Salt River Wins AFL Championship PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Sunday, 16 November 2014 11:19

Saturday’s AFL LCG would pit the team that gave up the fewest home runs this year, (the Salt River Rafters surrendered only eight round trippers in 32 games), against the team that hit the fewest home runs (the Peoria Javelinas knocked only 11 balls over the fence).

Yet ironically, after the top half of the sixth inning, the Javelinas had hit five home runs, including three solo shots in the fourth inning: back-to-back shots by Hunter Dozier and Justin O’Conner, and another three batters later by Kes Carter. O’Conner then knocked his second homer--a two-run shot in the fifth inning-- and the fifth home run was a screaming line drive over the left field bullpen by Bubba Starling.

Still, after Ryan Casteel hit a two-run shot for Salt River in the bottom of the sixth inning, the game was tied at 7-7. Casteel’s shot was the second and final Rafter home run of the day. The first was a solo blast over the right field bullpen in the first inning by left fielder Eddie Rosario, who was the Salt River hitting star of the day, going 4-for-5 including a double and the home run, scoring two runs while driving in two.

The close hitting contest was put to rest in the bottom of the seventh inning when Salt River scored seven runs on four walks and four hits to take the final 14-7 score.

Prior to the game, there were two special AFL awards presented.

The first was the Dernell Stenson Award presented each year to a player who exemplifies teamwork and leadership and the 2014 winner was Patrick Kivlehan, who said "You want to be known for something that's more than being a baseball player. It's how you treat people on and off the field. I definitely think that from playing football and being a special-teams guy, you learn that you have to do whatever you can do to help the team win and do your part."

Kivlehan didn't just distinguish himself as a team player this fall -- he was also one of the best players in the AFL, leading the circuit in RBI (22) and finishing third in runs scored (18). Perhaps more importantly, the former outfielder rounded out his play at first base -- which could be his permanent position.

Receiving the Joe Black Award, the AFL’s most valuable tribute, was Gregory Bird, who hit a 450-foot home run to center field in the Fall Stars Game two weeks ago and was tied for the league lead in home runs (6) and led the league in runs scored (21). Bird was also second in hits (31), RBI (21) and total bases (55), third in extra-base hits (12) and slugging (.556) and sixth in batting (.313). He opened the season with a 16-game hitting streak and was also named MVP of the Fall Stars Game.

Last Updated on Sunday, 07 December 2014 08:27
AFL West - Won by Just One Percentage Point PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Friday, 14 November 2014 00:00

The Peoria Javelinas and Surprise Saguaros were virtually tied going into the last game of the Arizona Fall League season on Thursday with Surprise in front by just one game at 16-14 with a .533 winning percentage.

But Peoria’s 5-2 win put them at 15-14 and Surprise at 16-15 with Peoria’s winning percentage at .517 just one thin point ahead of Surprise, who finished at .516 – enough to claim the West Division championship and earn a spot in the league championship game against the East Division Salt River Rafters (17-11, .607).

It is a long way from where Peoria was early in the season, 3-10 and in danger of setting AFL record lows in batting average and runs scored. They finished the season on a 12-4 run to win the West.

"Obviously, we got off to a poor start. We didn't drive the ball out of the park," said Peoria manager Vance Wilson (KC). "To see them come together -- pitching, defense and the fundamentals -- in all the things that we teach in pro ball that wins championships, I couldn't be more proud of 36 guys."

Down 1-0 after four innings, the Javelinas got the first two runners on via singles and then had three RBI singles from Jacob Wilson (STL), Kes Carter (TB) and Breyvic Valera (STL) that all scored the runner from second base and left runners at first and second. The 3-1 lead would have held, Surprise scoring their second run in the bottom of the eighth, but Tampa Bay catcher Justin O’Conner hit a two-run homer to right field in the top of the ninth to widen the lead and allow Atlanta relief pitcher Brandon Cunniff to have a more comfortable save.

Javelinas starting pitcher – another young Brave, Aaron Northcraft went the first five innings, allowing just one run on three hits with no walks while striking out four.

The league championship game will be played at 3:08 ET Saturday afternoon at Scottsdale Stadium and will be shown live on the MLB Network and streamed on

Last Updated on Monday, 17 November 2014 08:01
Arizona Fall League Championship Game PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Monday, 10 November 2014 12:15

The Championship game is this Saturday, November 15 at Scottsdale Stadium at 3:08 PM ET and will be shown live on the MLB Network.

What I can’t tell you is which two 2014 AFL teams will play for the championship. The Salt River Rafters opened a 2.5 game lead on the surging Mesa Solar Sox on Saturday, so they are likely to be the East Division winner. But in the West Division, the Surprise Saguaros have just a half game lead over the Peoria Javelinas and the Glendale Desert Dogs are 2.5 games back with just four games left to play.

Surprise and Peoria will play each other twice this week at home while they both play one game each against Mesa and Salt River on the road.

