The minor league season kicked things off on Thursday night with the Charlotte Knights, Birmingham Barons, Winston-Salem Dash, and Kannapolis Intimidators all scheduled to play. Unfortunately, the Barons game was postponed and they will be playing a doubleheader today. The White Sox farm finished Opening Night with a 2-1 record, and Zack Collins and Luis Robert got their seasons started with two very encouraging performances. Let’s take a look at how each team fared on Opening Night:
The Knights opened up the 2019 season by hosting the Durham Bulls for a four-game series. The first game featured a lot of fireworks as the Knights beat the Bulls 12-11 in a shootout. Zack Collins was by far and away the player of the game as he got off to an incredible start during his Triple-A debut. Collins went 3-5 at the plate with two home runs, a triple, and five RBI’s. He was locked in and crushing the ball throughout the entire night.
While those stats are impressive, another impressive aspect of his game that he displayed last night was excellent plate discipline. On the first home run, Collins was down 0-2, worked a full count, and then unloaded on a ball that hit off a sign hanging above the bleachers in right field. During his at-bat that ended with another home run, Collins was down 1-2, worked a full count, and went deep again. If this is an indicator of the damage Zack Collins can do in Charlotte, then those fans sitting in right field better bring their gloves and hardhats to every home game.
— TheMoncadaArmada (@HashTagWhiteSox) April 5, 2019
Joining Collins in the home run party was Danny Mendick,who is coming off a great spring camp. Mendick only had one hit on the evening, but he made it count as he went deep to center field for a three-run blast. Other impressive performances from the evening include Nicky Delmonico, Preston Tucker, and Matt Skole as they all collected two hits each and played a big part in the Knights offensive explosion.
Right-hander Ian Hamilton saw some action and got tagged around a bit. Hamilton tossed one inning, gave up two earned runs on three hits and had one strikeout. He was not healthy during Spring Training, so Hamilton is still shaking some of the rust off. His time in Charlotte is acting as an extended Spring Training and he will spend a short amount of time with the Knights before he rejoins the bullpen in Chicago.
Also making his Triple-A debut on Thursday night was Zach Thompson. Thompson didn’t allow a hit through 1.1 scoreless innings, and he walked and struck out one batter. He became a very reliable bullpen arm last season and if he continues that trend, Thompson is a guy we could see pitching on the South Side this year.
Picking up the other win on Thursday night was the Winston-Salem Dash. The Dash got their season started by picking up a 9-4 road win over the Frederick Keys. The Dash will play there through Sunday and then they will head to Wilmington for a three-game series before playing at their home field next Thursday. Luis Robert had a big night for the Dash as the lead-off hitter. After not hitting one home run during the 2018 season, Luis got the 2019 season started by going 2-4 with two home runs, five RBI’s, and one walk. This is a great sign for a guy that struggled to tap into his in game power last season.
LUIS ROBERT TO THE MOON ⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️pic.twitter.com/0IDi3zRfJH
— The Loop Sports (@TheLoop_Sports) April 5, 2019
Yeyson Yrizarri also had a big night at the plate, going 2-4 with a double, home run, and two RBI’s. Nick Madrigal was hit-less in his three at-bats on the evening. However, he walked twice and stole two bases. If Madrigal can manage to walk more, he can become a very effective lead-off hitter now and in the future. He already has the ability to put the ball in play frequently, and if he can get on base via walks on top of that, then watch out. Madrigal only walked seven total times last season, so seeing him walk twice in just the first game is definitely a positive sign.
Lincoln Henzman got the starting nod, but left with an injury after 0.1 IP. The extent of the injury is unknown as of this writing, but let’s hope it’s nothing serious. Zach Lewis relieved Henzman and he shutdown the Keys’ offense. Lewis tossed 6.1 innings where he gave up one run on six hits and had eight strikeouts in a performance that earned him the win.
The Dash found themselves down 3-0 after the first inning, but they would rally back to score seven unanswered runs. The rally would be more than enough, but they would add insurance runs late in the game as they came away with a 9-4 victory on Opening Night.
The Kannapolis Intimidators are hosting the Rome Braves for a four-game series to open up the 2019 season. Unfortunately, the Braves got the best of the Intimidators on Thursday as they spoiled Opening Night with a 9-1 victory.
— Kannapolis Intimidators (@Intimidators) April 4, 2019
It was a quiet night offensively for the Intimidators as they only had five hits on the evening and failed to score a run until the eighth inning when they were already down by 9 runs. Steele Walker was responsible for driving in the only Intimidators’ run as he went 1-2 at the plate with a RBI double and a walk.
Joining Walker as the only members of the lineup to collect hits were Amado Nunez, Ian Dawkins, Logan Sowers, and Gunnar Troutwine as they each collected a single. It wasn’t a great start to the season, but once this team puts it all together, they have the potential to do some damage this year. This group currently has a good mix of young players, recent collegiate guys, and international signings.
Overall, it was a successful Opening Night on the farm highlighted by the performances of Zack Collins and Luis Robert. All of these affiliates, plus the Barons, will be back in action today as they look to pick up where they left off or pick up their first win of the season.
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Feature Photo Credit: Sean Williams/The Loop Sports