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2007 Erie Seawolves Diary/Blog

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'Wolves move closer to clinching division

Erie knocks off Bowie, expands lead over Akron

Published: August 25. 2007 6:00AM

BOWIE, Md. -- The Erie SeaWolves continue to distance themselves from their nearest competitors in the Eastern League Southern Division.

Erie's offense was its primary catalyst in Friday's 10-6 win over the Bowie Baysox before 8,991 fans at Prince George's Stadium. The win, Erie's third straight, moved the first-place SeaWolves (75-53) three games ahead of the second-place Akron Aeros (73-57) and dropped the third-place Baysox (69-61) seven games out of first. Akron split a doubleheader with Reading on Friday, losing the opener 5-2 and winning the second game 4-3.

Erie reduced its magic number for clinching a division championship to 10.

Erie collected 13 hits off of four Bowie pitchers, but it was the top five hitters in the SeaWolves' lineup who did the bulk of the damage.

Center fielder Clete Thomas, second baseman/shortstop Michael Hollimon, left fielder Mike Hernandez, first baseman Jeff Larish and catcher Steve Torrealba all had two-hit games and combined for seven RBIs and six runs scored.

After Bowie scored twice in the fifth to pull within 4-3, the SeaWolves broke it open with a three-run sixth and a two-run seventh, making it 9-3. In the sixth, the SeaWolves received RBI singles from Thomas, Hernandez and Larish.

Larish finished with two RBIs, increasing his league-leading total to 92. Hernandez had a pair of RBI singles, and Torrealba hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

SeaWolves right-hander Dallas Trahern (12-6) earned his first win since Aug. 5, allowing four earned runs and six hits over seven innings. He struck out four and walked two.

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Tigers send De La Cruz back to SeaWolves

Published: August 25. 2007 6:00AM

The Detroit Tigers on Friday assigned Triple-A Toledo right-hander Eulogio De La Cruz to the Erie SeaWolves.

De La Cruz began the season with the SeaWolves and went 4-5 with a 3.57 ERA in 10 starts with Erie before he was promoted to Toledo on June 2.

De La Cruz was promoted to the Tigers on June 18. In two stints with the Tigers, De La Cruz was 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA in six relief outings (62/3 innings). With Toledo, De La Cruz went 3-0 with a 3.34 ERA and was used exclusively out of the bullpen, throwing 321/3 innings in 20 relief appearances.

De La Cruz is scheduled to start for Erie on Monday when the SeaWolves open a four-game series at Harrisburg.

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'Wolves, Baysox to try again today

Published: August 26. 2007 6:00AM

BOWIE, Md. -- Officials suspended the Erie SeaWolves' Eastern League game against the Bowie Baysox because of rain Saturday at Prince George's Stadium.

The game was halted in the bottom of the third inning with the SeaWolves leading 2-0.

Erie (75-53) took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning when a single by Michael Hernandez drove in Clete Thomas and Michael Hollimon.

Burke Badenhop had given up two hits and struck out one in his second career start for the SeaWolves when the game was stopped with two outs in the bottom of the third.

Carlos Perez had given up four hits and struck out five batters for the Baysox (69-61) through three innings.

The suspended game will continue today beginning at 12:05 p.m. and play the regularly scheduled nine innings.

Today's regularly scheduled game will be played after the completion of the suspended game, and will run seven innings.

Second-place Akron beat Reading 8-0 Saturday, keeping Erie's magic number to clinch the division title at at 10.

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'Wolves continue to roll; playoffs in sight

Published: August 27. 2007 6:00AM

BOWIE, Md. -- The Erie SeaWolves increased their first-place lead and reduced their magic number.

The 'Wolves completed Saturday's suspended game at Bowie with a 3-2 victory Sunday afternoon. Erie followed that win with a 12-4 rout of the Baysox in the regularly scheduled game before 5,824 at Prince George's Stadium.

The two wins, along with Reading's 11-1 victory over Akron, lowered Erie's magic number to seven to clinch the Eastern League's Southern Division. The 'Wolves (77-53) lead the Aeros (74-57) by four games going into the final week of the regular season. Erie leads third-place Bowie by nine games with 11 games remaining.

Erie extended its winning streak to five with big help from Michael Hernandez. The outfielder, promoted to the SeaWolves on Tuesday from Single-A Lakeland, drove in two runs in the opening win over Bowie.

Hernandez continued to torment Baysox pitching in the seven-inning nightcap. He hit a solo home run off Bowie starter Fredy Deza (6-8) in the first inning and a grand slam off reliever David Haehnel in the sixth.

In the two games, Hernandez finished 4-for-8 with eight RBIs and two runs scored.

Will Rhymes and Kody Kirkland were Erie's other big hitters in the second game.

Rhymes had two hits, two RBIs and scored twice. Kirkland had two hits and three RBIs, which included a two-run home run.

Erie's Eddie Bonine (14-5) became the league's first 14-game winner this season.

Greenville native Nolan Reimold had a hit in each game for the Baysox. Reimold hit his 10th homer of the season in the second game, a solo shot off Bonine in the sixth.

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'Wolves stumble on road to postseason

Senators rally for victory, keep Erie from clinching playoff spot

Published: August 28. 2007 6:00AM

HARRISBURG -- The Harrisburg Senators continued to hex the Erie SeaWolves at Commerce Bank Park on Monday.

The last-place Senators improved to 7-2 at home against the first-place 'Wolves when they rallied for an 11-7 victory before 2,386. Harrisburg scored 10 unanswered runs to erase Erie's six-run lead in the fourth inning.

Despite the loss, Erie's magic number to clinch the Eastern League's South Division title was trimmed to six. Bowie beat Akron 14-8 at Canal Park, which left the 'Wolves (77-54) four games up on the Aeros (74-59) for first place. Had the 'Wolves beaten Harrisburg, they would have clinched at least the second playoff berth in the division.

The Senators (50-84) tied the score at 7 with six runs in the bottom of the fourth. Dan DeMent highlighted the rally with a three-run triple off Erie reliever Corey Hamman (0-2).

Harrisburg took a 9-7 lead in the fifth and added two more runs in the seventh.

Michael Hollimon and Jeff Larish each hit two-run homers for Erie.

Senators' relievers Devin Perrin (1-0) and Zechry Zinicola retired Erie's last 12 batters in a row. Zinicola pitched the final three innings for his sixth save.

Erie batted around for five runs in the top of the third. Michael Hollimon and Jeff Larish each hit two-run homers off Harrisburg starter Mike O'Connor.

Larish's 25th homer tied Reading's Michael Costanzo for the league lead.

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'Wolves reliever wastes big lead

Erie fails to clinch playoff spot again

Published: August 29. 2007 6:00AM

HARRISBURG -- Armed with a three-run lead entering the ninth inning, the Erie SeaWolves seemed like a lock to clinch an Eastern League Southern Division playoff spot.

Then, their best reliever, Alan Mills, suffered a meltdown.

The veteran right-hander gave up four runs as the last-place Harrisburg Senators rallied for a 5-4 win on Tuesday at Commerce Bank Park.

Harrisburg catcher Javi Herrera went 2-for-4 and drove in the winning run with a two-out RBI single.

