September 2, 2014

Saltdogs finish the season on fire and now prepare for the playoffs

With a Gary loss at Winnipeg Sunday night, the Saltdogs clinched the 2014 American Association Central Division Championship, and have earned a playoff berth for the first time since 2010.

After clinching the title, the Lincoln Saltdogs (54-46) split a double header with the Sioux City Explorers to wrap up the regular season at Haymarket Park Monday afternoon.  The Saltdogs were beat 6-3 in game one, and in the regular season finale, Lincoln won 12-6.

Lincoln plays the Winnipeg Goldeyes in a best-of-five semifinal series beginning Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Shaw Park.  Game two is Thursday night at Shaw Park at 7 p.m.  Then the series heads back to Haymarket Park for game three (Saturday at 6:05 p.m.); game four, if necessary (Sunday at 5:05 p.m.) and game five, if necessary (Monday at 6:05 p.m.).

The Saltdogs won the 2009 American Association Championship after sneaking into the playoffs with a 49-47 record.

Omaha Storm Chasers win their fourth straight division title

The Omaha Storm Chasers (75-67) clinched a franchise record fourth straight division title, eliminating the Oklahoma City RedHawks with a 13-8 victory over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox to win the American Conference North. The Storm Chasers will face the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate) in the American Conference Championship at Werner Park.

Omaha will host Games 1 and 2 of the series this Wednesday and Thursday, with both days having start times of 7:05 p.m., while Games 3-5 will be played at AutoZone Park in Memphis. During the 2014 season, the Storm Chasers and Redbirds split their 16 games at 8-8.

Omaha entered their final series of the season trailing Oklahoma City by 2.0 games, but reeled off four straight wins over the Sky Sox while the RedHawks suffered three straight losses to the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines to help them capture the crown. The Chasers are the only team in the Pacific Coast League to qualify for the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.


Huskers hire Cal State-Fullerton assistant for Erstad’s staff

Cal State Fullerton assistant coach Mike Kirby has accepted the assistant position with the Nebraska baseball program left open when former assistant Will Bolt left for Texas A & M. Kirby has been with the Titans and Oregon, where he’s known to recruit well. It was Cal State Fullerton that knocked the Huskers out of the NCAA Tournament at the Stillwater Regional.

During his last three seasons at Fullerton, Kirby coached first base, infielders and served as the program’s recruiting coordinator. His first class in 2012 was ranked 23rd in the country by Baseball America, producing National Freshman Pitcher of the Year Thomas Eshelman and Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year Justin Garza. Both Eshelman and Garza pitched for the USA Collegiate Baseball National Team this summer, while Eshelman was named an All-American each of the past two seasons.

Prior to the start of last season, Nebraska’s recruiting class was ranked 11th by Baseball America and Cal State Fullerton was one spot behind at 12th.

Before returning to Fullerton, Kirby was instrumental in helping George Horton put the Oregon Ducks on the national scene. Kirby played a large role in four consecutive top-25 recruiting classes, including three ranked in the top 10 and a program-best No. 5 ranking in 2010.

Kirby was also responsible for coaching first base and working with the team’s outfielders.

Chasers take over first place knocking off the Iowa Cubs

With a second straight win over the Iowa Cubs by a score of 7-5, the Omaha Storm Chasers (60-54) took over first place in the American Conference North Division from the Cubs (61-56) at Werner Park Sunday.  Carlos Peguero helped Omaha build a 7-1 lead in the first five innings with two homers, giving him four in his last four games.  Peguero has 11 homers in his 23 career games as a Storm Chaser.

Aaron Brooks earned his team-leading eighth win of the season with 5.2 innings of work, allowing three runs with five strikeouts. He allowed two homers to Cubs prospect Javy Baez, who is tied with Chasers catcher Francisco Pena for the second most homers in the PCL at 23.

Omaha will look to build on their new division lead as they send out LHP John Lamb (6-8, 3.56 ERA), who has not allowed an earned run in his last three starts at Werner Park over 20.0 innings. He will face off with LHP Eric Jokisch (7-8, 3.80 ERA) in game three of this four game series.

Former Bellevue East grad throws a no-hitter in Triple A

Former Bellevue East and University of Nebraska-Omaha grad Tyler Cloyd was throwing a perfect game for eight innings for the Cleveland Indians Triple-A affiliate Columbus against Louisville.  Cloyd hit the leadoff batter, but was able to complete the no-hitter in timely fashion, using just 89 pitches in a 13-0 victory.

Cloyd has started 17 major league games over the last two years with Philadelphia before being claimed by Cleveland this offseason.