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September 18, 2023 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Esplin tallies 7 RBIs in Portland; Perales leads Greenville to Game 1 win

9/18 Cup of Coffee:
Sunday's slate featured a pair of high-scoring affairs for Worcester and Portland and a playoff win for Greenville. Niko Kavadas and Nick Sogard powered the WooSox to an 11-5 victory in their final game of the season at Polar Park. Up the road at Hadlock Field, Tyler Dearden and Tyler Esplin (pictured) combined for seven hits and 13 RBIs as the Sea Dogs blew the doors off Hartford. The Drive, meanwhile, received a quality start from Luis Perales to take a 1-0 lead over Hudson Valley in the South Atlantic League Championship Series.


The WooSox came away with a series-splitting victory in their final home game of the season at Polar Park. Five members of Worcester's starting lineup enjoyed multi-hit days at the plate. Nick Sogard paced the group by going 3 for 5 with a double, a home run, two RBIs, and three runs scored. Enmanuel Valdez and Ronaldo Hernandez each went 2 for 4 in the process of combining for two RBIs, six runs scored, and two walks. Batting behind them, Corey Rosier doubled and drove in a run as part of his first two-hit showing at the Triple-A level. Like Sogard, Niko Kavadas provided some pop by going 2 for 5 with a two-run single and a three-run home run that travelled an estimated 447 feet over the Worcester Wall. David Hamilton reached base twice and swiped one bag to bring his season total to 57.

Shane Drohan lasted just two-thirds of an inning in his 19th start for Worcester. The 24-year-old lefty allowed three earned runs on three hits and one walk without striking out a batter. Of the 35 pitches he threw, 18 went for strikes. In what would prove to be a long afternoon for the WooSox bullpen, Oddanier Mosqueda and the rehabbing Zack Kelly combined for 2 1 /3 scoreless frames out of the gate. Bryan Mata then yielded one run on two hits and a walk in his return from the injured list before making way for Justin Hagenman, who picked up the winning decision by tossing 2 1/3 innings of one-run ball. From there, Luis Guerrero, Joe Jacques, and Andrew Politi each put up zeroes to end the final homestand of the year on a positive note.

At 38-30, the WooSox will enter the final week of the regular season trailing the Durham Bulls by 5 1/2 games for first place in the International League East second-half standings. They open a six-game series on the road against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Tuesday.


Behind strong offensive performances from the likes of Roman Anthony, Alex Erro, Tyler Dearden, and Tyler Esplin, Portland rattled off a franchise-record 24 runs in Sunday's season finale at Hadlock Field. Anthony went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and one run scored out of the leadoff spot. Erro, batting fifth, went 4 for 5 with a double, five RBIs, four runs scored, and a walk. Dearden and Esplin rounded out the lineup. The former drove in six runs on three hits (all singles). The latter did him one better by going 4 for 6 with a double, a home run (his first of the season), three runs scored, and a team-high seven RBIs to tie a franchise record. Phillip Sikes had just one hit, but the speedster drew three walks, scored four runs, and stole his 39th and final base of the year. Despite going hitless, Alex Binelas also walked three times, which resulted in two RBIs and two runs scored for him. In similar fashion, Chase Meidroth and Nathan Hickey combined for six walks and five runs. Nick Yorke and Tyler McDonough each crossed home plate once as well.

Hunter Dobbins was sharp in his final start of the season for the Sea Dogs. The 24-year-old righty allowed only one run on one hit and zero walks to go along with eight strikeouts over four efficient innings. Dobbins had retired the first 10 batters he faced before giving up a solo homer to Sterlin Thompson with one out in the top of the fourth. He finished with 51 pitches (37 strikes) and induced 13 swings-and-misses. Out of the Portland bullpen, CJ Liu fanned three across three innings of one-run ball. Christopher Troye and Brendan Cellucci then combined for two scoreless frames of relief to close it out.

With this historic win, the Sea Dogs close out the 2023 campaign with a record of 73-63 after going 40-29 in the first half and 33-34 in the second half. They fell short in making it to the Eastern League playoffs, which get underway on Tuesday.


Greenville blanked Hudson Valley in the opener of this best-of-three South Atlantic League Championship Series. Luis Perales got the start for the Drive and impressed, scattering one hit and two walks while striking out four over six scoreless innings. The 20-year-old righty earned the winning decision after throwing 44 of his 69 pitches for strikes and eliciting 12 whiffs. In relief of Perales, Casey Cobb, Frank German, and Felix Cepeda combined for three scoreless frames out of the bullpen. Despite allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base in the ninth, Cepeda held on and notched his second save of the postseason as a result.

The only scoring that took place in this one came in the top of the sixth inning. With the bases loaded and former Red Sox draft pick Sebastian Keane on the mound for Hudson Valley, Ronald Rosario and Kristian Campbell drew back-to-back one-out walks to plate both Allan Castro and Bryan Gonzalez. Rosario wound up going 1 for 3 with that RBI walk while Campbell went 0 for 2. Tyler Miller also went 1 for 3 with a walk and Gilberto Jimenez accounted for his side's lone extra-base hit with a third-inning double. Castro may have gone hitless, but the 20-year-old outfielder drew three walks and swiped one bag.

Following Sunday's victory, the Drive are now just one win away from securing their first South Atlantic League title since 2017. They will host the Renegades in Game 2 of this series at Fluor Field on Tuesday night.


Player of the Day: Tyler Esplin made the most of his opportunity on Sunday. Receiving his first start in exactly two weeks after being activated from the development list this past Tuesday, the left-handed hitter racked up a career-high of eight total bases in the process of tying the Portland franchise record for RBIs in a single game (7). He also hit his first Double-A home run, so it was certainly a memorable performance for the 24-year-old, who can become eligible for minor-league free agency this winter.

Photo Credit: Tyler Esplin by Kelly O'Connor