Coats Clobbering; Hawks kick off 2005

The defending Northwest League champions kicked off their 2005 season on Tuesday night, while at Double-A, Buck Coats continued his torrid pace that started almost two months ago.

Iowa Notes

In Des Moines, Iowa rallied in the ninth inning to beat Oklahoma 5-4. Ben Grieve's pinch-hit home run gave the I-Cubs the victory and made a winner out of RHP Roberto Novoa - at Triple-A - for the first time since April 20. Novoa (2-2) threw a scoreless ninth inning in relief and retired all three batters he faced to lower his ERA at Principal Park to 2.30 in 15 2/3 innings. SS Ronny Cedeno and starting DH Mike Fontenot both recorded two hits for the offense. Cedeno continues to thrive with a team-best .355 batting average and four two-hit games in his last five contests. He was caught stealing for just the second time this season and is now 10-for-12 in the stolen base department. Meanwhile, Fontenot isn't doing so bad, either, with five hits in his last two games and an even .300 average for the year. He has struck out only twice in his last eight games and has walked as many times as he has whiffed with 31 apiece.

West Tenn Notes

In Jackson, Tenn., West Tenn opened up the second half of their season with a 7-4 win over Jacksonville. SS Buck Coats collected three hits, including a pair of triples, to continue his hot hitting despite not driving in a run during the night. Since May began, Coats is batting .370 with 16 extra base hits and 16 RBIs. In addition, he has gone 21-for-60 against left-handed pitching for a .350 average and is batting .347 with runners on base this season. Tuesday marked the second time in Coats' career that he tallied two triples in one game. On the bump, RHP Jae-Kuk Ryu won for the first time this month, tying a season-best seven innings and allowing two runs and five hits. Entering Tuesday night, Ryu (6-3) had allowed eight earned runs over his last two starts. In the bullpen, RHP Thomas Atlee made his Double-A debut and allowed two runs in one inning. Atlee was 1-3 with eight saves at Daytona before being called up. He gave up his first home run since May 14 on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, RHP Andrew Shipman recorded his first save since last August. Shipman tossed a scoreless ninth inning for his first back-to-back shutout appearances of the month.

Daytona Notes

In Palm Beach, Fla., Daytona lost 10-3 as starter J.R. Mathes allowed a season-high nine runs (four earned) in an inning and two-thirds. Mathes (5-3) surrendered seven hits, all in the second inning, which led to nine Cardinal runs before RHP Federico Baez put out the fire. Prior to Tuesday night, Mathes had allowed just one run in his last two starts, spanning 12 innings. Meanwhile, Baez went on to pitch 3 1/3 innings in mop-up, allowing a run and two hits to go with six strikeouts. He was sent back to Class-A despite a 3.06 ERA in 29 relief appearances with the Diamond Jaxx. 1B Brian Dopirak collected two hits to bring his June average to .281—currently his best clip for any month to date. C Tony Richie struck out twice but singled in the ninth inning to extend his hitting streak to a season-best seven games. Richie is 11-for-30 this month in nine starts. All-Star CF Chris Walker went 1-for-5 to extend his hit streak to seven games as well. He stole his organizational best 30th base.

Boise Notes

In Everett, Wash., the defending Northwest League champions kicked off their season with a 7-2 win. Hawks starter Darin Downs was exceptional in five innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits and striking out eight batters without allowing a walk. Downs (1-0) tied his career high for strikeouts in any start and did not issue a free pass for the fourth time in his minor league career. At the plate for the Hawks, C Mark Reed was one of three players to record two hits. Reed scored two runs in his first game since being sent down to extended spring training after a sluggish 7-for-52 stint with Peoria. Starting DH Alfred Joseph and 1B Chris Gaskin accounted for most of the Hawks' scoring. Joseph doubled twice and scored two runs while Gaskin plated three runs and also doubled twice in his Cubs farm system debut.

Also making their professional debuts with the Cubs' short-season affiliate were OF Jeff Culpepper, a draft-and-follow from 2004 who was taken with the organization's 24th round pick out of Gonzaga. CF Davy Gregg, a 2005 draft pick out of South Carolina, led off and went 1-for-5 with a stolen base and a run scored. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Jonathan Mota started the night at short and finished 1-for-4 with a double. Moto spent last year in the Dominican Summer League, where he batted .211 in 63 games. LHP Aleurys Lopez pitched the final four innings in relief for the Hawks, allowing Everett's only two runs on seven hits. Lopez also spent 2004 in the Dominican Summer League, where he was 3-5 with a 3.83 ERA in 16 appearances, including eight starts.

Peoria Notes

The Chiefs were idle on Tuesday because of the 2005 Midwest League All-Star Game at O'Brien Field in Peoria. OF Ryan Harvey clubbed nine home runs to win the pre-game home run derby at his home park. In the game itself, Harvey was 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Chief players went a combined 2-for-6 against Eastern Division pitching. OF Luis Montanez and 2B Eric Patterson each recorded a hit. Patterson is the league's top hitter with a .366 batting average. RHP Sean Gallagher, the league's ERA and strikeout leader, started the game and tossed one scoreless inning before being lifted. RHP Matt Weber pitched in relief and allowed a run and two hits in his only inning. The second half of Midwest League play begins Thursday with the Chiefs on the road in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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