The loss left Erie's magic number for clinching a playoff at one and for clinching the Southern Division championship at five.

The SeaWolves (77-55) lead the Southern Division by four games over second-place Akron and seven games over third-place Bowie, which defeated Akron 9-5 on Tuesday.

Mills, 41, a former major leaguer who joined the SeaWolves in early June, was 23-for-23 in save opportunities this season before he was summoned to pitch the ninth with a 4-1 lead.

He gave up back-to-back singles before a forceout left Harrisburg with runners on the corners and one out. Senators right fielder Frank Diaz followed with a line-drive RBI single to left, making it 4-2.

Senators designated hitter Tony Blanco made it 4-3 with a run-scoring single to right before third baseman Ofilio Castro tied the game with a single to center. Mills struck out Steve Mortimer for the second out with runners on first and second before Herrera lined a Mills pitch to left for the winning single, scoring Sheldon Fulse.

Erie has lost six straight games at Commerce Bank Park and dropped to 2-8 against the Senators in Harrisburg this season.

Despite losing Tuesday, Erie still could have clinched a postseason berth if Bowie and Altoona had lost, but Altoona also won, defeating Reading 4-2.

Erie and Harrisburg meet today at 6:35 p.m. in the third game of their four-game series.

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'Wolves clinch playoff spot

Published: August 30. 2007 6:00AM

HARRISBURG -- The post-season is official.

The Erie SeaWolves wrapped up their first Eastern League playoff appearance since 2004 with a 5-4 come-from-behind win over the pesky last-place Harrisburg Senators on Wednesday before 2,750 fans at Commerce Bank Park.

Erie (78-55) also reduced its magic number for clinching the Eastern League Southern Division championship to four.

The first-place SeaWolves retained their four-game lead over second-place Akron (75-60), which scored twice in the bottom of the ninth to defeat third-place Bowie 4-3 on Wednesday.

"This is a great feeling," SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck said. "The guys were hanging out in the clubhouse after the game and they didn't want to leave. We've been a tight-knit team and earning this has made this group even closer."

The SeaWolves reached the 2004 postseason as a wild-card participant and last won the Southern Division in 2001, the first year of Erie's affiliation with the Detroit Tigers.

"The bottom line is we're in the playoffs and I'm glad we're going through this, because this is getting us ready for the playoffs - the grind of this," Walbeck said.

Trailing 4-3, the SeaWolves scored twice in the top of the ninth inning. They tied the game on right fielder Matt Joyce's RBI double. The SeaWolves then got the go-ahead run when left fielder Mike Hernandez drew a bases-loaded walk off Harrisburg reliever Brett Campbell.

SeaWolves right-hander Randor Bierd came on to pitch the ninth and retired the Senators in order to secure the win, ending an Erie streak of six straight losses at Harrisburg.

This time, it was the SeaWolves who turned the tables on Harrisburg. In Monday's opener of the four-game series, Harrisburg rallied from a 7-1 deficit to defeat Erie 11-7.

On Tuesday, the Senators scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Erie, 5-4.

A three-run Erie sixth put the SeaWolves on top 3-2 in Wednesday's game, but the Senators (52-84) regained the lead in the seventh on catcher Luke Montz's two-run homer to left off of Erie starter Dallas Trahern. Montz's homer followed a one-out walk to left fielder Sheldon Fulse.

Erie is 9-1 against Harrisburg at Jerry Uht Park this season, but only 3-8 against the Senators at Commerce Bank Park.

"They take the lead in the seventh and we're thinking, 'Oh, no, here we go again,' " Walbeck said. "They have played us well at their park all season and they have made every play they have needed to make against us. Right now, they're playing real relaxed and with the attitude that they have nothing to lose."

Erie second baseman Will Rhymes opened the ninth with a base hit to right-center and moved to second on Michael Hollimon's sacrifice fly. Joyce then drilled a line-drive double to center, scoring Rhymes with the tying run.

Campbell intentionally walked Erie slugger Jeff Larish before both runners moved up a base on a Campbell wild pitch. Campbell walked Erie center fielder Clete Thomas to load the bases before Hernandez, a Double-A rookie who joined the club two weeks ago from Single-A Lakeland, worked Campbell for a walk, which scored Joyce.

Erie and Harrisburg conclude their four-game series today at 6:35 p.m. It will be the SeaWolves' final regular season road game. Right-hander Burke Badenhop (1-0, 0.93) is Erie's scheduled starter tonight.

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'Wolves' Larish places 2nd in EL MVP voting

Akron's Brown beats out Erie first baseman for Eastern League award

Published: August 31. 2007 6:00AM

Erie SeaWolves first baseman Jeff Larish finished second to Akron Aeros first baseman/outfielder Jordan Brown in voting for the Eastern League's most valuable player, the league announced Thursday.

Larish leads the league with 26 home runs and is tied for first in runs batted in with 95. He is hitting .268 but has been walked 83 times, second most in the EL. His on-base percentage is .392, good for seventh in the league.

Brown, who was named MVP of the Carolina League last year as a member of the Kinston Indians, is running away with the batting title, hitting .330. He also has collected 33 doubles (sixth in the EL), 80 runs scored (sixth) and 73 RBIs (11th).

Brown, the fourth round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2005, was named EL rookie of the year Wednesday, also beating out Larish for that honor.

Trenton's Alan Horne was named EL pitcher of the year on Saturday. The EL manager of the year award will be announced Saturday.

http://goerie.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070831/SPORTS13/708310473/-1/SPORTS

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SeaWolves set '08 home opener for April 10

Published: August 31. 2007 6:00AM

The SeaWolves announced their home schedule for the 2008 season Thursday. Next year will mark the Sea-Wolves' 14th season at Jerry Uht Park and Erie's 10th at the Double-A level.

The home opener will take place April 10 against Binghamton at 6:35 p.m. Weekend night games will start at 6:35 p.m. in April and May and 7:05 p.m. thereafter. A new aspect of the 2008 schedule is two Saturday day games. There will be 1:05 p.m. start times on April 12 and 26.

There will be eight weekday day games, including the season finale against Akron on Labor Day (Sept. 1) at 1:05 p.m. Erie plays a 9:35 a.m. game when they face Bowie on April 16.

Sunday games will take place at 1:05 p.m. except for an Aug. 31 night game against Akron.

Fans can receive a free 2008 SeaWolves schedule poster after each of the remaining home games this year.

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Eastern League series preview

Published: August 31. 2007 6:00AM

Altoona Curve (69-65) at Erie SeaWolves (79-55)

Today, doubleheader, 5:05 p.m.

Saturday, doubleheader, 5:05 p.m.

Sunday, 6:05 p.m.

