Myrtle Beach bats come alive as Pelicans avoid sweep against Frederick Keys

June 8, 2014 

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    Third baseman Joey Gallo, minor league baseball’s home run leader, and pitcher Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez were promoted from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to Double-A Frisco. In other moves, Myrtle Beach put Zach Cone on the seven-day disabled list and received outfielder Chris Grayson (from Frisco), Jose Gonzalez (from extended spring training) and infielder Nick Vickerson (from Class-A Hickory).

After losing back-to-back shutouts to Frederick, Myrtle Beach’s offense rose to the occasion on Sunday in a 7-4 win over the Keys on Sunday at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.

Starting pitcher Sam Wolff was solid and seven different Pelicans tallied hits as Myrtle Beach avoided a series sweep and stopped a 20-inning scoring drought that stretched back to Thursday.

“We got some good at-bats tonight,” Pelicans manager Joe Mikulik said. “We’ve had good offense all year. … You go through a lull every once in a while, but the way we came back and responded tonight was a good sign.”

Chris Garia led off the bottom of the first with an infield single and took second on a wild pitch by Keys starter Brady Wager before Wager walked Preston Beck.

Garia scored on a fly-ball single to left by Christopher Bostick, and Beck and Bostick came home on Nick Vickerson’s line-drive double to left to give Myrtle Beach a 3-0 lead.

The Pelicans (41-20) added a pair of runs in the fifth, starting when Luis Mendez reached safely on an infield single, then took second on a throwing error by Keys (27-34) shortstop Adrian Marin and third on a sacrifice groundout by Kevin Torres. Wager then walked Garia, and Mendez and Garia both scored on a double by Jorge Alfaro.

Wolff (6-3) earned the win with six scoreless innings, allowing a pair of hits and two walks with no strikeouts.

He got into trouble in the top of the sixth, starting when he walked leadoff batter Jason Esposito, who reached second base on a Sammie Starr groundout. Lucas Herbst then singled, but Wolff got Tucker Nathans to fly out to center and Creede Simpson grounded into a force out to end the threat.

Wager (2-5) got into more trouble against a pair of Pelicans newcomers in the bottom of the sixth when he walked Nick Vickerson, who joined the Pelicans from Hickory (N.C.) on Sunday, and gave up a single to Chris Grayson, who came down from Double-A Frisco.

Wager was replaced by right-hander Matt Hauser, who struck out Mendez for the first out. Torres’ sacrifice moved the runners to second and third, but Hauser got Garia to fly out to right to get Frederick out of the jam.

Wolff was replaced by Sam Stafford to start the seventh.

Stafford walked Michael Burgess, who took second on a passed ball and scored on a Marin liner to center to get the Keys on the board.

Myrtle Beach added to the total in the bottom of the seventh when Hauser walked Alfaro, who stole second, then came home on Preston Beck’s sixth home run of the season, a one-out shot over the wall in center field for a 7-1 Myrtle Beach lead.

The Keys added three runs in the ninth when Zane Chavez drove a two-run home run into the Myrtle Beach bullpen beyond the right field wall, followed by a solo home run by Brenden Webb to cut the Myrtle Beach lead to three.

Stafford gave up four runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings, and Abel De Los Santos earned the game’s final out and the save, his fourth.

Myrtle Beach played without a pair of the top prospects in the Texas Rangers farm system as slugger Joey Gallo and pitcher Alex Gonzalez were called up to Double-A Frisco on Sunday.

Gonzalez, the Rangers’ first-round draft pick in 2013, posted a 5-2 record with 2.62 ERA with the Pelicans.

Gallo led the Carolina League in five offensive categories, including homers (21), RBIs (50) and runs scored (53).

But Gallo wasn’t the only reason Myrtle Beach cruised to the Carolina League’s Southern Division first-half title, Mikulik said.

“All year it looks like it’s been one guy or two guys, but its been this whole club putting up numbers,” Mikulik said. “We’ve got some guys contributing from top to bottom. Not too many guys weren’t hitting. We had some guys putting together some pretty good first halves. Then with the pitching we’ve had, that’s why we’ve been where we’re at. These guys will keep fighting, keep finding ways. That’s the big thing about this club.”

The Pelicans return to action Monday at 7:05 p.m. to kick off a three-game home series against Lynchburg. Jason Knapp (1-1, 2.00 ERA) is scheduled to make the start for Myrtle Beach against Greg Ross (4-2, 3.36) for the Hillcats.

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