Fall Ball: 10/21 Notes

Another strong game for Domaracki

Friday saw the top pitching group take to the mound during the intrasquad game at Sunken Diamond. That didn't really bother the Cardinal hitters though. It was a banner day for the offense with a host of returnees and newcomers providing highlights at the plate. Read on for a full report.

Friday's intrasquad game featured three hitting groups:

Team A
1. Joey August
2. Austin Yount
3. Sean Ratliff
4. Brendan Domaracki
5. Brian Juhl
6. Jeff Boes
7. Stephen Brown

This team plated four runs in their six innings this afternoon with Domaracki and Yount leading the way.  Domaracki struggled often at the plate during his freshman season as he split time at the DH position.  Fast forward to this October and the Florida native has shown some of the most improvement offensively of any player on the team.  A patient left-handed bat who will draw a lot of walks, Domaracki went 3-for-4 on Friday with a double, two singles, and an RBI.  All three hits went to a different field while he also chipped in a stolen base.  He's not hitting home runs (not really his game), but Domaracki is tied for second on the team this fall season in extra base hits with six (three doubles and three triples - tied with Hester, behind Milleville).  There's no question that Domaracki is one of, if not the, leading candidate to take over in left field this season.

Yount has had a solid fall ball at the plate before his breakout performance today.  The talented two-way player, who has already excelled on the mound (see yesterday's notes), finished a perfect 3-for-3 this afternoon with a pair of doubles.  Both hits were to the opposite field (left) against experienced hurlers Matt Manship and Jeff Stimpson.  Yount is clearly showing he can be a successful two-way player at this level although based on the personnel on the team right now and his incredibly strong play on the mound, odds are he'll be used much more as a pitcher this season.

Juhl also had a strong day at the plate with a 2-for-3 effort that included a triple and an RBI.  The triple was a blast to deep right center field off of Greg Reynolds while he also chipped in an RBI single off of Stimpson.  Juhl has an excellent eye at the plate and with regular playing time would probably rank among the team leaders in on-base percentage even if he doesn't hit for a high average.  With John Hester returning for his senior year, Juhl's best bet for playing time this season is at DH and he's certainly in the mix for time at that position.  Juhl also impressed last fall ball, but was plagued with various injuries throughout all of last year (and summer) that severely limited his playing time.  A player like Brian Juhl is a great example of the much improved hitting depth on this year's club compared to last.  The "second team" this year is far better in 2006 than in '05.

Team B
1. Jim Rapoport
2. Chris Minaker
3. Ryan Seawell
4. Chris Lewis
5. Adam Sorgi
6. Brent Milleville
7. Jeff Whitlow

This hitting group only had three innings to play with today, but they certainly made the most of it scoring a whopping nine runs.  Minaker continued his torrid fall season at the plate with a perfect 3-for-3 afternoon.  After a pair of singles to open his day, the senior shortstop blasted a mammoth, no-doubt-about-it home run to deep left field off of Nolan Gallagher in his final plate appearance.  The long ball scored three runs for his team.  Minaker is showing early signs that he could enjoy a breakout senior year at the plate after a solid junior campaign (.291 AVG, 25 2B, 3 HR, 37 RBI).  His ability to handle the bat makes him a logical choice to hit second in the order this year.

With nine runs scored in just three innings Minaker was hardly the only offensive star in this hitting group.  In fact, all seven players recorded at least one hit.  Seawell, who is seeing most of his time defensively at first base and in center field, went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles and an RBI.  His lone out though may have been the at-bat of the game.  With a runner on third base, one out, and the infield playing back, Seawell stepped to the plate to face Reynolds.  What took place was a 12 or so pitch AB that fired up the entire team.  Reynolds kept making outstanding two-strike pitches - fastballs, curves, and change-ups on both sides of the plate - that were striking out everyone else on the day.  But Seawell kept finding ways to foul the pitches off before finally grounding out sharply to second base to score a run.  The end result drew Seawell tremendous praise from the coaching staff and his teammates - and this was the only time he was retired on the day.

Lewis returned to the field after a one-week absence and promptly blasted an RBI double to deep left field off of Reynolds as part of a 1-for-2 game.  The senior is playing exclusively at second base at this point in the fall season.  Meanwhile, Milleville and Whitlow have been two of the most impressive frosh hitters and each provided key hits on Friday.  Milleville went 1-for-3 with a two-run single off of Stimpson while Whitlow contributed two hits in three at-bats.  Milleville continues to split time at catcher and first base and looks very comfortable at both positions.

Team C
1. J.J. Jelmini
2. Cord Phelps
3. Jason Castro
4. John Hester
5. Michael Taylor
6. Grant Escue
7. Randy Molina
8. Jeremy Bleich

This team had a tough time this afternoon recording just one run on two hits during their five innings at-bat.  In their final opportunity of the day, Taylor led off with a ringing triple to deep right center field and immediately scored when Escue knocked him in with a single.  Taylor continues to show signs that he's become a legitimate Pac-10 middle of the order hitter with his fall performance at the plate thus far.

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This was definitely a big day for the offense and what made it especially impressive was that it came against the top pitching group.  Gallagher was victimized by one bad inning as Minaker stroked the three-run home run off the sophomore right-hander early in his outing.  The Montana native did finish with three strike outs and one walk over 3 1/3 innings (five hits allowed). 

Stimpson started strong with a pair of scoreless innings to begin his day.  The junior right-hander displayed a lot of confidence early on with a hard-breaking curve ball that the opposition was having a really tough time with.  Stimpson struggled with his control in his first two fall appearances (although he proved to be quite difficult to hit), but went three total innings with no walks (and three strike outs) today.  The hitters would catch up to him late in his outing with three runs as Domaracki, Juhl, and Escue provided RBI singles.

Manship fired four full innings today with three runs and six hits surrendered.  Manship wasn't particularly overpowering with just one strike out, but he was throwing a lot of strikes and his velocity remains impressive (high 80's).  The hot Cardinal bats got to Manship in his fourth and final inning of work with a pair of runs on a Ratliff sacrifice fly and a wild pitch from the senior right-hander.

Finally, Reynolds also saw time on the hill today and again was the most impressive hurler in this pitching group.  For the first time all fall (10 IP), Reynolds did finally run into some trouble as he surrendered three runs in his second inning of work this afternoon.  A wild pitch scored the first run before Seawell's ground out and Lewis' double plated two more scores.  But beside that minor hiccup, it was another notable outing for the junior right-hander.

Over his other three innings today, Reynolds did not allow a run with just one hit surrendered.  He struck out a total of five batters and flat-out overmatched most of the hitters he faced.  Three scoreless, dominant innings were certainly quite a feat on this day with the type of offensive production that we saw.

Each active pitcher has now made three appearances this fall totaling eight to 11 innings.  Reynolds, Blake Holler, Gallagher, and Yount have, statistically, proven to be the most difficult to hit.  Reynolds, Stimpson, and freshmen Jeremy Bleich, Sean Ratliff, and Max Fearnow have racked up the most strike outs per innings pitched on the club.  Reynolds has separated himself from the pack in the latter category and boasts nearly a 3.5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

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