Monday, doubleheader, 1:05 p.m.* at Jerry Uht Park

*subject to change

Pitching matchups:

Today: Game 1 - Erie RH Jeff Gerbe (0-0, 3.00) vs. Altoona RH Dewon Brazelton (4-5, 3.84) Game 2 - pitchers TBA

Saturday: Game 1 - Erie LH Jon Connolly (7-6, 4.37) vs. Altoona LH Luis Munoz (11-5, 3.82)Game 2 - pitchers TBA

Sunday: Erie RH Andrew Kown (5-8, 4.42) vs. Altoona LH Josh Shortslef (5-12, 4.21)

Monday: Game 1 - Erie RH Dallas Trahern (12-6, 3.87) vs. Altoona RH Yoslan Herrera (6-8, 4.58)Game 2 - pitchers TBA

Altoona notes: Altoona's playoff chances took a big hit a couple weeks ago. After a 7-3 loss at Binghamton on Aug. 16, the Pittsburgh Pirates promoted Altoona outfielder Andrew McCutchen, third baseman Neil Walker and left-handed reliever Dave Davidson to Triple-A Indianapolis. McCutchen and Walker are the Pirates' top two minor league prospects, and Davidson is a member of the Bucs' 40-man roster. At the time of those moves, Altoona was third in the Southern Division, just 4½ games out of first place. But after those moves, the Curve proceeded to lose their next five games, including a three-game sweep by the SeaWolves at Blair County Ballpark, and fell out of contention. Altoona is 5-9 since losing those three players. ... Erie's 3-0 win over the Curve in the second game of an Aug. 18 doubleheader started a stretch in which Altoona was shut out a franchise-record three straight games, including 10-0 and 1-0 losses to Reading on Aug. 20-21. ... Right-hander Matt Peterson tied a franchise record with his 27th save in Tuesday's 4-2 win over Reading. ... Right-hander Romulo Sanchez pitched 2/3 of an inning Sunday in his major league debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston.

Erie notes: The first-place SeaWolves clinched a playoff spot Wednesday with a 5-4 win at Harrisburg and now are focusing on clinching the franchise's first Eastern League Southern Division championships since 2001. ... A slew of transactions from Detroit Tigers on Friday will impact the SeaWolves for this weekend's series. On Friday, Erie right-handed starters Eddie Bonine (14-5, 3.90) and Eulogio De La Cruz were promoted to Triple-A Toledo, while low Single-A West Michigan right-hander Jeff Gerbe was promoted to Erie. Bonine is scheduled to make a spot start with the Mud Hens tonight against , then rejoin the SeaWolves. Likewise, Gerbe is expected to return to West Michigan after his spot start for Erie today in the opener of a doubleheader. Bonine was scheduled to start today's opening game for the SeaWolves. Gerbe made his Double-A debut with Erie on June 9 and took a no-decision in a 7-2, 10th-inning home loss to New Hampshire. Gerbe was solid in that outing, giving up two runs over six innings with four strikeouts and one walk. ... With West Michigan this season, Gerbe was 2-2 with a 2.34 ERA in 19 games, including nine stars. ... De La Cruz was assigned to Erie from Toledo on Aug. 24. He made a start on Monday in the opener of a four-game series at Harrisburg and took a no-decision, pitching three innings. ... The SeaWolves lead the season series over Altoona, 7-3. ... Erie swept a three-game series from the Curve at Blair County Ballpark on Aug. 17-18, winning 5-4, 2-1 and 3-0. The fourth game of that series was rained out and will be made up as part of today's doubleheader. In today's opening game, Altoona will serve as the home team. ... Erie is 3-1 against the Curve at Jerry Uht Park and 4-2 at Blair County Ballpark. ... The teams are scheduled to play a doubleheader on Monday, but if there are no playoff implications, they will only play one nine-inning game. Monday is the last day of the regular season.

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SeaWolves close in on division with another win

Published: August 31. 2007 6:00AM

HARRISBURG -- Burke Badenhop has made the most of his opportunities in his short stay with the Erie SeaWolves.

The right-hander, promoted to Erie on Aug. 17, improved to 2-0 with a complete game in Thursday's 7-2 win over the Harrisburg Senators before 2,785 fans at Commerce Bank Park.

Playing their final road game of the regular season, the SeaWolves (79-55) staked their young right-hander to a 7-0 lead in the first four innings.

Erie, first in the Eastern League Southern Division, reduced its magic number for clinching the division to three. Second-place Akron (76-60), which trails the SeaWolves by four games, rallied to defeat Bowie 4-3 on Thursday and clinched the second and final spot in the Southern Division playoffs.

The SeaWolves host the Altoona Curve today in a 5:05 p.m. doubleheader, the start of a seven-game series to end the regular season.

SeaWolves center fielder Clete Thomas went 2-for-5 and ignited a five-run third inning with a two-run homer to center off of right-hander Garrett Mock. His homer followed a ground-rule double to center by Nick McIntyre.

Designated hitter Mike Hernandez singled home Erie's third run before catcher Steve Torrealba capped the inning with a two-run double to center.

Badenhop struck out eight, walked none and lowered his ERA to 1.45 in three starts with Erie. He threw 111 pitches. He lost his shutout in the seventh, when the Senators scored on Josh Whitesell's RBI double and Tony Blanco's sacrifice fly.

Erie won its season series against Harrisburg, 13-9.

Before Thursday's game, SeaWolves right-handers Eddie Bonine and Eulogio De La Cruz were promoted to Triple-A Toledo, and low Single-A West Michigan pitcher Jeff Gerbe was transferred to Erie.

After Erie's win Thursday, the SeaWolves took another major hit when second baseman Michael Hollimon was promoted to Toledo and replaced on the roster by Lakeland infielder Daniel Worth. De La Cruz's roster spot will be filled by Lakeland right-hander Freddy Dolsi.

Hollimon, who was voted to the Eastern League postseason All-Star team earlier this week, was hitting .282 with 14 homers, 76 RBIs and 91 runs scored in 127 games with Erie this season.

With Lakeland, Worth was hitting .247 with two homers and 20 RBIs in 50 games. Dolsi was Lakeland's closer, recording 23 saves and a 5-3 record and 3.48 ERA in 48 relief outings.

Bonine is expected to make a spot start tonight for Toledo at Columbus and rejoin the SeaWolves.

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Offense slows 'Wolves' title run

EL Southern Division still up for grabs after pair of shutout losses

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 01. 2007 6:00AM

With the right sequence of events, the champagne could have been uncorked.

Instead, the Erie SeaWolves' offense kept it on ice, producing a combined five hits in 6-0 and 3-0 doubleheader losses to the Altoona Curve on Friday before 5,652 fans at Jerry Uht Park.

"Tonight is one of those nights you want to forget about," SeaWolves right fielder Matt Joyce said.

Erie (79-57), first in the Eastern League Southern Division, saw its four-game lead over second-place Akron whittled to 2½ games after Akron's 4-2 win at Binghamton on Friday. Erie's magic number for clinching the division remained at three.

The SeaWolves played Friday's doubleheader without Eastern League All-Star second baseman Michael Hollimon, who was promoted to Triple-A Toledo on Friday.

"Hollimon's loss affects chemistry," SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck said. "Looking at our club tonight, without him, it definitely has a different feel to it. You're taking away your captain and someone with 14 homers and 76 RBIs. It makes a difference, and (right-hander) Eddie Bonine's energy is missed, too. Those are things good teams have to overcome."

Hollimon's departure wasn't lost on his former teammates.

"Minor leagues is all about player development," Joyce said. "We want to win here and they (Tigers) want the minor league teams to do the best the best they're capable of, but sometimes they need to move guys around and we kind of feel the effects."

Altoona right-hander Dewon Brazelton blanked the SeaWolves on three hits in the opener.

