant Johnson City was able to snap its losing streak in a 10-5 win.

After starter Austin Sexton left the game after 3 1/3 innings, Medina tossed a season-high four scoreless innings and picked up the win to improve his record to 3-2. Medina’s three wins is tied for the most on Johnson City’s pitching staff.

Offensively, the Cardinals were led by Andrew Knizner, who hit went 3-for-5 with three RBI. Allen Cordoba and Joshua Lopez both went 2-for-5.

Thursday July 28, 2016: Kingsport Mets 2 at Johnson City Cardinals 6

The Cardinals and Mets were originally supposed to play a doubleheader Thursday night in Johnson City but rain moved into the area and the two teams were able to complete just five innings. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they had plated four runs in the bottom of the fourth to nail down the 6-2 win.

Despite the game only lasting five innings, the Cardinals had a pair of players go 3-for-3. Andrew Knizner drove in two of the team’s six runs with his three base hits, while Allen Cordoba scored two runs in the victory.

Friday July 29, 2016: Kingsport Mets 2 at Johnson City Cardinals 3 (Game 1)

A day after being held to just five innings, the Cardinals and Mets were able to complete both ends of a doubleheader Friday evening in Johnson City. Cardinals’ starter Daniel Castano was outstanding, allowing just one hit in 5 2/3 innings of work in Game 1. Unfortunately for Castano, the Mets rallied to tie the game in the top of the sixth inning at 2-2 to deny Castano’s bid for his first career win.

The Cardinals would answer immediately in their half of the sixth, however, to regain the lead. Caleb Lopes drove in what proved to be the winning run, scoring Stephen Zavala who had reached on a double. Lopes was Johnson City’s top performer at the plate in the 3-2 victory as he reached base in three of his four plate appearances, including two hits.

Noel Gonzalez picked up the win in relief despite blowing the save in the sixth inning. Gonzalez is now 2-0 on the season and lowered his ERA to under two with 1 1/3 scoreless frames (1.74).

Friday July 29, 2016: Kingsport Mets 6 at Johnson City Cardinals 3 (Game 2)

In the nightcap, Joey Hawkins blasted his first professional home run in the bottom of the fifth to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead. The Mets, however, rallied to score five runs against Johnson City’s bullpen to take Game 2 of the double dip, 6-3.

Kingsport starter Max Wotell kept Johnson City’s offense in check, allowing just three hits and one walk in his five innings. The only extra-base hit for the Cardinals against Wotell was Hawkins’ two-run blast in the fifth.

Johnson City’s newest pitcher, Greg Tomchick, was tagged with the loss after allowing two earned runs in his Cardinals’ debut. David Oca made his first start in 18 days and fared well in his return to the mound, allowing just one run in 3 2/3 innings. The left-hander had been away from the club, returning to Venezuela due to a death in the family.

Saturday July 30, 2016: Kingsport Mets 1 at Johnson City Cardinals 4

In its first nine-inning game since Wednesday, Johnson City used a blend of good pitching, hitting and defense to win the series finale against Kingsport, 4-1. Matt Fiedler and Luis Bandes both collected a pair of hits and drove in a run. Reliever Ross Vance picked up his first career win, tossing 3 1/3 scoreless innings to go along with six strikeouts. Levi MaVorhis, who picked up his career win Thursday, notched his first professional save.

Kingsport struck first with a run in the top of the third. The Cardinals answered with a run of their own as Fiedler drove in J.R. Davis with a RBI double. Johnson City took the lead for good in the following inning when Bandes drove in Josh Lopez with a ground out. The only other scoring came in the sixth when Johnson City tacked on two more unearned runs to seal the 4-1 win.

Starter Ian Oxnevad did not make it out of the fifth inning, resulting in a no decision. Oxnevad worked 4 2/3 innings, allowing one run on six hits with six strikeouts. Oxnevad and the Cardinals were in jeopardy of giving their lead away in the top of the fifth as the Mets loaded the bases with two outs. Manager Chris Swauger opted to turn to Vance to get out of the jam and Vance did just that, striking out Anthony Dimino to end the threat.  

