2017 First Half Highlights

As we prepare for the Second Half of the 2017 Southern League season, we thought it’d be timely (and fun) to look back on some of the highlights from the First Half. This is not a complete list – we encourage you to comment below on what moments you enjoyed, and you are more than welcome to Tweet at us (@JacksonGenerals) or email us (JacksonGeneralsBroadcast@gmail.com) with memories of your own.

*=Generals player voted into the 2017 Southern League Mid-Season All-Star Game

FRIDAY, APRIL 7th VS. BIRMINGHAM

Reyes Makes The Hippos HappyReyes HR 480

Generals outfielder Victor Reyes made a difference in his second Double-A game, playing a key role in a 3-2 victory over the Barons. Reyes hit the Generals’ first home run of the year over the right field fence, a solo shot that proved to be the difference in the game. Birmingham put the tying run on base in the ninth inning, but Reyes and infielder Dawel Lugo combined for a fantastic game-ending relay to home plate that gunned down the runner as he tried to score on a single to deep right-center field. The win was the first for the Generals as their Friday night alter-ego, the Hub City Hippos.

SATURDAY, APRIL 8th VS. BIRMINGHAM

Return of the Home Run KingKevin Cron

In the third game of the year, Generals first baseman Kevin Cron* blasted three home runs out of The Ballpark at Jackson, joining Steven Proscia, Carlos Peguero, and Charlton Jimerson as the only Generals players to accomplish that feat in the past decade. Cron’s first bomb, off highly touted right-hander Michael Kopech, came on a 98-mph fastball and ended up 450 feet over the fence in left-center. His third jack of the game tied the score in the bottom of the ninth, pushing the Generals and Birmingham Barons into their first extra-innings game of the year. Cron, the 2016 Southern League leader in home runs, led the league in dingers through May.

SUNDAY, APRIL 9th VS. BIRMINGHAM

20-Run Fun

Stinging from an 8-7 extra-innings loss the night before, the Jackson offense unloaded on Birmingham in a 20-5 blowout on Sunday afternoon. Led by multiple homers from both Dawel Lugo and Stewart Ijames, Jackson did all of its scoring in the first seven innings, tallying 18 RBI and 22 hits, 12 of which went for extra bases. The Generals’ six home runs fell one bomb shy of the Southern League record. Jackson recorded their highest run total since August 7, 2009, when the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx took down Carolina, 20-9. The 22 hits from J.R. House’s squad is the highest hit total for a Generals team since May 10, 2006, a 25-hit effort in a 15-1 drubbing of Mississippi.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19th VS. MONTGOMERY

Dugan Downs The BiscuitsKR1A0464

Facing a 7-3 deficit with six outs to go, the Generals mounted an improbable comeback, scoring five runs in the last two innings for an 8-7 walk-off win. Generals outfielder Kelly Dugan started the four-run eighth inning with a sacrifice fly, and he finished the game with a two-out ninth-inning broken-bat double into the right field corner that scored catcher Michael Perez from first base.

SATURDAY, APRIL 22nd AT BILOXI

Gabe, The New Babe

Batting for the second time as a minor leaguer, Generals left-handed pitcher Gabe Speier used his first swing as a professional to crank an opposite-field solo home run in Biloxi. The April 22nd dinger was the first by a Jackson pitcher since August 9, 2006, when reliever Bobby Brownlie homered in the 11th inning of a 7-3 West Tenn Diamond Jaxx victory over Jacksonville. Speier out-did Brownlie, too: both men got the win in their respctive games, but Speier threw 3.1 scoreless innings of relief, while Brownlie only notched 3.0 innings.

