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July 29, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Greenville starters Walter, Van Belle shine in doubleheader

7/29 Cup of Coffee:
A rainy Tuesday added a pair of doubleheaders to the Wednesday slate. Greenville starting pitchers Brandon Walter (pictured) and Brian Van Belle were the highlight, combining for 21 strikeouts, three walks, and zero earned runs in 11 innings. Brayan Bello also turned in a strong start, striking out 10 for Portland, and Bradley Blalock spun five scoreless for Salem. Kutter Crawford had a quality debut for Worcester following a Hirokazu Sawamura rehab outing. Nick Yorke and Yairo Munoz kept their streaks alive at the plate.  


It was a tough night at the plate for Worcester hitter as a quartet of Bison hurlers took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Tate Matheny halted the bid with a single with one out, and Yairo Munoz added one later in the inning to extend his hitting streak to 20 games. Hirokazu Sawamura took the ball first on a rehab assignment, striking out one in a perfect inning. Kutter Crawford had a solid Triple-A debut out of the bullpen. Crawford surrendered nine hits in six innings but limited the damage to just three runs as he struck out five and walked one. Durbin Feltman added a scoreless eighth inning, giving up one hit. 


It was a tough day offensively for the Sea Dogs, as they managed just three runs on eight hits across the doubleheader. Pedro Castellanos had three of the six hits in the opener, including his second triple of the year. Tyreque Reed hit his fifth double in his ninth game since being promoted from Greenville. Starter Frank German allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in four innings.

Portland entered having lost just once in its previous 19 games but fell twice on Wednesday. Brayan Bello turned in a strong start, giving up two runs on five hits in 4 2/3. He walked two and struck out 10, the fourth time this season he has reached double digits in strikeouts and the second since reaching Double-A. A two-run homer by Ryan Fitzgerald in the second inning accounted for the Sea Dogs' run scoring.


First up in the Greenville starting pitcher showcase was Brandon Walter. The 26th-round pick from 2019 allowed just one hit in six innings, giving up two unearned runs that scored on a pair of fourth-inning errors behind him. Walter struck out a career-high 12 batters, walked only one, and threw 61 of 91 pitches for strikes. All of the Drive's run-scoring came on home runs: Tyler Esplin delivered a solo shot in the fifth, Tyler Dearden blew things open with a three-run blast in the sixth, and Joe Davis went deep two batters after Dearden with an insurance homer. It was the first homer by Davis since his promotion from Salem earlier in the month. 

Brian Van Belle continued his run of dominance but got little support as Hickory earned the split. Van Belle did not surrender a run in the month of July, firing 22 scoreless innings. He capped his month by scattering four hits across five shutout frames, striking out nine and walking two. The University of Miami product lowered his ERA by nearly two full runs, dropping from 5.56 to 3.70. Dearden added another homer in the nightcap but committed a crucial ninth-inning error that allowed Hickory to even the game at 2-2.


Not to be overshadowed by his Greenville counterparts, Salem starter Bradley Blalock also turned in a strong outing. Blalock allowed one unearned run on four hits in five innings, striking out three without issuing a walk. He needed just 46 pitches to get through those five innings, throwing 33 of them for strikes. Yasel Santana threw a scoreless 1 1/3 to earn his first professional save. Gilberto Jimenez led the way at the plate, driving in a pair of runs and drawing a walk as part of a 2-for-4 evening. Nick Yorke continues rolling, going 1 for 4 with a walk. Yorke has hit safely in 10 straight games and has reached base in 29 in a row. 


Player of the Day: The SoxProspects.com June Pitcher of the Month, Brandon Walter struggled in his first three outings after a promotion to High-A Greenville. Despite those struggles, Walter's strong peripherals indicated that he'd gotten a little unlucky thus far. The six-foot-two lefthander left little up to luck on Wednesday, striking out 12 of the 22 batters he faced on his way to giving up just one hit in six innings. Walter has struck out 33 batters and walked only three in his 18 innings with Greenville, giving him a ratio of 79 to nine across both levels.