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Indians minor league recap: Hillcats bats stay hot with dramatic ninth-inning comeback

At least SOME team in this organization can come back in the ninth...

Coming into the season, all eyes were on the Akron RubberDucks. They had several top prospects and were a blast to watch. However, while Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier, and Yandy Diaz all quietly made their way to Triple-A, the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats kept adding talent.

Lynchburg now features far-and-away the best offense in the Carolina League, and they have a good shot at finish the year with the best win/loss record in the Tribe organization. They put all of that to the test yesterday with a big ninth-inning comeback victory.

Columbus Clippers 3, Louisville Bats 8

Box Score · Clippers improve to 79-57

The Columbus Clippers may have already clinched their third straight IL West Division title, but that has not stopped them from rolling. Last night, against the Louisville Bats, Clippers batters came alive for 10 hits and four runs, while Ryan Merritt spun a six-inning gem.

Everyone except Giovanny Urshela and Guillermo Quiroz had a hit in the win, with Erik Gonzalez, Yandy Diaz, and Adam Moore all adding two hits apiece. Diaz is making a heck of a case for himself to be called up in September, posting a .322/.395/.456 slash with seven home runs for the Clippers this season.

Ryan Merrit’s six-inning outing, in which he struck out five batters and walked one, is just the latest in a string of great starts for the 24-year-old. In his last 10 starts, Merritt has allowed two or fewer runs eight times, including his last seven starts.

Shawn Armstrong only pitched 0.2 innings of relief before the game was called due to rain, but he struck out two of the three batters he faced.

Akron RubberDucks 8, Richmond Flying Squirrels 2

Box Score · RubberDucks improve to 70-62

For a while, it looked like the Akron RubberDucks were in danger of falling below the .500 mark on the season, despite all the talent they had early on in the season. But a recent winning streak, and 11 wins in their last 13 games, has them sitting in a position to finish with a winning record, no matter what happens in their final games down the stretch.

The ‘Ducks were outhit, 11-7, by the Richmond Flying Squirrels yesterday, but it did not matter much — Akron was also 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position while Richmond was just 1-for-10.

Nellie Rodriguez was the only Akron batter with a mulit-hit game, and he also added his 25 home run of the season, third most in the Eastern League.

Starting pitcher Michael Peoples allowed seven hits over five innings, but just two runs crossed the plate. He also recorded zero strikeouts on the day and issued one walk. Louis Head, on the other hand, faced nine batters in 2.1 innings of relief and struck out five of them.

Lynchburg Hillcats 8, Potomac Nationals 7

Box Score · Hillcats improve to 82-51

The Lynchburg Hillcats are likley to finish the season with the organization’s best record, and for good reason: They have been stacked all season long.

At first, it was the pitching staff led by Justus Sheffield, but lately it’s been the offense with the likes of Francisco Mejia and Tyler Krieger asserting themselves alongside Bobby Bradley. The Hillcats now lead the Carolina League in team on-base plus slugging (.794), home runs (128), doubles (289), and runs scored (748).

That offensive prowess was on display yesterday, as the Hillcats recorded 16 hits and scored eight runs — four in the bottom of the ninth. Bobby Bradley was held hitless on the night with two strikeouts, but Dorssys Paulino was 3-for-4 with two doubles. Connor Marabell, who has struggled at times with the Hillcats, had his biggest night of the season, going for 4-for-5 with a team-high three runs batted in.

And silly you thinking you could keep Francisco Mejia down. Despite not even being in the lineup tonight, the Hillcats’ standout catcher still got a hit in a pinch-hit opportunity in the eighth inning.

Starting pitcher Sean Brady is probably ready for this season to be over. After a strong start to his 2016 campaign, Brady has allowed at least three runs in his last five starts. He allowed four yesterday off of nine hits, but he struck out seven and walked none.

Lake County Captains 8, Lansing Lugnuts 6

Box Score · Captains improve to 69-64

The middle of the Lake County Captains lineup came to life yesterday, tallying eight hits and half of the team’s runs batted in in their 8-6 win over the Lansing Lugnuts.

Two of those hits came from Andrew Calica, who has adjusted well to the Midwest League, to say the least. In three games with the Captains (12 AB), Calica already has seven hits, including two doubles. He is picking up right where he left from the New York-Penn League, where he slashed .388/.491/.568 in 40 games with the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

Leadoff batter and shortstop Willi Castro was blanked on the day, going 0-for-5.

Mahoning Valley Scrappers 5, West Virginia Black Bears 1

Box Score · Scrappers improve to 34-33

Despite the bottom-half of the lineup going a combined 1-for-11, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers still pulled out a 5-1 win to put them over the .500 mark.

Gabriel Mejia and Nathan Winfrey were two big reasons why, with each of them adding two hits and the former throwing in a triple for good measure.

Shane Bieber had another excellent three-inning start, striking out one and allowing one hit in his limited work. In eight appearances this season (seven starts three or fewer innings), Bieber has allowed one earned run in 21.0 innings.

AZL Indians 1, AZL Reds 7

Box Score · Indians fall to 31-24

The AZL Indians box score look rough. The recorded only three hits as a team — Jose Vicente, Hosea Nelson, and Junior Soto — and only one of them, a solo home run, resulted in a run scored.

Starting pitcher Cameron Mingo allowed four earned runs in five innings of work, although he did strike out eight batters and did not issue a single free base.