MONDAY, APRIL 24th AT BILOXI

Westbrook’s Triple-DoubleJamie Westbrook 4

After starting in a 6-for-50 rut, Generals second baseman Jamie Westbrook erupted on April 24th with a slump-busting 4-for-5 night at Biloxi. Westbrook’s first two at-bats consisted of an RBI double to left and a two-run triple to center field, but he wasn’t finished. In the fifth inning, the Chandler, Ariz. native doubled to right, marking his first game with three or more hits on the season. In the sixth, Biloxi retired the first two batters before Rudy Flores* and Victor Reyes connected on consecutive doubles. Westbrook, batting next, doubled again to right, scoring Reyes. The double was Westbrook’s third of the night and the third in a row in that inning. Westbrook’s rebound from the slump was a week-long fast-break: he won Southern League Player of the Week honors on May 1st after a 13-for-27 week at the plate. He celebrated that afternoon by hitting his first homer of the season, taking Chattanooga’s Felix Jorge deep in a 12-pitch at-bat.

SATURDAY, MAY 13th VS. PENSACOLA

Keller Beats Mahle

Facing Pensacola ace right-hander Tyler Mahle, the Generals came up with an impressive 3-0 victory in front of a big Saturday night crowd. Mahle, less than one month removed from throwing a perfect game, allowed a solo home run to Rudy Flores* in seven innings of work. Jackson right-hander Brad Keller out-dueled him, holding the Blue Wahoos scoreless over six innings. Kevin Cron* and Dawel Lugo also added solo home runs in the eighth and ninth innings to put the victory on ice, handing Mahle his first defeat of the year.

FRIDAY, MAY 19th AT MONTGOMERY

Doubly GrandRudyFlores1

After an 11-6 victory the night before, the Generals offense ate up the Montgomery Biscuits in a 17-5 feast, garnering two grand slams in the process. Generals outfielder Kelly Dugan and designated hitter Rudy Flores* each hit home runs with the bases loaded, marking the first time a team had slammed twice in the same game since current Houston Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick hit two grand slams by himself in an 11-2 Jacksonville victory at Pensacola on May 30, 2013.

 

SATURDAY, MAY 27th AT JACKSONVILLE

20-K Comrades

Generals hurlers Taylor Clarke*, Joey Krehbiel*, and Gabriel Moya* combined to retire 20 Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp on strikes in a 4-2 nine-inning comeback victory. Clarke set a career high with 12 punchouts, while Krehbiel added five, a season-high among Generals relievers at that point. The 20-K effort fell two strikeouts shy of the Southern League record (22), which was most recently tied by Jackson in a victory over Chattanooga on April 21st, 2014. Moya had the chance to tie the record, but the final two outs of the ninth inning were recorded via groundout and flyout. Jacksonville led 2-0 until the eighth inning, but the Generals rallied with five hits in the final two frames to overtake the Jumbo Shrimp.

 

FRIDAY, JUNE 2nd VS. MISSISSIPPI

Walking TallColin Walsh 3

Generals second baseman Colin Walsh* reached base safely in a team-best 22nd straight game, making his streak that began on May 10th one of the three longest tears in the Southern League at that time. Walsh went 18-for-63 with five extra base hits and a wondrous 31 walks. Walsh’s walk total (55 through June 2) led all players in the affiliated minor leagues and Major League Baseball. Walsh won the Southern League’s first Player of the Week honor in 2017 by hitting .371 over the first nine games of the year, recording two home runs and seven doubles in that span.

 

FRIDAY, JUNE 3rd VS. MISSISSIPPI

The Force Is Strong With Fans

Wearing Star Wars-themed jerseys adorned with movie character Admiral Ackbar, the Generals played a riveting series finale against the Mississippi Braves in front of a season-high 6,224 fans. The Generals dropped a 4-3 contest, but the crowd was treated to a rousing post-game fireworks show and lots of promotional segments that paid homage to the famous sci-fi film franchise.

 

TUESDAY, JUNE 6th AT CHATTANOOGA

Nine Shutout Innings (Of Relief)Joey Krehbiel pitching 2

In the longest game of the year to date, the Generals bested the Lookouts 4-2 with the help of nine scoreless innings from their bullpen. Right-hander Joel Payamps allowed just two runs in his five-inning start, but a five-man relief corps of Miller Diaz, Joey Krehbiel*, Jared Miller, Gabriel Moya*, and Yuhei Nakaushiro held Chattanooga scoreless thereafter. A sacrifice fly from Dawel Lugo and an RBI single by Kelly Dugan helped the Generals pull ahead in the top of the 14th inning. Nakaushiro got the final three outs just before midnight in a four-hour, 17-minute contest.

