By Jason Patterson / Jacksonville Suns
→Four Southern League clubs have winning records entering the month of June. Chattanooga and Biloxi are heading down the stretch in control of their respective divisions. The Lookouts and Shuckers hold identical three game leads (The other two, Tennessee and Mississippi, sit three full games ahead of each third place team) with just over twenty contests remaining in the first half pennant races.
→Mobile fell below .500 this past week for the first time since May of 2013, breaking a string of 266 consecutive games on the desired side of the traditional benchmark.
→Despite dropping the Rickwood Classic to Jacksonville on Wednesday, Birmingham used a trio of walk-off victories to take the series from the Suns and remain alive in the North Division race. The Barons are six games off Chattanooga’s pace.
→Only one game appeared on the cancelled list prior to Memorial Day, but weather issues around the Southland this past week changed things quickly. Five total games were lost to rain in Mobile, Jackson, Chattanooga and Pearl between May 25-31.
Southern League Spotlight…
This week’s spotlight rests on the Biloxi Shuckers homecoming, easily the story of the season thus far. The team will finally play a true home game this weekend. MGM Park is sold out for the highly anticipated opener, which remains slated for Saturday night.
The impressive Shuckers head home having accomplished the unthinkable. This past week they became the first Southern League team to reach the thirty win threshold, doing so without a true home game across the season’s first two months.
Interestingly, Biloxi’s league-best win total has been split right down the middle, fifteen coming as the designated home team and the other fifteen from games in which they actually batted first as official visitors.
-Rankings listed use the format Baseball America/MLB.com-
Biloxi– Tyler Wagner (#9/#11) became the first Biloxi Shuckers player to reach The Show. Called up by Milwaukee this past week, Wagner carries the confidence of a 5-1 record and 2.01 E.R.A. in nine Southern League starts this season into his big league debut.
The good news for Biloxi is that Hobbs Johnson (#23/#25) remains on the Double-A staff. Johnson allowed just two hits in the rain shortened farewell to Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville.
The Shuckers offense also keeps on clicking thanks to the catalysts Orlando Arcia (#2/#1) and Michael Reed (#14/#18). The duo posted a combined twenty-five hits, twelve runs scored and thirteen driven in during the most recent ten day stretch. They also stand 1-2 in the league by average this season. Arcia’s .341 mark leads the way, with Reed directly in tow at .340.
Jacksonville– Veteran infielder David Adams had a Rickwood Classic to remember this past Wednesday in Birmingham. Adams 5-for-5 performance led the way in Jacksonville’s 8-2 win at America’s oldest active ballpark.
Danny Black has also snagged headlines in the Marlins system upon his return to the River City by hitting safely in each of his first four games with the Suns in ’15. The modest streak extends an overall run of fifteen consecutive Southern League games with a hit for Black, dating back to June 13th of last year.
Mississippi– Braves right-hander Jake Brigham earned player of the week honors from the Southern League by tossing eight innings of shutout ball to pick up his fourth win of the season against Pensacola on Friday night. Brigham scattered three hits and struck out five Blue Wahoos.
Pensacola– Robert Stephenson (#1/#1) was perhaps even more overpowering on Friday night, but received no offensive support as the Wahoos were shoutout by the combo of the aforementioned Brigham and Tyler Jones (MIS-Braves). The Reds number one overall prospect went head to head with the eventual player of the week for seven strong frames. Stephenson held the Braves scoreless, while striking out ten Mississippi hitters. Mississippi scored in the 8th after Stephenson was lifted to win the game 1-0.
Eleven year Minor League veteran Ray Chang provided the spark in the decisive 14th inning of Pensacola’s victory over Mississippi on Wednesday. Chang has posted a .438 average alongside five RBI’s and five runs scored during the past ten games for the Reds farm club. As a result the shortstop is finding his name much closer the top of the lineup these days.
Jackson– Dan Paolini owns the Southern League’s longest active hitting streak. While the Mariners first-baseman still trails teammate Dario Pizzano’s eye-catching season-high mark by nine games (Pizzano saw a twenty-five game streak snapped in mid-May), Paolini’s 16 game string has upped his average to .246 on the season.
Mobile– Gerson Montilla notched a grand slam on May 29 versus Tennessee, a swing that was simply a key snapshot from his 5-for-12 run last week which included two homers, four runs scored and five total driven home.
Highly regarded D’Backs pitching prospect Aaron Blair (#3/#3) also had a memorable outing against the Smokies, his seven shutout innings on Thursday followed six scoreless against the powerful Lookouts less than a week prior. Blair posted two wins and ten total punch outs, securing back to back quality starts against the top tier clubs in the North Division. In addition, the right-hander helped his own cause by legging out an RBI triple in the most recent win over Tennessee.
Chattanooga– Southern League strikeouts leader, Jose Berrios (#3/#4), also became the first pitcher to six wins this season.
It always helps to the have Twins top prospect Byron Buxton (#1/#1) on your side. Buxton’s league leading eleven triples are more than double those next in line (two players tied with 5). Buxton also continues to lead the league in runs scored.
Travis Harrison (#30/#16) delivered the 13th grand slam of the Southern League season Saturday against Biloxi, nearly one-quarter of this year’s total (4) belong to Lookouts players. All of this activity simply capped a 20 win month of May for the Twins affiliate.
Tennessee– Thanks to a power surge which included three homers in his last ten games, Cubs catching standout Kyle Schwarber (#4/#3) has pulled even with Adam Brett Walker (CHT-Twins #17/#13) for the Southern League lead in home runs. Both sluggers have 12 bombs on the season. Schwarber also boasts league-best .454 on base and .633 slugging percentages.
-Weekly honors handed down by the league office each Monday at Noon-
▪ Player of the Week: Orlando Arcia (Brewers #2/#1), SS, Biloxi
▪ Pitcher of the Week: Jake Brigham (Braves), RHP, Mississippi
Series To Focus On…
Mobile BayBears @ Biloxi Shuckers
Saturday thru Wednesday, June 6th–10th
The Southern League’s newest ballpark is scheduled to officially open its gates on Saturday evening June 6th. The Shuckers long awaited arrival at MGM Park in Biloxi will be met with much pomp and circumstance.
Adding further importance to this series, the home team enters in full control of the South Division, requiring Mobile to play well in order to remain in the battle for the first half crown.
A Look At The Standings…