Who’s Hot

Allen Cordoba. Cordoba has been one of Johnson City’s most consistent players this season and that trend continued this week as the 20-year old shortstop hit .500 (11 hits in 22 at-bats) with three RBI and three stolen bases. Cordoba, who won the batting title in the GCL last season after hitting .342, currently ranks fourth in the Appalachian League with a .358 batting average.

Andrew Knizner. Knizner made six starts in the eight games the Cardinals played last week and was by far the team’s best run producer. Knizner totaled seven RBI and scored four more runs on the week so in essence, Knizner had a part in 11 of the team’s 41 runs scored, or about 27 percent.  With his seven RBI, Knizner is now tied for the team lead in that category with Joshua Lopez (17 RBI).

Ross Vance.  Vance’s week of work would be hard for any reliever to beat as the lefthander totaled 11 strikeouts in six innings of work. Vance not only struck out nearly two batters per inning but he also held opponents scoreless during those six innings and held them to a batting average of .100.     

Who’s Not

Jordan Hicks. Hicks’ first five starts for the Cardinals put the 19-year old right hander among the league leaders in ERA. Unfortunately, Hicks posted his worst outing of the season Tuesday against Danville allowing eight runs (all earned) on nine hits. Hicks’ season ERA ballooned from 2.03 to 4.20 with Tuesday’s performance.      

Matt Fiedler. After producing in a big way last week, Fiedler had a slow week offensively this week, hitting just .217 in 23 at bats. Fiedler did make some positive contributions, however, as three of his five hits went for extra bases (all doubles) and he also swiped three bases.

Greg Tomchick.  The newest Johnson City Cardinal did not have a good debut with his new team as he ended up being the losing pitcher in Friday’s 6-3 loss to Kingsport.  Tomchick only allowed one hit in his 1 1/3 innings of work but it proved costly as he ended up being charged with two runs. Tomchick has struggled to get things going in 2016 as between State College and Johnson City he has a combined ERA of 9.00 in 12 innings pitched.

By The Numbers

11 – Allen Cordoba has reached base safely in 11 consecutive games. Thanks to this streak, Cordoba ranks third in the Appalachian League in on-base percentage at .429. Fellow Cardinal Andrew Knizner ranks second in the league with a .432 mark in the same category.    

.214 – One of the key attributes for developing pitchers is being able to pitch out of jams effectively and Ian Oxnevad has definitely done that this season. Oxnevad has held opponents to a .214 batting average with runners on base this season. To put this in perspective, the Cardinals’ team mark is .282, nearly 70 percentage points higher.   

12 – Johnson City has hit 12 home runs in 36 games this season, which is tied for the second fewest in the Appalachian League with Kingsport. Joshua Lopez is the only Cardinal with more than one home run (3). Despite the lack of home run production, the Cardinals boast the second highest team batting average in the league at .275.   


·         On Thursday, Johnson City received a new pitcher from Short-Season State College as Greg Tomchick joined the team. Tomchick made nine appearances for State College this season and registered an 8.44 ERA in 10 2/3 innings pitched.

·         In the team’s third call-up this season, Yariel Gonzalez was promoted to State College on Friday. Gonzalez was a valuable to Johnson City not only due to his bat but also because of his versatility, appearing at all four infield positions. Gonzalez hit .308 in 78 at-bats in his professional debut.


There were no injuries last week.

Appalachian League Western Division Standings

Team W L Pct. GB L10 STRK
Greeneville Astros (HOU) 20 17 .541 - 6-4 W1
Johnson City Cardinals (STL) 19 17 .528 0.5 4-6 W1
Elizabethton Twins (MIN) 18 18 .500 1.5 8-2 W2
Bristol Pirates (PIT) 16 20 .444 3.5 4-6 L2
Kingsport Mets (NYM) 14 23 .378 6.0 2-8 L1

What’s Next

Johnson City will hit the road to take on the Bristol Pirates for the first time this season beginning Sunday. After the three games with the Pirates, the Cardinals will have an off day Wednesday before starting a three-game set at home against Twins starting Thursday.  

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