Chatting with Tony La Russa, Mike Bell

Tony La Russa

Believe it or not, the All-Star Break is right around the corner. After wrapping up a series in Chattanooga against the Lookouts, the Generals have just ten more games until the midpoint of the 2017 campaign.

After a quick 19-9 start to the season, the Generals have slowed down some. Going into the finale in Chattanooga Thursday night, the team is just a game above .500 and 3.5 games back in the North Division. The team is still alive for a playoff spot, but they’ll need to make a run quickly.

Even with the team scuffling some, things have been good around the Generals. We were fortunate enough to have both Tony La Russa and Mike Bell in town for the series against Mississippi. La Russa doesn’t need much of an introduction, especially in West Tennessee. He ranks third all-time in managerial wins among MLB skippers, has three World Series Rings and is in the Hall of Fame. He has been in Arizona’s front office since 2014.

La Russa could not have been nicer or more welcoming. I know the coaches and players enjoyed having him around. He took ample time to chat with me in the interview below.

Mike Bell is the Vice President, Player Development for the D-backs. He is in charge of all things minor leagues in the organization. I spoke with him about some of the standout performers for the Generals in the First Half of the season and what we can expect to see as the year goes on.


The 2017 Southern League All-Star Game is Tuesday, June 20 in Pensacola. Six Generals were named to the initial North Division roster earlier this week. Congrats to those guys!

 

Generals’ series with Mississippi heavy on prospects

TaylorClarke3
Taylor Clarke (4-2, 2.70 ERA) leads the Generals into their series against a Mississippi Braves squad full of top Atlanta prospects. (Photo Credit: Cody Cunningham)
Mississippi

Pitching Prospects

(Baseball America organizational rank)

Notes/Stats Jackson

Pitching Prospects

(Baseball America organizational rank)

Notes/Stats
RHP Mike Soroka (#4)

Wednesday

 

LHP Kolby Allard (#3)

Thursday

 

LHP Max Fried (#10)

Saturday

 

 

2.96 ERA

 

 

1.83 ERA

 

 

Carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning on 4/25 at Montgomery

RHP Brad Keller (#8)

Tuesday

 

LHP Alex Young (#11)

Wednesday

 

RHP Taylor Clarke (#7)

Friday

 

LHP Josh Taylor (#25)

Saturday

 

LHP Jared Miller (#19)

Bullpen

 

2.93 ERA in home games

 

0.82 ERA vs. left-handed hitters

 

 

2.73 ERA

 

10 Ks on 5/28

 

 

Vandy alum, 1.57:1 groundout-flyout ratio

Mississippi Position Player Prospects Notes/Stats Jackson Position Player

Prospects

Notes/Stats
OF Ronald Acuna (#6)

 

 

2B Travis Demeritte (#19)

.375 BA, 3 HR in 19 games

 

.310 BA with runners in scoring position

3B Dawel Lugo (#2)

 

 

OF Victor Reyes (#23)

5-game hitting streak

 

2 triples, 6 SB, .293 BA

As the Cavaliers and Warriors ready for their third straight NBA Finals rematch, another rivalry will be revisited this week. Last year’s Southern League Championship Series featured the Mississippi Braves and the Jackson Generals, and the two teams will meet for the first time since Jackson’s September triumph on Tuesday, May 30.

17_Kolby_Allard_EG_008
Mississippi LHP Kolby Allard

Jackson’s five-game home-stand against Mississippi will showcase twelve of the top prospects ranked by Baseball America among the best in the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves organizations. The M-Braves (24-26) feature a pair of highly touted starting pitchers who allow fewer than three earned runs per game on average: left-hander Kolby Allard (1.83) and right-hander Mike Soroka (2.96). Infielder Travis Demeritte (22 years old) and outfielder Ronald Acuna (19) are both making big contributions to the Mississippi offense in the early part of the season. Mississippi’s Carlos Franco is tied with Jackson infielders Kevin Cron and Colin Walsh for the league lead with 11 home runs.

