Welcome to the eighth installment of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ baseball Week in Review. Each week, I will take a look back at the Pelicans’ performances, pull out some of those who stood out from the rest and provide a preview for the following week of baseball in the Carolina League.
The week(s) that was…
Much has changed since our last installment … or has it?
No club finished the first half of the Carolina League slate quite like the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Cubs’ Class A-Advanced affiliate winning 20 of its final 25 games. This stretch includes victories in 9 of its past 11 league fixtures, a combined three runs separating the team from an even more impressive mark.
And with that said, to the victor go the spoils.
Myrtle Beach’s recent clean-up work allowed it to surge up the Carolina League South standings, clinching the division with a circuit-best 43-27 record.
After sweeping its way past Buies Creek in a series held June 4-6, the Pelicans were dominant in taking three of four from Carolina. The club followed with a hard-earned three-game sweep of Frederick, and taking out Down East to close the first half.
Player of the week
Third baseman Jesse Hodges: Maybe the Carolina League all-star break came at a bad time for the native of British Columbia, Canada.
Few players on the circuit finished the break with a flourish like Hodges, batting .324 with five runs scored and seven RBIs. As a result, the 23-year-old third baseman improved his season average to .273 and an OPS — on-base plus slugging — of .800.
Pitcher of the week
Left-hander Justin Steele: A common theme has rung true during the first half of the Carolina League season — whenever Justin Steele is on the bump, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans have a chance to win.
It has been more than a month since the lefty from Lucedale, Miss., was on the wrong end of a decision. In fact, of the last six times he’s taken the bump, he’s left with a win on four occasions.
In his past two starts, Steele has been dominant, giving up one combined run on seven hits to Carolina and Down East. In 11 innings of work, he struck out 13 opposing batters.
As a result of his work, he finished third among Carolina League pitchers with a 2.32 ERA.
Crushed!: While the Carolina League All-Star Game on Tuesday was the main attraction for those in Salem, Va., it was the Chicago Cubs’ top prospect who stole the show.
During the event’s Home Run Derby, Myrtle Beach designated hitter Eloy Jimenez’s towering shot that shattered a bulb on a light fixture beyond the left wall at Salem Memorial Stadium. Mere hours later, footage of the blast went viral.
“He hit one over the lights before that one,” said Myrtle Beach Pelicans manager Buddy Bailey, who also served as coach of the Carolina League South All-Stars to Chris Tripodi of MilB.com. “It looked like [Robert] Redford in The Natural. All the kids got against the wall as if they could catch it, then looked and ran like crazy to get away from the glass falling.”
Through 28 games, Jimenez has seven home runs and 22 RBIs, while batting .278.
All-Star recap: Six Myrtle Beach Pelicans took the field for Tuesday’s Carolina League All-Star Game, held in Salem, Va., home of the Red Sox’s Class A-Advanced affiliate.
Pitcher Adbert Alzolay was given the ball to start the contest for the South Division All-Stars, giving up two runs in an inning of work. Teammate Justin Steele also took the hill, working a perfect fifth inning.
Second baseman Bryant Flete, designated hitter Eloy Jimenez and right fielder Daniel Spingola also saw time. They were hitless in the game, however.
Reliever Pedro Araujo also made the trip, but was not inserted into the game.
Kings of the North: In similar come from behind fashion, the Lynchburg Hillcats came back to steal the Carolina League North’s first half title from the Salem Red Sox.
Seemingly cruising, the Red Sox left the door open for their division rivals going into the half’s final day, both teams suffering losses.
By virtue of the Hillcats’ superior record in division play,it was given the nod despite similar 40-29 marks.
The week ahead
On deck: Myrtle Beach welcomes the Down East Wood Ducks to TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark for the start of an eight-game home stand. In the first half of Carolina League play, the Pelicans took each of their three series with their South Division adversary, winning 10 of 12 games.
In the hole: The Potomac Nationals, Washington’s Class A-Advanced affiliate, makes its lone trip to the Grand Strand starting Monday, taking on the Pelicans in a four-game set.