Curve right-handers Wardell Starling and Patrick Bresnehan combined on a six-inning perfect game in the second game before Erie managed a walk and two infield singles off of Altoona closer Matt Peterson in the seventh.

"We have so many news guys now, we're trying to grow accustomed to and get used to each other all over again," Joyce said. "That's hard when you get a lot of new guys in and out and you don't really have the same core nucleus that you did, but we're still going to be fine and ready for the playoffs."

To clinch the division on Friday, Erie would have needed to sweep Altoona and have Akron lose.

That scenario didn't quite go as expected, and though the SeaWolves are playoff-bound, they may be feeling some heat from Akron now to clinch a division title.

"There's going to have to be a transition for us where we're going to make the adjustment for our chemistry because it doesn't do any good to complain about it," Walbeck said.

In the second game, Altoona scored all of its runs in the first off of Erie lefty Corey Hamman. Second baseman Jason Bowers led off with a homer to left. Brad Corley singled with one out and scored on Adam Boeve's two-run homer to center.

The Curve managed just two hits off of Erie right-hander Jeff Gerbe in the opener, but one of them was a two-run homer by first baseman Brett Roneberg in the first inning.

Gerbe, making a spot start following his promotion from low Single-A West Michigan, retired 14 straight hitters before the Curve scored four runs on just one hit in the sixth to break open a tight game.

In that inning, the Curve took advantage of a three Gerbe walks and a costly fielding error by Erie third baseman Kody Kirkland.

Gerbe started in place of right-hander Eddie Bonine, who made a spot start for Triple-A Toledo on Friday at Columbus.

Notes: Altoona was the home team in the opener of Friday's doubleheader because the game was a completion of a suspended game on Aug. 19 at Blair County Ballpark. ... Erie lefty Jon Connolly(7-6, 4.37) is set to face Altoona RH Luis Munoz (11-5, 3.82) in the opener of today's doubleheader. Right-handed reliever Randor Bierd (3-1, 2.74) will make a spot start for Erie in the second game against Curve lefty Kyle Bloom.

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Division title still eludes 'Wolves

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 02. 2007 6:00AM

What has happened to the Erie SeaWolves?

On Friday, the playoff-bound, first-place SeaWolves held a four-game lead over second-place Akron and looked like a sure bet to win the Eastern League Southern Division title.

Now, after losing back-to-back home doubleheaders to the Altoona Curve, the SeaWolves (79-59) find themselves clinging to a very tenuous half-game lead over Akron (79-60).

Altoona defeated Erie 6-2 and 4-1 in Saturday's doubleheader before a crowd of 5,755 at Jerry Uht Park, while Akron swept a doubleheader at Binghamton, winning 2-1 and 6-3.

Akron had made up 31/2 games in the standings in the past two days.

"The guys are pressing and that's hurt their confidence," Walbeck said of his club. "They're not winning and they're used to winning. That's what happens when you go through a funk like this. You have no confidence, you start to press, you start to doubt yourself. That's normal. It's my job to right the ship and tell them everything is OK. They have nothing to be ashamed of."

Erie entered its seven-game weekend home series against the Curve with a four-game lead over Akron.

Erie's problems surfaced in a doubleheader loss to Altoona on Friday, when they saw their lead drop from four games to 2½ after Akron's victory at Binghamton.

"The bottom line is we're going to the playoffs," Walbeck said. "Regardless if we win the division or make the wild card, we've had a fantastic year with great turnover in personnel."

In their two weekend doubleheaders, the SeaWolves offense has been listless, their situational hitting nearly non-existent, and their pitching has given Altoona early leads in every game.

"You don't like to push the ball uphill and give up runs in the first," SeaWolves pitching coach A.J. Sager said. "You're playing from behind the whole game."

In Saturday's opener, Curve right-hander Luis Munoz worked 62/3 innings, allowing six hits and two runs. Right-hander Matt Peterson recorded the final out for his league-leading 29th save.

The Curve built a 4-0 lead in the first three innings of the second game. Curve starter Kyle Bloom and reliever Ronald Belisario combined on a five-hitter in the second game. Erie's lone run came on a sixth-inning homer from first baseman Jeff Larish.

The SeaWolves have scored three runs in their past 33 innings.

Erie also received a jolt when their team captain, Eastern League second baseman Michael Hollimon, was promoted to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday.

"With the loss of Hollimon, that does something," Walbeck said. "He brings more to the table than just average, homers and RBIs. He has a certain spirit that is hard to replace. When you lose a guy who has been around so long and a mental edge for you, it takes some adjustment."

Erie clinched a playoff berth earlier in the week, and will meet Akron in their best-of-five Southern Division playoff series beginning Wednesday.

Notes: Erie and Altoona continue their seven-game series today at 6:05 p.m. at Uht Park. Erie right-hander Andrew Kown (5-8, 4.42 ERA) is scheduled to face Altoona lefty Josh Shortslef (5-12, 4.21). ... The teams are scheduled to play a 1:05 p.m. doubleheader Monday, the final day of the regular season. If the SeaWolves clinch the Eastern League Southern Division title today, the teams will play one game Monday.

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

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'Wolves get shutout to inch closer to title

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 03. 2007 6:00AM

bilde?Site=GE&Date=20070903&Category=BASEBALL01&ArtNo=709030425&Ref=AR&MaxW=240

Seawolves' second baseman Will Rhymes holds up the ball to show the umpire that he made the catch on a liner which he dove for and made the catch in the eighth inning against the Altoona Curve. (Rob Engelhardt / Erie Times-News)

Zoom | Buy this photo

Three months ago, shortstop Danny Worth was finishing his final season of college ball with Pepperdine University.

This weekend, his Double-A indoctrination involved facing the pressure of trying to help the SeaWolves clinch the Eastern League Southern Division championship.

Worth provided the biggest hit of the night for Erie with a three-run triple in the third inning of Sunday's 7-0 win over the Altoona Curve before 5,860 fans at Jerry Uht Park.

"This is the opposite coming from Lakeland because we weren't winning down there and we were in last place," Worth said. "Here, the team has a chance of winning a ring, so to throw me in there, I'm just hoping to do the job right."

The SeaWolves (80-59) ended a four-game losing streak and reduced their magic number for clinching the division to one over second-place Akron.

Akron (80-60) defeated Binghamton 6-3 on Sunday to remain in contention for winning the division today, the final day of the regular season.

Erie and Akron will meet in the best-of-five Southern Division playoffs beginning Wednesday, with the division winner hosting Game 1 on Wednesday and Game 2 on Thursday.

Erie faces the possibility of playing a 1:05 p.m. doubleheader today against Altoona.

However, if the SeaWolves win the first game, which will be seven innings, they would clinch the division and not have to play a second game.

After losing back-to-back doubleheaders to Altoona on Friday and Saturday, the SeaWolves had seen their four-game lead over second-place Akron reduced to a half- game on Saturday.

Facing a must-win situation, the SeaWolves responded with an all-around performance Sunday.

SeaWolves starter Andrew Kown fired eight shutout innings of three-hit ball and closer Alan Mills pitched a scoreless ninth.

The SeaWolves collected 11 hits, but it was Worth's third-inning, three-run triple that was the decisive hit. His triple off of Altoona lefty Josh Shortslef, a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates' 40-man roster, put Erie ahead 4-0.

