WINSTON-SALEM—The Winston-Salem Dash roll into the weekend of August 17 with a boatload of top prospects and a 30-19 second-half record.
The Dash’s season record is an impressive 71-48 overall. Winston is a game behind Buies Creek in the Carolina League Southern Division’s second-half season standings, but has already clinched a playoff berth by leading the division at the conclusion of the season’s first half.
The Royals-affiliated Wilmington Blue Rocks are 29-22 and second in the Carolina League Northern Division, two games behind Lynchburg in the loss column.
Friday—Wilmington 3, Winston-Salem 4
The Dash won their seventh straight home game Friday despite erstwhile top prospect Alec Hansen tossing just three innings on his return from Double-A Birmingham. It is possible the former first-rounder’s workload was limited by design, as Hansen missed the first part of the season with injury.
The control was there Friday evening, but the command was lacking from the get-go, as the big Sooner’s mid-nineties fastball was knocked around early, with a double by Blake Perkins, a single by Gabriel Cancel, and a triple by Emmanuel Rivera leading to two early runs.
Hansen did settle down, and six of the nine outs he recorded were via the strikeout — he changed speeds and got his curveball and slider over for strikes.
Hansen was off the hook by the time he left the game as the Winston bats put one up in the first inning and three more down in the second inning against Andrés Sotillet, who pitched five innings.
Luis González led off for the Dash with a double, scoring on a single by Nick Madrigal. Gavin Sheets led the second with a knock and scored quickly as Zach Remillard struck with a homer.
The Dash scored again on singles by Yeyson Yrizarri, González, and again Madrigal. Hasler went for three and earned the win in relief, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.
The lefty Hunter Schryver took an easy two before Devan Watts weathered a rocky ninth to earn the save.
A leadoff walk to Vance Vizcaino and a single by Nate Esposito resulted in a sac fly by pinch-hitter Meibrys Viloria before Carolina League debutante Jackson Lueck bounced into a game-ending double play.
Saturday: Winston-Salem 12, Wilmington 11
The Dash picked up their 32nd win of the first-half, a month and a half behind schedule, completing a win on a rain-delayed game dated July 3. In this continuation, the Dash played as the visitors on their own turf.
When the action was halted in early July, Winston-Salem was trailing 4 to 1, but had two on with nobody out in the top of the fifth, with Blue Rocks starter Gerson Garabito on the hook for the runs.
On this continuation night, the Dash bats immediately began to make things interesting against Carter Hope, cashing in those runs on a double by Laz Rivera and an RBI groundout by Yermin Mercedes and drawing within one. The Rocks capitalized on a pair of errors in the bottom of the frame, Meibrys Viloria doubling off Blake Hickman to make it 5-3.
Winston hung a three-spot in the third to retake the lead, a hit batsman and a flood of singles (Luis Robert, Daniel González, Luis González). The Dash took what seemed like a commanding 8-5 lead in the top of the seventh, with Nick Madrigal, Mercedes, and Ti’Quan Forbes slapping singles and Yeyson Yrizarri lifting a sac fly.
Wilmington improbably knotted it up in the seventh inning. Rudy Martin started things with a double and scored on a sac fly by Gabriel Cancel. Viloria and Travis kept the party going with sencillos and Emmanuel Rivera capped it off with a doble.
Two innings of shutout ball from Winston’s Danny Dopico and two-and-two thirds of the same from Wilmington’s Andrew Beckwith kept it still until the tenth, when the artificial runner on second threw a wrench into the proceedings.
The Dash took what seemed an imposing advantage in the top of the inning, plating three as a pair followed the phantom runner as Yrizarri, Robert, and Luis González collected knocks against Tyler Zuber. This, however, was one of those in which nothing was that easy.
The Blue Rocks tagged Mike Morrison for three in the bottom of the frame, and the scoreboard read 11-11. The blown save consisted of a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and a two-run single by Vance Vizcaino. Winston-Salem took the lead for good in the top of the eleventh on a ball simply served the other way by Forbes.
Saturday’s scheduled nightcap was banged on account of impending storms and the teams will play two seven-inning contests Sunday afternoon. Ofreidy Gómez and Gerson Garabito are due to go for Wilmington, John Parke and Luis Martínez for the Dash.
What can be gleaned from a game and a half? Well, superstar prospect Luis Robert only played a third of that but looks just fine, whacking a pair of hits and playing a rangy right-field.
Yeyson Yrizarri can low-key hit, and is still just 21 as he repeats High-A. An infielder by trade, the nephew of longtime big-leaguer Deivi Cruz is struggling a bit with his routes in the outfield. Last year’s third-round pick Luis González (no relation to the Diamondback great) is a left-handed bat who has been hitting wit authority out of the leadoff spot and can handle all tree outfield positions.
Wilmington has a lot of team speed and a lot of steals, led by Blake Perkins and D.J. Burt. Perkins was acquired from Washington in the Kelvin Herrera trade and is struggling with the bat, but the Fuquay-Varina native Burt is hovering around .300 as he repeats the Carolina League at the age of 22.
Not unlike Yrizarri, Burt is natural infielder who has been getting time in the outfield, apparently to improve his versatility. Gabriel Cancel and Emmanuel Rivera, mainstays of the 2016 Burlington Royals, are solid bats on the left side of the infield.