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May 7, 2023 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Abreu leads WooSox twinbill sweep; Kavadas, Yorke power Portland


5/7 Cup of Coffee:
Saturday's lineup featured a bevy of standout performances, particularly on the offensive side. Wilyer Abreu delivered five hits during Worcester's doubleheader sweep at Polar Park, pushing the WooSox to their ninth win in their last 10 games. Portland also continues to cruise, as a scorching Nick Yorke has been joined by a resurgent Niko Kavadas (both pictured). Marcelo Mayer continues to enjoy his opening to the month of May, sporting a cool 1.259 OPS through five games with the Drive. The only loss of the day was in Salem, despite the efforts of Cutter Coffey.

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Ronaldo Hernandez played the hero in the opener of Saturday's twinbill. His solo home run in the fourth inning served as a preview of his walk-off three-run blast in the bottom of the eighth. Wilyer Abreu also went deep as part of a 2-for-4, three-RBI effort. David Hamilton stole his 20th base of the season, giving him a share of the lead among all minor leaguers. Hamilton was 1 for 2 with two walks and two runs scored in the opener. Bobby Dalbec got his first professional start in the outfield, batting cleanup and playing right. 

Brandon Walter got the start, allowing four runs on eight hits in five innings, striking out six against two walks. SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Ian Cundall was in attendance and reported that Walter touched 93 with his fastball and mixed four pitches, but command was not necessarily consistent. Joely Rodriguez continued his rehab with a scoreless sixth inning, striking out a pair. AJ Politi struck out four, walked one, and gave up one hit across two scoreless frames to get credit for the victory.

The nightcap at Polar Park was all WooSox, as every member of the starting lineup had at least one hit, and eight of the team's 15 hits went for extra bases. Abreu picked up another three hits, driving in two and scoring a pair. Dalbec was back at his more traditional third base spot, joining Jorge Alfaro for back-to-back homers in the sixth inning. Alfaro drove in five runs as part of a 3-for-5 effort. Ryan Fitzgerald also went deep for Worcester. Norwith Gudino got the spot start, scattering three hits across three scoreless innings. Ryan Sheriff tossed a hitless inning of relief to get the win, with Taylor Broadway (two scoreless innings) and Oddanier Mosqueda (one unearned run) completing the effort.

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Sea Dogs starting pitching continued to stymie Akron batters, while Niko Kavadas powered the offensive attack. A day after breaking through with his first home run of the season, Kavadas went deep once again, he also added two singles and walked twice, scoring two runs while driving in a pair. Phillip Sikes was a catalyst out of the leadoff spot, going 3 for 5 with a double, stolen base, and two RBI. Nick Yorke scored three times as part of his 3-for-6 night.

After CJ Liu fired a seven-inning no-hitter on Friday and Shane Drohan led a combined one-hitter on Thursday, Portland again held Akron hitless for 5 2/3 innings Saturday night. Wyatt Olds got the start, firing three frames without allowing a hit while striking out seven. Control continues to be Olds' nemesis: he allowed one run as he walked three batters and hit three more, needing 68 pitches to get through those three hitless innings. Through 15 1/3 innings this year, Olds has walked 18 and hit eight batters. Jacob Webb got the win with two hitless frames, striking out two and walking one. Ryan Fernandez was perfect in the eighth inning, inducing a popup before striking out a pair, but he struggled when brought back out for the ninth, giving up a walk and two hits, the second of which was a three-run homer that brought Akron within three. Skylar Arias recorded the final two outs to preserve the win.

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Marcelo Mayer and Nathan Hickey blasted back-to-back home runs in the top of the first inning, kicking off big nights for both players. Mayer drove in five runs and added his eighth double of the year as part of a 3-for-6 evening. The system's top prospect now has four doubles and two homers in five May games, raising his season slash line to .309/.393/.511. Hickey was 3 for 4, driving in and scoring two apiece. Max Ferguson was 1 for 2 with three walks, a hit-by-pitch, and three runs scored out of the leadoff slot, and Chase Meidroth doubled and drove in a pair during a 2-for-5 night. Grant Gambrell earned his first win since July 14, 2021 as he allowed two unearned runs on seven hits in six innings. He missed all of 2022 after a major ankle injury.

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Salem suffered the organization's only defeat on Saturday, but it had its share of strong performers. Cutter Coffey reached base four times out of the leadoff spot, going 1 for 2 with three walks, two stolen bases, and two runs scored. Luis Ravelo also swiped a pair as part of his 2-for-5 effort, while Yorberto Mejicano was 2 for 3 with an double and a walk. Ryan Zeferjahn made his second rehab appearance and first start, surrendering one hit and striking out two in two scoreless innings. Caleb Bolden was a highlight in relief, striking out six without issuing a walk while giving up just one hit in 3 1/3 scoreless.

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Player of the Day: Niko Kavadas was the system's top offensive performer in 2022 but was off to a difficult start at the plate in his second full season. Through 19 games, he was hitting just .213 with only one extra-base hit, giving him a slugging percentage (.230) than his isolated slugging last year (.267). While the strikeouts were somewhat concerning, the he continued to show a good approach at the plate that seemed to portend that the slump would not last. In his last two games, he is 5 for 7 with two homers and a double, bringing that slugging percentage up over 150 points to .382.  

Photo Credit: Niko Kavadas & Nick Yorke by Kelly O'Connor