Erie loaded the bases on two singles and a fielder's choice bunt. Worth followed with a slicing line drive down the right field line that rattled around the Altoona bullpen, clearing the bases.

"I was looking for a ball up and he started me off with a first-pitch changeup down, and he wanted me to fish for it," Worth said. "I didn't and the next pitch I saw was kind of elevated, I went after it and tried to put it in the outfield somewhere. Getting that hit was great in front of that crowd tonight."

Moments later, Worth, who was 2-for-4, scored on left fielder Mike Hernandez's sacrifice fly to center, capping a four-run inning.

Worth, 21, was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the June draft and assigned to Single-A Lakeland, where he hit .247 with two homes and 20 RBIs in 50 games.

"The consensus is the kid can play," SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck said. "He steps up hitting second in our lineup, and I took a chance there, and he hits a three-run triple. That was the biggest play of the game."

Worth, who resides in Northridge, Calif., was promoted to Erie on Thursday after SeaWolves second baseman Michael Hollimon was transferred to Triple-A Toledo. Worth made his debut with the club on Friday in the second game of a doubleheader against Altoona and is 5-for-12 in four games with Erie since his callup.

"I'm feeling good at the plate and adjusting well," Worth said. "It's a really different jump in Double-A. Everyone back home can't believe it."

Erie's early-inning offensive breakout was more than enough run production for Kown (6-8).

"I wanted to keep the ball down, and the game plan was to work ahead and make sure to go right at the hitters," Kown said. "I get in trouble when I get behind in the count, so my mindset was go at them early in the count and try and make them put it in play. (Catcher) Nick Trzesniak called a great game behind the plate."

Kown, who struck out four and walked one, said he liked being in a position where he had to deliver in a pressure outing.

"I was ready to go out there," Kown said. "This is probably the most pumped up I've been for a game. It was a good opportunity to help the team out and help the bullpen get ready for the playoffs. For me to pitch with a lead and for the team to play with the lead was good from a mental standpoint."

Notes: SeaWolves center fielder Clete Thomas robbed Altoona catcher Brian Peterson of an extra-base hit with a diving catch just short of the track in right-center to end the second inning. As Thomas made his way back to the dugout, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. ... Erie right-hander Dallas Trahern (12-6, 3.87) will face Altoona right-hander Yoslan Herrera (6-8, 4.58) in today's 1:05 p.m. game. ... SeaWolves first baseman Jeff Larish has set a single-season franchise record for walks with 87, surpassing former SeaWolve Eric Munson's 84 walks in 2001. ... Center fielder Clete Thomas leads the league with 96 runs scored, which also is a single-season Erie record. The previous record of 89 runs scored was shared by former SeaWolves Curtis Granderson and David Espinosa, each of whom set that mark in 2004.

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

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Division champs

SeaWolves' win leads to rowdy clubhouse party

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 04. 2007 6:00AM

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Erie Seawolves designated hitter, Mike Hernandez is greeted by teammates after hitting a home run against the Altoona Curve. (Jack Hanrahan / Erie Times-News)

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Sheets of white plastic tape covered all of the players' lockers inside the Erie SeaWolves' clubhouse.

In the middle of the room, devoid of the couches and tables that normally occupy that space, sat nine cases of champagne and several buckets of beer.

When the celebration began, not a drop was wasted.

Erie's 9-4 victory over the Altoona Curve on Monday before an appreciative standing-room-only crowd of 6,317 clinched the Eastern League Southern Division championship and catapulted the SeaWolves (81-59) into the postseason for the first time since 2004.

The SeaWolves will open the best-of-five Southern Division playoffs Wednesday, hosting the second-place Akron Aeros (80-61) at 7:05 p.m. at Uht Park. Akron earned the wild-card playoff berth, finishing one-and-a-half games behind Erie after Monday's 9-8 loss at Binghamton on the final day of the regular season.

After two straight seasons of last-place finishes, the SeaWolves, energized by a new coaching staff and a mostly new cast of players, were in full party mode once they burst through the clubhouse doors and launched into a raucous postgame celebration.

"You have to love the burn of champagne in your eyes because that's the feeling of victory," SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck said.

"We finally got a chance to do that here, and most importantly in front of our home crowd on the last day of the season."

"This is what you play for," SeaWolves right fielder Matt Joyce said. "The whole year you grind it out until you get to experience that one moment of bliss. This is awesome and exciting and you couldn't ask for more."

Joyce played on West Michigan's low Single-A Midwest League championship team last season under Walbeck, who was appointed Erie's manager in November. Walbeck won two Midwest League championships at West Michigan, including 2004, and took the Whitecaps to the playoffs all three seasons he was there.

"It seems wherever Matt Walbeck goes, he brings a championship or winning ball," Joyce said. "It's probably the way he manages, which is why he got the (Eastern League) manager of the year."

Erie's division championship is the franchise's first since 2001, the first year the SeaWolves were affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. Erie qualified for the 2004 playoffs as a wild-card participant before losing to Altoona.

"If you're not striving to be in the playoffs and win championships, you're not going to have a chance ever," SeaWolves right-hander Eddie Bonine said shortly after sneaking up on and dumping a bucket of ice water over an unsuspecting teammate's head. "We put out all this hard work in the offseason and in spring training to get to this point and we're going to go out there and have fun."

After getting targeted by teammates on several champagne dousings, veteran closer Alan Mills, a 40-year-old former major leaguer, made his way down the hallway in the back of the clubhouse and took refuge in the training room, muttering, "Oh, man, that's enough for me."

But the party was only getting started for most of the younger players.

Within one minute of beginning an interview with a reporter, SeaWolves first baseman Jeff Larish had beer sprayed in his face, a tub of ice water dumped on his head and a shaving-cream pie smashed in his face.

He kept on talking, even though he couldn't see. That kind of abuse was easily forgivable, given the team's accomplishment.

"It's all right; it's all in fun," Larish said with a laugh.

It wasn't a laughing matter Friday and Saturday, when the SeaWolves dropped back-to-back doubleheaders to Altoona and saw their four-game lead over Akron reduced to one-half game. One of the big topics of discussion leading into the six-game series against Altoona was the loss of Erie second baseman Michael Hollimon. He was an Eastern League All-Star and the SeaWolves' team captain, and he had been a catalyst on the field and team leader all season.

"In the minor leagues, you have to deal with what you have," SeaWolves center fielder Clete Thomas said. "When he left, it was like what's going to go on now. We lost four straight, but then we found a way to come together."

After Saturday's doubleheader loss, Walbeck had a short team meeting in the clubhouse.

"He told us it looked like we were playing not to lose and that we needed to play our game and have fun," Larish said. "If we win, we win. If we don't, we don't."

Erie responded with a 7-0 win over the Curve on Sunday to maintain the half-game lead over Akron it took into Monday's regular-season finale.

"Matt Walbeck has brought such a positive attitude to this team, even when we've had our struggles this season," Larish said. "I think that's been the key to the year because a lot of people can get down when you're not doing so good, but just him bringing his positive attitude here has meant the world to this team. We've had a lot of key losses in player turnover, and I think a lot of credit has to be given to the guys who have been here the whole year and dealt with all that stuff. "

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

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Pair of 'Wolves honored again

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 04. 2007 6:00AM

Erie SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck was selected manager of the year on the 13th annual Eastern League Baseball Writers Association All-Star team.