17_Mike_Soroka_EG_009
Mississippi RHP Mike Soroka

In addition to highlighting a number of prospects in the Atlanta system, Tuesday’s series opener will feature MLB veteran Kris Medlen, who makes a rehab start for the M-Braves. Medlen has 173 Major League appearances and a 3.25 career ERA, winning a World Series ring with the Kansas City Royals in 2015.

The Generals (27-23) are off to a strong start in their first year of affiliation with the Arizona Diamondbacks, sitting 2.5 games out of first place in the North Division. Jackson completed an 11-game road trip on Sunday, winning back-to-back battles with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp to close their Memorial Day weekend.

Jackson leads the Southern League with 59 home runs, 13 more than any other team. First-year manager J.R. House continues to find ways to adapt his squad’s capabilities, as their past two wins have come without the help of any home runs.

KR1A7941
Josh Taylor (4-3, 4.06 ERA) threw the longest outing of the season by any Generals pitcher on May 28, finishing 7.1 innings with 10 strikeouts at Jacksonville. (Photo Credit: Cody Cunningham)

Standout pitching performances from right-hander Taylor Clarke (12 strikeouts on Saturday) and left-hander Josh Taylor (10 strikeouts on Sunday) exemplify a Jackson pitching staff that is beginning to round into form. Relievers Gabriel Moya and Joey Krehbiel sport identical 1.61 ERA marks, combining for 70 strikeouts across 35 total appearances.

Each of the five games will begin at The Ballpark at Jackson at 6:05 pm CT, and you can hear the games on RadioWillie.com as well as 94.1 FM/94.3 FM/1390 AM. Saturday, June 3rd will be Star Wars Night, with specialty jerseys to be worn by the Generals and later auctioned off for charity proceeds. For more information on the team and ticket information, check out JacksonGeneralsBaseball.com or dial 731.988.5299.

Generals’ offense re-loads on the road

KR1A0464
Kelly Dugan spanked two home runs in the Generals’ first two road games at Montgomery. The Generals are 14-5 on the road this year. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

If you looked at the 24-19 Jackson Generals, your eyes would probably widen slightly in peeking at two stats in particular: comebacks, and home/road splits. The Generals, despite scoring the most runs of any team in the league (220), have not yet proven to be a team that rallies well.

Huh?

(Hang on, we’re getting there.)

Continue reading

Homer-happy approach has Generals’ offense leading Southern League

 

RudyFlores1
Rudy Flores went deep for the fourth time this year on Wednesday, helping the Generals beat Tennessee 2-0. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

The Jackson Generals reclaimed first place in the Southern League’s North Division on Wednesday, and they did it in familiar fashion. To begin, Kelly Dugan bopped a home run in the third inning off the scoreboard beyond right-center field. Four innings later, Rudy Flores whistled a shot down the right field line that cleared the wall by inches. They were the 24th and 25th solo homers that Jackson has propelled out of the park in their first 32 games, marking an even 40 blasts as a team in total.

There is a reason Baseball America’s first-month data says the Generals have the minor leagues’ premier offense so far: Jackson has hit the ball a long way, and they have done it a lot. You wouldn’t easily score 164 runs in 32 games without knowing how to dinger, and they do. Remember, the 2016 Mobile BayBears jacked a league-best 109 homers, and that team featured 10 position players who are now Generals.

Continue reading

Series Preview: Generals bound for Biloxi

BrooksHall1
Generals right-hander Brooks Hall was one of four Jackson starters to complete five innings in the series against Montgomery. Hall pitched for the Biloxi Shuckers in 2015 and 2016. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

Shucks!

(You’re laughing, I can tell. No, really, I see you doing it. It’s all good!)

That one-syllable interjection kind of encapsulates both the week gone by and the week ahead for the Jackson Generals (9-5). For the second time in as many weeks, the Generals are leaving town to visit a coastal opponent, matched up with the Biloxi Shuckers (6-8), the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Because the Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks (Jackson’s new parent club) are both National League teams, Saturday will mark the first time the Jackson franchise has batted their pitchers in over a decade. On September 4, 2006, Chicago Cubs farmhand J.R. Mathes threw a complete game victory for the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx at Pringles Park, allowing one run to Chattanooga while batting three times with two strikeouts.

