Lakewood Weekend in Georgia


Over the first weekend in May the Phillies Low-A farm team, the Lakewood BlueClaws, paid a visit to the most southern team in the South Atlantic League, the Savannah (Georgia) Sand Gnats for a four game weekend series. I was fortunate to attend three of the four games.

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Savannah’s Grayson Stadium is a beautiful, old stadium, reminiscent of the Williamsport Crosscutters’ historic Bowman FieldRanfi Casimiro, a 6’8″ RHP from the Dominican Republic, started on the mound in the first game on Friday night.

Casimiro led the team to a 2-1 win over the Sand Gnats, the Mets Low-A farm team. He went five shut-out innings to increasing his record over his last two outings to 12 innings in which he allowed only one run. Casimiro executed four strikeouts in this five inning start. When he walked off the field at the end of the fifth, the BlueClaws were ahead 1-0.

Garcia delivers a pitch during the Sunday afternoon contest.

The Sand Gnats tied it up in the sixth when BlueClaws reliever Alexis Rivero gave up a run, but Lakewood would win it with a run in the top of the eighth with the help of a wild pitch after a double by Carlos Tocci. Matt Hockenberry, who has held the opposition scoreless in his five appearances this season, recorded the Save.

On Saturday night, RHP Chris Oliver pitched the BlueClaws to a 4-0 victory, striking out seven over seven innings. Tocci went 3-4 and had a stolen base. 1st baseman Rhys Hoskins went 2-4, including a double and 2 RBIs. Reliever Jesson Therrien pitched the last two innings to preserve the shutout.

On Sunday afternoon LHP Elniery Garcia took the mound. Garcia surrendered three runs in six innings, a quality start, and managed to get the win. His Kershaw-esque curveball enabled the BlueClaws southpaw to strike out six, including four in the first two innings. Later, he used his sinker to induce two infield ground ball double plays in the outing.

Tocci ducks, narrowly avoiding being hit in the head by a pitch

In the nine innings of relief in the three games I saw, the bullpen yielded just a pair of runs. Closer Matt Hockenberry got his sixth save of the season on Sunday, but also gave up his first run of the season.

One thing I noticed this weekend, in addition to the BlueClaws games I’ve listened to on “Tune In Radio” is that Tocci has become a target, with opposing teams in the South Atlantic League “head hunting” the talented center fielder.

Already this season, he has been hit by a pitch three times, but that is not the whole story. On Friday night in the 9th inning, Tocci had to jump out of the way to avoid an up-and-in pitch. Saturday, he also dodged a pitch. Sunday, in the first inning, he had to duck out of the way of a ball aimed right at his head by Sand Gnat pitcher Martires Arias. The plate umpire then warned both teams that the next hit batter would result in ejection of the pitcher.

Over the first three games in three days, I got to enjoy it as the BlueClaws won all three. Sadly, the Jersey boys dropped the last game of the series to the Gnats, 6-3, with RHP Ricardo Pinto taking the loss.

I’ll be back here at TBOH soon with a full update on all the action across the Phillies minor league system over the last week. Stay tuned.