Former Erie second baseman Michael Hollimon was the lone SeaWolves player named to the team. Hollimon was promoted to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday.

Walbeck, 37, in his first season with Erie, guided the SeaWolves to the Eastern League Southern Division championship with an 81-59 record. Walbeck was honored as the EL manager of the year by league managers, coaching staffs and media last week.

Hollimon also earned a spot on the EL's first team last week.

Erie clinched the division with Monday's 9-4 home win over the Altoona Curve.

Seventeen writers and broadcasters from the league participated in voting. Walbeck was a runaway winner with 14 votes.

Akron first baseman Jordan Brown was voted the league's player of the year and Trenton right-hander Alan Horne the pitcher of the year.

The ELBBWA all-star infield selections are Reading catcher Jason Hill, Akron's Brown at first base, Hollimon at second, former Akron shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who is currently with the Cleveland Indians, and Bowie third baseman Oscar Salazar.

Hollimon received 15 votes.

Former Altoona player Steven Pearce, who made his major league debut Saturday with the Pittsburgh Pirates, earned a spot as a utility player.

The outfield selections are Reading's Greg Jacobs, Connecticut's John Bowker, New Britain's Garrett Guzman and New Hampshire's David Smith.

Jacobs was the top vote-getter among position players, receiving 16 of 17 possible votes.

Three starting pitchers earned selections: Trenton's Horne, Bowie's Radhames Liz (now with the Baltimore Orioles) and former Portland right-hander Clay Buchholz, who threw a no-hitter for the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

Horne received the most votes (16) among pitchers.

Altoona right-hander Matt Peterson, who has set a franchise record with 29 saves, was voted the league's top relief pitcher.

RON LEONARDI can be reached at 870-1680 or by e-mail.

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Made-over rivals

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 05. 2007 6:00AM

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Pitcher Eddie Bonine (Erie Times-News)

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When the Akron Aeros came to Erie in early July and won three of four games from the SeaWolves, their roster included some of the Cleveland Indians' top prospects.

At that point, most observers considered the Aeros the class of the Eastern League.

SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck thought as much after that series, although his team had been playing good baseball until hitting that minor speed bump.

Both Erie and Akron have undergone roster overhauls since that July series thanks to the nature of Double-A baseball and the normal second-half player turnover associated with it.

The SeaWolves, still basking in the afterglow of their first Southern Division championship since 2001, host wild-card participant Akron tonight at 7:05 in Game 1 of their best-of-five playoff series at Jerry Uht Park.

"They lost some keys guys and we've lost some guys," said Erie right-hander Eddie Bonine (14-5, 3.90), who will start tonight.

"This is one of those things where everybody knows each other, and that's part of baseball."

Anyone who has watched an Indians game recently probably has noticed players like left-hander Aaron Laffey in the starting rotation, right-handed reliever Jensen Lewis as a dependable member in the bullpen and gifted infielder Asdrubal Cabrera contributing at shortstop and second base.

All were with Akron earlier this season, as was outfielder Brian Barton, one of the top Eastern League hitters before his promotion to Triple-A Buffalo in August, and outfielders Jon Van Every and Nathan Panther, both of whom are with Buffalo.

"Akron is still a very good team," Walbeck said. "They're a hot team with a very good coaching staff. They have good pitching and they're a bunch of grinders. Their team has changed but so has everybody else in the league."

Since mid-July, the SeaWolves have lost shortstop Erik Almonte and outfielders Andres Torres to Triple-A Toledo, and outfielder Cameron Maybin - the Detroit Tigers' No. 1 prospect - and right-handed starter Jair Jurrjens to the Tigers.

Erie outfielder Jackson Melian (14 homers, 65 RBIs, .310 average) was lost for the season in late July when he suffered a cracked bone on the inside of his right wrist after being hit by a pitch.

"Both organizations are pretty solid, and if you have players at the Double-A level who can affect your major league team, then the Tigers and Indians must being doing something right," Akron manager Tim Bogar said. "As a minor league manager, you know turnover is going to happen. The more guys you lose, it kind of reflects on us as a staff that we're doing our job and we're getting the guys ready. It hurts us as a team, but the bottom line is that's not what it's about. If I could move everybody and play with a bunch of guys from A-ball in the playoffs, that's the way it should be."

That heavy turnover has been Walbeck's biggest managerial adjustment after guiding low Single-A West Michigan to three straight playoff appearances from 2004-06, including Midwest League championships in 2004 and 2006.

"The one thing that stands out the most about this job is, as the season goes along, how many of your good players get called up from this level," Walbeck said. "In West Michigan, my good players stayed there because they were there to develop. Here, your good players are getting the call to the big leagues. Some good players for us and Akron have been sent up, so it's more of a level playing field."

Sometimes, though, the timing of certain moves is questionable. One such transaction came Thursday, when Erie second baseman Michael Hollimon, the team captain and Eastern League All-Star second baseman, was promoted to a Triple-A Toledo team that already had clinched its division.

"He is definitely a leader and he definitely will be missed," SeaWolves right fielder Matt Joyce said. "His bat meant a lot in our order. He could hit at the top or the middle of the order. I wouldn't be surprised if he got a September call-up."

Both teams have taken hits when it comes to losing prospects.

"You can't replace guys like Cabrera and Barton on Akron," Erie first baseman Jeff Larish said. "They've been tremendous for them, but we're both dealing with the same stuff. We're both going into the postseason 0-0 and we're going to play the best ball we can play."

Altoona manager Tim Leiper rates the Erie-Akron series a toss-up. Erie won the season series from the Aeros, 15-13.

"What I like about Erie is they have a great manager whose players, it's obvious, like to play for him," Leiper said. "You can't really look at that team and say it's the best team on paper, but they know how to rise to the occasion and they know how to play the game.

"Taking that team into a five-game series, you should feel pretty good about them, because those guys play the game hard, they play the game right and they play it with respect," Leiper added. "That's the team you want to lead into the playoffs."

After Hollimon left the SeaWolves, Erie (81-59) lost four straight to Altoona before rebounding to win its final two regular-season games and clinch the Southern Division title. Akron (80-61) finished second, one and a half games behind Erie.

"It's an evenly matched series," Leiper said. "Erie has great starting pitching and I like their bullpen depth. They can match you and they can throw lefties. They have some funky left-handers in the bullpen who can neutralize left-handed power. I think it's going to come down to pitching and defense and what team plays error-free baseball, and who can come up with the two-out hits."

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Baseball fever back in Erie

SeaWolves open playoffs tonight

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 05. 2007 6:00AM

Amanda Brown isn't an Erie SeaWolves season-ticket holder, but she might as well be.

Brown, 27, estimates she's been to about 65 games at Jerry Uht Park this season. It's been an enjoyable spring and summer for her, watching an Erie team resurrect itself by winning its first Eastern League Southern Division championship since 2001 after back-to-back last-place finishes in 2005 and 2006.

