Hawpe buries Cannons

WOODBRIDGE — The Potomac Cannons decided they’d take their chances pitching to Brad Hawpe this weekend. They got away with it on Saturday, but last night the Carolina League’s best hitter made them pay for their bravado.

Hawpe, who appears to be completely recovered from the tendinitis in his right wrist that forced him to miss two weeks, hit a towering two-out, two-run homer off all-star pitcher Rhett Parrott in the first inning to spark visiting Salem to a 5-1 victory. It also snapped the Cannons’ season-best four-game winning streak.

“I try to find a pitch to drive up the middle, but you have to take what they give you,” said Hawpe, who sat out May 16-19 and from May 23-June 1 because of a sore wrist. “Yesterday was the first time in a long time I hit with first base open.”

When he’s been healthy, Hawpe has dominated the Carolina League. His .387 batting average leads the circuit by more than 40 points and his homer Sunday pushed him one ahead of Winston-Salem’s Eric Welch and into the league lead. He needs just four more home runs to become the all-time single-season leader in Avalanche history and he’s also closing in on the franchise RBI record.

Hawpe’s two RBIs give him 63 for the year — tops in the league — and just 17 shy of Kevin Buford’s single-season record of 80 established two years ago. He went 2 for 2 and reached base all five times he came to the plate on Sunday. He also drew a walk in the fourth, scored an insurance run in the eighth after being hit in the back by reliever Anthony Rawson and was walked intentionally in the ninth.

“It’s tough to hit up the middle against this team because their center fielder is so good,” Hawpe said. “He took a couple of hits away from us and I was even worried about the home run. I thought he’d run that one down, too.”

Parrott allowed only three home runs the entire first half, but the Cannons’ lone all-star game representative has now allowed that many in his last two starts. After giving up a pair of homers in a miserable three-inning performance against Kinston on July 2, Parrott surrendered Hawpe’s league-leading blast a towering shot that hit off the second tier of billboards in straight-away center field and dropped to 7-5 overall.

Ranked ninth in the league in ERA (2.71) and rated by Baseball America as the St. Louis Cardinals’ 24th-best prospect, Parrott emerged as the Cannons’ staff ace early on and won seven of his 10 decisions prior to the break. He pitched well enough to keep the Cannons in the game on Sunday, but a first-inning walk to Casey Lambert and a 1-0 change-up to Hawpe put him in a first-inning hole and Potomac never recovered against Salem’s Nick Webb.

“I was looking for something over the plate and I recognized change-up right out of his hand,” Hawpe said.

The Avalanche experienced more success against Parrott than most teams in the first half. They scored six runs in 10 innings in two previous meetings and that trend continued on an overcast night at Pfitzner Stadium. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed three runs on six hits while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings.

“He pitched good. He battled the whole game,” Cannons manager Joe Cunningham said. “We just didn’t make adjustments at the plate. You can score three or four runs if you make adjustments.”

The Cannons couldn’t come up with a way to solve Webb, who won four straight decisions in late May — two of them against Potomac. He beat them in back-to-back outings on May 19 and May 25 allowing just two runs in 13 innings — and the left-hander had his best stuff, including a wicked curve, working for him again.

“He’s had a few outings where he’s just dominated,” Hawpe said. “If you take away an outing or two, he’s been one of the best pitchers in the league. He’s a guy we can count on to give us a lot of innings.”

Webb did that on Sunday. A ninth-round draft pick out of Louisiana-Lafayette two years ago, he took the mound looking to become the third Avalanche pitcher to win nine games this season. Kip Bouknight and tonight’s starter Scott Dohma n reached that milestone first, but Webb, who turned 23 today, joined the exclusive club in his 18th start.

He surrendered only one hit a fourth-inning single to center fielder Christopher Morris through the first six innings and the only two base runners to reach against him in that span were promptly picked off.

Catcher Jeff Winchester threw out Ramon Araujo on a steal attempt in the third inning and Webb caught Morris in a rundown in the fourth — the first time the Cannons’ speedy leadoff hitter has been caught in his last 15 attempts.??????

Morris went 2 for 3 and Ryan Hamill drove in Potomac’s only run with a two-out single in the eighth, but that was all the damage the Cannons could do against Webb, who allowed one run on three hits in seven innings to improve to 9-6.

Webb’s proficiency resulted in the end of three prominent Cannons’ streaks. Left fielder Johnny Hernandez went 0 for 4 and saw his team-best hitting streak end at 13 games. Right fielder Skip Schumaker and designated hitter Aaron Fera had their seven-game streaks snapped.

“He moved his pitches well and had our hitters out in front all night,” Cunningham said. “We just didn’t make adjustments. You can’t go in and pull a guy who’s not going to give you anything to pull. We had a lot of pitches to hit, we just didn’t hit them.”

The Avalanche took advantage of their hitting opportunities. They scored twice against the Potomac bullpen to prevent any chance of a Cannons comeback. Edmund Muth tripled to drive in Hawpe in the eighth and Jorge Piedra’s two-out double off Damon Ponce De Leon knocked in Winchester to highlight a three-hit ninth.

Similar Posts