Opening Weekend in Review: Oaks on Fire

The Visalia Oaks completed a four-game sweep of Inland Empire to open their 2008 season. The other Arizona Diamondbacks affiliates have not fared as well, but they still feature several individual performances that merit our attention.

Tucson Sidewinders

After winning their home opener against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox 12-10, the Sidewinders dropped their next three games to the Rockies affiliate.  They allowed at least seven runs in each of the four games, averaging 8.5 runs allowed per game.  Randy Johnson's five earned runs over four innings in his opening day rehab start was matched by Billy Buckner in game two.  Juan Gutierrez, who went six strong innings on Saturday, is the only Sidewinders pitcher with an ERA under 5.00 (1.50).

3B Jamie D'Antona

The offense, however, has been impressive.  Javier Brito already has two doubles and two homers on the season, leading the team with 13 total bases, five RBI, and six runs scored.  Veteran Trot Nixon has already collected four doubles in his bid to return to the majors.  Third-year Tucson player Jamie D'Antona has hit safely in six of his 10 at bats, while organizational newcomer Josh Whitesell leads the team with seven hits in 18 at bats (.389).

Up Next: The Sidewinders continue their homestand for another four days as the the Salt Lake Bees buzz into town Monday night.

Mobile BayBears

Matt Torra ended a three-game losing streak with a dazzling six-inning shutout of the Carolina Mudcats.'s pick for breakout pitcher of 2008 got off to a great start by fanning five and walking none in his Double-A debut.  The starting pitching had been solid the first three games of the series aside from some mistake pitches; Hector Ambriz, Brooks Brown and Tony Barnette combined to allow only nine total runs despite surrendering five gopher balls in 16 combined innings.  Vince Bongiovanni shone from the bullpen, fanning six over four hitless innings.

The offense has struggled, however, having yet to go yard this season.  Catcher John Hester and infielder Rusty Ryal headline the group with five hits each.  On defense, only second baseman Guillermo Reyes has committed an error thus far.

Up Next: The BayBears finish their series against the Mudcats Monday before they head for a five game series at the Mississippi Braves that begins Wednesday night.

Visalia Oaks

The Oaks swept Inland Empire in four games by a combined score of 24-14.  All four Visalia starters went five innings, with only opening day starter Barry Enright having allowed more than two runs.  Cody Evans, Kyler Newby, and Kyle Wright have each pitched well in two games a piece out of the bullpen, with the former two pitchers both collecting saves and Wright earning the win on opening day.

On offense, Gerardo Parra continued the pace he set this spring by homering on opening day.  Jo-Jo Batten boasts a ridiculous .529 OBP after walking six times and hitting safely thrice in 17 trips to the plate. 

The real standout for the Oaks, however, has been shortstop Pedro Ciriaco.  The 2007 holdover has shown that he doesn't plan to hang around Visalia much longer by rapping eight hits and three doubles in 19 at bats.  He has also swiped three bases without getting caught and played flawless defense at shortstop.  Ciriaco should head east to Moblie in no time, and not just to make room for top prospect Mark Hallberg at shortstop.

Up Next: The Oaks begin a grueling 10-day, 10-game road trip with a thee game series in Lake Elsinore beginning Monday night.

SP Bryan Augenstein

South Bend Silver Hawks

South Bend got swept by the rival West Michigan Whitecaps in four games this weekend.  A 15-2 drubbing on opening day set the tone for the series, then two heartbreaking one-run losses gave way to another blowout of 11-5 in the final game.  The saving grace for the Silver Hawks was Bryan Augenstein's magnificent 8-inning gem on Friday.  The nadir was Josh Collmenter's 12-hit, nine-run shellacking on Sunday in which he couldn't make it out of the fourth inning.

Offensively, Clayton Conner continued to display his prodigious power, and leads the team with three extra base hits.  Aaron Hanke exhibited both power and patience; the right fielder hit South Bend's only home run of the season to date and leads the club with four walks.  First baseman Michael Mee leads the team in hits, batting average, and on-base percentage while Taylor Harbin began to shake out of his slump Sunday, collecting two hits and two RBI after being held hitless in the first three games.

Up Next: The Hawks travel north to Lansing Monday to screw around with the Lugnuts in a four game series.  

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