"I've been following them for eight years, and I've only missed like three or four games this season," Brown, and Edinboro resident, said. "I'm really excited for them."

And she's not alone: Baseball fever is back in Erie.

Tonight, the SeaWolves host the Akron Aeros at 7:05 at Uht Park in Game 1 of their best-of-five divisional playoff series. A standing-room-only crowd of 6,317 watched Erie beat Altoona 9-4 Monday to clinch the division championship, and the circumstances and grand weather forecast are likely to draw another big crowd tonight.

Seeing the SeaWolves back in the postseason for the first time since 2004 has given fans reason not only to return to Uht Park, but also has rekindled pride in the team and community.

"I love coming to this park, but it's a lot better when your team is competitive, let's put it that way," said Erie resident Bob Mitchell, 52, who usually attends about 10 games a season. "You don't have to win every game, but you have to be competitive."

Erie's success has had an effect at the turnstile. The SeaWolves finished the regular season ninth in the 12-team league in attendance, drawing 220,401 fans in 61 home dates, an average of 3,613 per game. Erie drew 206,875 fans and averaged 3,088 fans per game in 2006.

The SeaWolves, despite losing some of their top prospects to Class AAA Toledo and the parent-club Detroit Tigers, haven't had problems keeping those fans happy, either. Erie won the division with an 81-59 record under first-year manager Matt Walbeck.

Walbeck is no stranger to success, having managed the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Tigers' low Single-A affiliate, to Midwest League championships in 2004 and 2006.

"Our players are a good group of guys who work hard, and Wally keeps them in line," Brown said, referring to Walbeck by his nickname.

"Most of the team was from West Michigan and they already won the title last season, so they knew what it was like, and with Wally coming here, I'm pretty pumped up about the whole situation because Wally is pretty positive about everything."

Erie's 43-25 home record was the best in the Southern Division.

"When I saw this team early, I wasn't sure if they would make the playoffs," Erie resident James Hollingsworth, 59, said. "I had to get to know the manager and players a little bit. As I did, I saw the progress, the wins, the pitching, and just the whole team in general improve. From then on, I started believing in them."

John Macadlo, 64, of Erie also took an early wait-and-see approach with the club, whose roster includes many Double-A rookies.

"The most enjoyable thing for me this season has been seeing the team play better ball," Macadlo said. "They got different players and changed a lot. Some of the players are pretty good this year, like (right fielder) Matt Joyce and (first baseman) Jeff Larish. The team struggled the last couple of years. As a fan, it feels good to see them back in the playoffs. It's been a long time.

"I'll be here Wednesday."

The team keeps giving the fans reason to come back. The fans have found ways to let them know they appreciate it.

During the SeaWolves' 7-0 victory Sunday against Altoona, for instance, center fielder Clete Thomas raced into right-center with two outs in the second inning to make a diving catch and rob a Curve hitter of an extra-base hit.

When Thomas came off the field, the sections of fans directly behind the dugout gave him a standing ovation.

For Walbeck, the moment was special.

"When he came in and got that ovation from everybody, he flipped the ball to somebody in the stands and that, to me, was the highlight of the season," the manager said. "For our fans to give him that standing ovation, then show up on Monday with a sold-out crowd, it's just a great feeling. I'm really happy to be part of it. All along, I've had nothing but good things to say about the fans. They continue to show up, and they know what winning baseball is about."

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Aeros pummel 'Wolves in opener

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 06. 2007 6:00AM

bilde?Site=GE&Date=20070906&Category=BASEBALL01&ArtNo=709060527&Ref=AR&MaxW=240

Erie Seawolves' Will Rhymes throws the ball to first after Akron Aeros' Trevor Crowe slides late to second base for an out during the second inning of the first game of the Eastern League Playoffs on Wednesday, September 5 at Jerry Uht Park in Erie. (Janet Campbell / Erie Times-News)

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Akron manager Tim Bogar didn't like the fact that his pitching staff surrendered nine runs to the Erie SeaWolves.

It didn't matter. Akron's offensive might was more than enough to power the Aeros to a 12-9 win Wednesday in Game 1 of the Eastern League Southern Division playoffs at Jerry Uht Park.

The Aeros pummeled four Erie pitchers for 16 hits. Leading 5-4, the Aeros broke it open with a seven-run seventh inning off three Erie relievers before a crowd of 2,903.

The best-of-five series continues today with Game 2 at 7:05 p.m. at Uht Park.

Right-hander Burke Badenhop will throw for Erie. Akron's scheduled starter is right-hander Jake Dittler.

"This is a good rivalry and we were ready to go," Akron left fielder Ryan Goleski said. "We've played each other 28 times this season and there are no secrets up anybody's sleeves. We know each other, but the key was getting that big inning. That carried us. It took a lot of pressure off our pitchers."

The SeaWolves won the regular- season Southern Division title with an 81-59 record, finishing 1½ games ahead of second-place Akron. Erie won the season series 15-13.

Erie starter Eddie Bonine, who was 5-1 against Akron during the regular season, took the loss.

Goleski's two-run homer to left in the fifth off Bonine put the Aeros ahead to stay at 5-4.

Bonine gave up a leadoff single to Jordan Brown before retiring Michael Aubrey on a flyout to center.

Goleski's homer down the left-field line landed on the Tullio Arena walkway.

"I was looking for a pitch out over the plate, and he ended up hanging a slider or a cutter up and in, and I was lucky that it was a short enough porch that it kind of snuck up in there," Goleski said. "I didn't hit it as well as I should have, but I was lucky it ended up carrying out."

The nightmarish seventh ended any chance Erie had of grabbing the series lead. Akron roughed up Erie relievers Anthony Tomey, Freddy Dolsi and Corey Hamman, bunching seven of its hits in that inning.

After the right-handed Tomey walked the first two batters, Aeros right fielder Stephen Head crushed a Tomey fastball over the screen in right field. The three-run shot put Akron up 8-4.

"We came out aggressive and I thought the big blow was the homer that Goleski hit," Bogar said.

"It kind of gave us a little more life. We got on a roll in that seventh inning. Now, we go back home with the opportunity to win it at home. But like I said, we're playing a real good team. They have some really good bats, they can run, they do a lot of things well. We're going to have to get better pitching-wise."

The teams traded three runs apiece in the first inning.

Third baseman Nick McIntyre gave the SeaWolves a 4-3 lead with a leadoff, inside-the-park homer in the second.

McIntyre hit a flyball down the right-field line that Head got his glove on in fair territory after a long run but couldn't hold. As he stumbled across the foul line and did a somersault, the ball skipped away from him.

Akron second baseman Argenis Reyes raced to retrieve the ball but had no play at home McIntyre scored standing up.

"You could see coming out tonight that our guys were prepared and ready to play," Goleski said. "We had played well for a while the last week of the season and we rolled it into tonight."

Notes: Akron right-hander Adam Miller, the 2006 Eastern League pitcher of the year, relieved to start the sixth and pitched two innings, allowing four runs and five hits. Miller joined the Aeros earlier in the week from Triple-A Buffalo, where he had battled injuries throughout the season. Baseball America rated Miller the Cleveland Indians' No. 1 prospect entering the season.

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Pitching lets down 'Wolves

BY VICTOR FERNANDES

victor.fernandes@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 06. 2007 6:00AM

Matt Walbeck walked to the mound and took the baseball a few times on Wednesday night.