Two and a half hours to the east of Mathes’ complete game, a 26-year-old first baseman was busy collecting a pair of hits, scoring a run and driving in another to help the Round Rock Express get a 10-4 win in Nashville. J.R. House batted cleanup for the Express in that game, and while the Generals’ new manager would probably prefer his pitchers to hit more like him than Mathes, that’s far from his first concern at present.

Since their 53-run jetpack ride in the season-opening series with Birmingham, gravity has done a number on the Generals. They scored just 23 runs in a 4-1 series at Mobile, and the five-day crucible that followed against Montgomery gave Jackson a window to the opposite end of the spectrum. The Generals produced only 17 runs against the Biscuits, netting one victory in four games. Thursday night’s 9-5 loss was a difficult final note, going off key during an eight-run eighth inning for Montgomery. The fifth scheduled contested was postponed until May due to rain, denying the Generals a chance to end the series on a win.

To be fair, House’s team made many positive steps against Montgomery, a talented and detail-minded opponent. All of Jackson’s starting pitchers completed five innings, with none giving up more than three earned runs. Three of those arms (Josh Taylor, Brooks Hall, and Brad Keller) departed with a lead or while the game was tied; the fourth, Taylor Clarke, allowed just one earned run–on a bunt single–in a frustrating 1-0 loss. There was also a late-inning comeback, as the Generals rallied from a 7-3 deficit in the final two innings for a walk-off 8-7 win on Wednesday.

KR1A9815
Michael Perez has started behind the plate in eight of the Generals’ 14 games, bringing some offensive punch to the lower third of the Jackson lineup. (Photo credit: Cody Cunningham)

The Generals’ search for consistency at the plate and in the bullpen looks like a continuing theme for the early part of the season. Montgomery scored nearly as many runs against the Generals’ relief corps (15) as the Generals scored overall in the series. Offensively, only three of the team’s twelve position players–Victor Reyes, Michael Perez, and reigning Southern League Player of the Week Colin Walsh–have batted over .300 in Jackson’s last 10 games.

The Biloxi series will be a stiff test for Jason Camilli’s hitters. The Shuckers’ staff features the second-best team ERA in the Southern League (2.59, as of Friday afternoon) and a league-leading 138 strikeouts, a rate of ten-and-a-half punch-outs every nine innings.

Generals right-hander Brooks Hall pitched for Biloxi in each of the last two seasons, so at least one General will recognize a few of the faces in the opposing dugout. Four Generals hitters on the active roster–Kevin Cron, Rudy Flores, Evan Marzilli, and Kevin Medrano–finished the 2016 season with on-base percentages of at least .300 against Biloxi, when each player suited up for the Mobile BayBears. Additionally, Jackson will be able to call on fresh muscle tomorrow night, with right-handed relief pitcher Daniel Gibson added to the roster on Friday afternoon in place of Drew Muren.

The pitching matchups for the series are listed below. You can hear each of the first four games of the series locally in Jackson on Radio Willie (94.1 and 94.3 FM, 1390 AM) and RadioWillie.com. Wednesday’s 10:35 am CT finale will be available only on the Jackson Generals Baseball Network, which you can find on the TuneIn Radio app (available for free download on most smartphones).

