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June 9, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Walter and Winckowski lead Worcester to doubleheader sweep

6/9 Cup of Coffee: With the rookie league teams off on Wednesday, Boston affiliates went a collective 2-3. Both of those wins belonged to the WooSox, who received impressive starting pitching from Brandon Walter (pictured, right) and Josh Winckowski en route to a doubleheader sweep in Buffalo. Speaking of pitching, Chris Murphy struck out a season-high 11 batters in Portland while Brendan Cellucci continued to thrive as an opener in Greenville. On the other side of the ball, Niko Kavadas went deep for Salem. 


Brandon Walter bounced back in a big way after getting roughed up in his Triple-A debut last week. Making his first start on the road for Worcester, the left-hander allowed just one run on four hits, three walks, and five strikeouts over six solid innings of work. 65 of the 95 pitches he threw went for strikes. Kaleb Ort took over in the seventh and struck out two to earn his seventh save of the season. Rob Refsnyder accounted for Worcester's first two runs on a two-run double in the first inning. Ryan Fitzgerald provided some insurance in the top of the seventh by crushing his 11th home run of the year. Refsnyder and Connor Wong each had two hits. 

Josh Winckowski followed in Walter's footsteps by putting together a strong performance of his own in the nightcap of Wednesday's twin bill. The right-hander kept Buffalo off the board while scattering three hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over seven dominant innings. Winckowski is technically credited with the complete game shutout as he lowered his ERA on the season to 3.38. 

Worcester's first two runs of the game scored on a two-run fielding error in the first inning. Ronaldo Hernandez drove in the third on a sacrifice fly. In the seventh and final frame, Worcester broke out for six runs while collectively hitting for the cycle. Grant Williams plated Jeter Downs on an RBI double, Jarren Duran pushed across Williams with an RBI triple, Fitzgerald singled in Duran, and Christin Stewart capped it off with a three-run home run.  Stewart drove in four runs on the night and has now clubbed six homers this season.


Portland dropped its second straight contest to Hartford at Hadlock Field despite a gritty performance on the mound from Chris Murphy. The 24-year-old southpaw was tagged for four runs on five hits, but surpassed his season-high in strikeouts with 11 while only walking two batters over six innings. Murphy finished the night with 93 pitches (65 strikes) and took the loss. Jake Thompson and Chase Shugart combined for three scoreless frames out of the Portland bullpen.

Offensively, Portland was limited to just four hits -- one of which belonged to the recently-promoted Ceddanne Rafaela. Rafaela doubled in the first inning for his first hit at the Double-A level but was thrown out at third base trying to extend it to a triple. Pedro Castellanos, Kole Cottam, and Tyler Dearden were responsible for the other three hits.


Like Portland, Greenville was also shut out on Wednesday night. Matthew Lugo and Alex Binelas both tripled while combining for four hits, but the Drive still left six runners on base as a team and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

On the other side of things, Brendan Cellucci served as the opener for Greenville. The 23-year-old lefty walked two and struck out three over two scoreless, no-hit innings. 19 of the 34 pitches he threw went for strikes. He now owns an ERA of 2.04 in his nine starts. Yusniel Padron-Artiles took over for Cellucci and yielded just one earned run on six hits, one walk, and six strikeouts across five innings. Michael Gettys followed with a scoreless frame while Robert Kwiatkowski was tagged for one run in the ninth.


It was a rough outing for Wikelman Gonzalez, who lasted just one inning and got rocked for three runs on one hit, two walks, and two strikeouts in his 11th start of the season. The 20-year-old righty raised his ERA on the season to 4.42. In relief of Gonzalez, Felix Cepeda and Osvaldo De La Rosa each gave up one run out of the Salem bullpen. Adenys Bautista twirled 2 1/3 scoreless frames while 2021 12th-round draft pick Christopher Troye surrendered two runs in two innings, though he did strike out six.

Niko Kavadas got Salem on the board with a two-run home run in the seventh inning. Fast forward to the ninth, Phillip Sikes doubled in a run before he and Yorberto Mejicano both scored on a pair of wild pitches. Kavadas went 2 for 4 with his seventh homer of the season. Mejicano also went 2 for 4 while Eddinson Paulino drew three walks and stole his eighth base of the year out of the leadoff spot.


Player of the Day: Josh Winckowski (pictured, left) got the WooSox back to .500 (28-28) on Wednesday and was efficient in doing so. He needed just 74 pitches to get through seven scoreless innings and pick up his second win of the season. The fifth-ranked pitching prospect in the organization, Winckowski -- who turns 24 later this month -- now owns an ERA of 3.38 ERA and WHIP of 0.96 in his nine starts and 42 2/3 innings with Worcester. 

Photo Credit: Brandon Walter, Josh Winckowski by Kelly O'Connor