If you did not watch the AFL Military Appreciation game on Saturday night on MLB Network, you missed several terrific performances. First, Surprise starter Justin Hancock (RHP/SD), who entered the game with an ERA of 8.25, pitched four no-hit innings to get the win and the relievers didn’t give up a hit or run until the sixth inning.

But the stars of the game were three Saguaro hitters:

Nick Williams (OF/TEX) gave the Saguaros the lead in the bottom of the first inning, swatting a long fly ball double to center field. Williams would add an RBI single later in the game.

Trea Turner (SS/SD) was 5-for-5, scoring four runs, knocking one in and adding a stolen base. You haven’t seen his name a lot in game recaps because as a “Taxi” player, he plays only on Wednesdays and Saturdays. But if you looked at my pre-season team previews, you saw that Turner was graded 80/80 for speed prior to the draft in June where the San Diego Padres made the North Carolina State teammate of pitcher Carlos Rodon their first round pick. If Surprise can get to the LCG on Saturday, you may have another chance to see him run.

Hunter Renfroe (OF/SD) put the game out of reach in the bottom of the sixth inning with a grand slam which gave the Saguaros a 10-2 lead. And the home run to left field was a laser shot no doubter that had the crowd buzzing. Not to mention the press box. For the game, Renfroe was 2-for-4 with five RBI.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 22:34
Peoria Javelinas Face Uphill Struggle PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Sunday, 26 October 2014 00:00

The Peoria Javelinas entered Friday’s AFL contest versus the Mesa Solar Sox with just a 3-10 record, and after the first inning, it looked like they were headed for their 11th loss as starting pitcher Dylan Baker (RHP/CLE) allowed a walk, single, single, walk, single, sac fly and walk before being pulled. The four-run first should have looked huge for Solar Sox SP Felipe Rivero (LHP/WAS) despite his 8+ ERA entering the game.

But after a 1-2-3 first inning, Rivero went on his own binge in the second, allowing a single, double, single, walk, hit batsman, single and wild pitch, and those five runs made him the losing pitcher as the Javelinas added two more runs in both the fourth and sixth innings en route to a 9-4 win. Unfortunately, that still finds the team last in wins and on pace to set records for the fewest runs scored and lowest team batting average in AFL history.


AFL Week 2 Honorees

Yankee prospect Greg Bird (1B/Scottsdale) was the AFL Hitter of the Week for Week 2. In four games, Bird hit .353 with a .421 on-base percentage, .706 slugging percentage, 1.130 OPS, two home runs, five RBI, a pair of walks and three runs scored.

Entering this week's play, the first sacker was hitting .368 overall and was tied for the league lead in home runs (three), RBI (10) and extra-base hits (six), and he was second in slugging percentage (.684) and hits (14).

The Pitcher honors for Week 2 went to Royals pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer (Peoria). Zimmer made two starts for the Peoria Javelinas, giving up no runs on two hits in six innings while walking two and striking out 12. In three starts overall in the Fall League, he was 0-0 with a 2.79 ERA in 9 1/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits with four walks, 15 strikeouts and a .156 opponent's batting average.

Unfortunately, Zimmer, the Royals #2 prospect as listed by, could not get loose in his next start and was pulled after the first inning and taken off the Javelinas roster two days later so Zimmer can rest and hopefully avoid any more shoulder problems. He was scheduled to pitch in the Venezuelan Winter League following the AFL but that is clearly a question mark at this point.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 08:51
Remaining Arizona Fall League Broadcasts PDF Print E-mail
Written by Perry Van Hook   
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 11:10

Below are the 2014 Arizona Fall League games that will be broadcast on MLB Network and/or streamed on live from Salt River Fields, where Major League Baseball's Pace of Game Committee is testing rules such as a 20-second pitch clock and time limits on inning changes and pitching changes.

Oct. 30 - Surprise at Salt River
Watch live on at 9:35 p.m. ET/6:35 MST
Oct. 31 - Scottsdale at Salt River
Watch live on MLB Network and at 3:35 p.m. ET/12:35 MST
Nov. 4 - Mesa at Salt River
Watch live on MLB Network and at 8:35 p.m. ET/6:35 MT
Nov. 6 - Mesa at Salt River
Watch live on MLB Network and at 8:35 p.m. ET/6:35 MT
Nov. 8 - Mesa at Surprise (Military Appreciation Game)
Watch live on MLB Network at 8:05 p.m. ET/6:05 MT
Nov. 15 - AFL Championship Game at Scottsdale Stadium
Watch live on MLB Network and at 3:08 p.m. ET/1:08 MT

In addition, the Fall Stars Game featuring Arizona Fall League All-Stars from the East and West divisions will play at Salt River Fields at 8 PM ET on Saturday November 1, which will be shown on the MLB Network.

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 October 2014 10:06
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