SATURDAY: 6:35 pm CT first pitch

Pitching Matchup: LHP Alex Young (1-0, 0.90 ERA) vs. RHP Aaron Wilkerson (2-1, 2.30 ERA)

SUNDAY: 1:05 pm CT first pitch

Pitching Matchup: RHP Taylor Clarke (1-1, 3.86 ERA) vs. RHP Jorge Lopez (1-1, 2.57 ERA)

MONDAY: 6:35 pm CT first pitch;

Pitching Matchup: LHP Josh Taylor (1-1, 3.00 ERA) vs. RHP Taylor Williams (0-0, 1.13 ERA)

TUESDAY: 6:35 pm CT first pitch;

Pitching Matchup: RHP Brooks Hall (0-0, 8.10 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Ortiz (0-2, 4.50 ERA)

WEDNESDAY: 10:35 am CT first pitch;

Pitching Matchup: RHP Brad Keller (2-0, 1.20 ERA) vs. RHP Taylor Jungmann (0-1, 4.50 ERA)

Make sure to get your tickets now to see the 20th season of professional baseball in Jackson, and the first for the team as an affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks! Call the team at (731) 988.5299, stop by The Ballpark or go online to jacksongeneralsbaseball.com to secure your seats now!

Starting Strong

Cron Tongue 960
Kevin Cron put on a show in Jackson’s first series of 2017 (Cody Cunningham)

A lot is new for the Generals in 2017. The team is in its first year of a brand new affiliation with the Arizona Diamondbacks after three years as Seattle’s Double-A affiliate. While the team is coming off a 2016 Southern League Championship, none of the Generals actually played for the team last season.

Something that is the same–at least in the early going–is very good baseball. The Generals opened up the season with four wins out of five versus Birmingham. The team’s starters combined to allow just three earned runs in 26 innings (1.04 ERA), and the offensive numbers are staggering. The Generals lead the Southern League in average (.348), home runs (10), doubles (14), hits (65) and runs (43).

Five games is much too soon to draw any meaningful conclusions, but those numbers are mighty impressive. Every General had at least three hits over the first four games, so it’s not just one or two guys. But there were some truly impressive performances over the weekend.

We saw some prodigious power from Tyler O’Neill last year. I would not want to saddle anyone this early with being compared to the 2016 Southern League MVP, but even O’Neill did not do what Kevin Cron did on Saturday night. Cron hit three home runs in one game, becoming the first General to do so since 2013.

Cron hit a solo blast in the second inning off of top White Sox prospect Michael Kopech. With the team down 7-4 in the eighth inning, he hit another solo shot to bring the Generals within two. He completed the trifecta with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and force extras. Jackson would lose in extras 8-7 despite the heroic effort at the plate.

I got a chance to speak with Kevin about the feat. It was the first time as a pro he had hit three home runs in a game even though he led the Southern League with 26 bombs last year.

That wasn’t it for Cron, either. In his first at-bat on Sunday, the slugger went yard again. It was the fourth time in six at-bats that he homered.

And that began a historic afternoon for the Generals. The team hit six home runs as part of a 20-run, 22-hit effort in a 20-5 win over the Barons. The six long balls were one shy of tying a Southern League record. The last time the Generals scored 20 runs was in 2009 (Box Score), and the last time the team had more than 22 hits was in 2006 (Box Score).

Stewart Ijames and Dawel Lugo each went deep twice, while Colin Walsh and Cron added one apiece. The team scored in each of its first seven trips to the plate. Every General had at least one hit and a run scored, while seven knocked in a run.

Had Birmingham centerfielder Hunter Jones not made a spectacular diving catch to rob Jamie Westbrook of a potential walk-off double Saturday night, the Generals would likely be undefeated. Alas, they’ll settle for 4-1.


The Generals embark on their first road trip of 2017 Wednesday. Fittingly, it will be to Mobile. The BayBears had been Arizona’s Double-A affiliate for the past decade prior to this year. Sixteen of the 27 players to begin the season with the Generals spent time with Mobile last year.

The BayBears are now an affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Angels had been in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now the Arkansas Travelers are home to Seattle’s Double-A club, bringing everything full circle (as the Generals/Diamond Jaxx had been affiliated with the Mariners for the previous ten seasons).

So the series features the only two teams in the circuit to change affiliations this offseason. And Mobile features the only truly new team in the Southern League, as the Angels had been a part of the eight-team Texas League from 2001 to 2016. We all caught up?

Anyways, should be a fun time. Hope you can tune in on Radio Willie in Jackson and online via the TuneIn Radio App. Wednesday’s game gets started at 6:35 pm CT.