If only he could have pitched.

How much worse could he have done?

Four of his pitchers surrendered 12 runs on 16 hits and seven walks in the Erie SeaWolves' 12-9 loss to Akron in Game 1 of the Eastern League's Southern Division playoffs at Jerry Uht Park.

After normally reliable starter Eddie Bonine struggled through five innings, relievers Anthony Tomey, Freddy Dolsi and Corey Hamman turned a one-run game into a lopsided defeat by allowing seven runs on seven hits and two key walks in the decisive seventh.

"Pitching and defense - that's what got us here," said Walbeck, the SeaWolves manager. "That's what failed us."

It wasn't the same staff that finished near the top of the league in every statistical category. On this night, even nine runs on 14 hits weren't enough to overcome Erie's pitching troubles.

"This is not the way we pitch," said Tomey, who allowed Akron right fielder Stephen Head's towering three-run home run in the seventh. Head's shot off the roof of the utility building across the street from the right-field wall turned a 5-4 game into a commanding 8-4 Aeros lead. The Aeros then knocked Dolsi around for four runs on four hits in a third of an inning.

"Not good," Walbeck said of his bullpen.

It was the simplest way to describe the relievers' mistakes against the Aeros. Instead of attacking hitters with pitches down in the strike zone, Walbeck said, they attempted to pitch around contact.

"They'll take their walks," Walbeck said of Akron's hitters. "Then they'll hit the ball over the wall."

Erie's pitching troubles began from the start with Bonine's uncharacteristic outing. He entered the game with wins in five of six regular-season outings against the Aeros. But he allowed three runs on three hits, coupled with two errors behind him, in the top of the first inning. He also squandered a 4-3 lead on left fielder Ryan Goleski's two-run home run in the fifth.

"He was feeling for some of his pitches," Walbeck said of Bonine. "He wasn't sharp."

Walbeck credited Bonine for keeping the team in contention. He left with the SeaWolves trailing 5-4. But within two innings, the SeaWolves' night essentially was over.

Tomey issued two walks to start the seventh. Then Head crushed Tomey's pitch off the roof of the utility building across the street from the right-field wall. When the inning ended, the SeaWolves trailed 12-4.

Their offense, which produced 14 hits, nearly completed a scintillating comeback with five runs in the final three innings. But even the team's high-powered lineup couldn't overcome a deficit that large.

"They're a good team. They've always been a good team," Tomey said of the Aeros. "They hit the ball."

But Tomey has confidence in the SeaWolves' staff. "The starters are great. The bullpen's just as good," he said. "One game isn't going to bring us down."

The staff is in good shape, Walbeck said. Burke Badenhop will start tonight in Game 2. Walbeck has several solid relievers - Alan Mills, Randor Bierd, Ian Ostlund and Danny Zell - at his disposal.

But the staff needs a strong performance. "The season's getting short now," Walbeck said

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Larish delivers 'Wolves win

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 07. 2007 6:00AM

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The Erie Seawolves, including (center) Jon Connolly, celebrate a homerun hit by (left) Jeff Larish during the fourth inning of the 2nd game during the Eastern League Playoffs against the Akron Aeros on Thursday, September 6 at Jerry Uht Park in Erie. (Janet B. Campbell/Erie Times-News)

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First baseman Jeff Larish led the Eastern League during the regular season with 28 homers and 101 RBIs.

There's been no drop-off in his production in the postseason.

Larish drove in five runs and belted a fourth-inning grand slam to power the Erie SeaWolves to a 9-6 win over the Akron Aeros on Thursday in Game 2 of the Eastern League Southern Division playoffs.

The SeaWolves evened the best-of-five series at 1-1 before a crowd of 2,476.

Akron won the opening game of the series 12-9 on Wednesday at Jerry Uht Park. The teams have combined for 36 runs and 52 hits in the first two games.

"That homer was so big, I think it took the wind out of both teams' sails," SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck said. "We didn't seem to do much after that and neither did Akron. That's the kind of player he is, where he can just stay back and whack one over the fence and completely stop the game."

Erie and Akron combined for all of the game's 15 runs in the first four innings.

Trailing 6-4, the SeaWolves loaded the bases in the fourth on three singles before right fielder Matt Joyce drew a bases-loaded walk to force in a run.

Larish, who was 2-for-4, ended the scoring by lashing a 1-2 changeup down and in from Akron right-hander Jake Dittler into the netting in right field.

"It was huge to get a win like that, especially after what happened (Wednesday)," Larish said. "We're pretty excited and hopefully we can carry that over to Akron. Our offense has been swinging it well and so has theirs, so we just have to play our game and continue what we did tonight."

It was Larish's second grand slam in three games. He had a grand slam Monday in a 9-4 home win over Altoona in the regular- season finale, a win that clinched the Southern Division regular-season title for Erie.

Erie right-hander Burke Badenhop worked six innings, allowing nine hits and six runs (three earned). He improved to 3-0 with the SeaWolves in four starts since being promoted to Double-A on Aug. 17 from Single-A Lakeland.

SeaWolves reliever Matt Rusch pitched two scoreless innings before closer Alan Mills came on in the ninth and held the Aeros scorless to earn the save.

The SeaWolves staked Badenhop to a 3-0 first-inning lead. Center fielder Clete Thomas opened the inning with a triple to right-center and scored on Larish's ground single over first. Erie catcher Steve Torrealba added a two-run single to left.

Akron tied the game with three runs in the second, aided by an Erie throwing error on second baseman Will Rhymes.

With runners on first and second and one out, Akron's Wyatt Toregas hit a grounder to third baseman Nick McIntyre, who threw to Rhymes at second for the force. Rhyme's relay throw was wide of first and hit the concrete facing at the end of the Aeros' dugout, allowing Head to score.

Toregas went to the second on the throwing error and scored on second baseman Argenis Reyes' double down the left field line. Reyes moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on center fielder Trevor Crowe's infield single to third.

Erie regained the lead, 4-3, in the third on Torrealba's sacrifice fly to left, but Akron scored three runs in the fourth to take a 6-4 lead. A couple of Erie defensive mistakes on potential double-play grounders led to three unearned Akron runs.

"Those six runs, probably if those double plays were turned, probably would not have happened, so it shows you a lot about Burke and his ability to settle down and pitch six innings," Walbeck said. "He gave us a solid performance and kept us in the game."

The series continues today with Game 3 at 7:05 p.m. at Akron's Canal Park. Akron hosts Game 4 on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Erie would host a fifth game, if necessary, on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. at Jerry Uht Park.

Today's probable starters are Erie right-hander Andrew Kown and Akron left-hander Jeremy Sowers.

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Akron takes playoff lead

Sowers shuts down SeaWolves, gives Aeros 2-1 series lead

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 08. 2007 6:00AM

Akron Aeros #10 Trevor Crowe is out at 2nd base in this double play attempt by Erie Sea Wolves #25 Will Rhymes in the 7th inning in this 2007 Eastern League Southern Division Playoff series played at Canal Park Stadium on Friday, Sept. 7, 2007 in Akron, Ohio. (Ken Love/Akron Beacon Journal)

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AKRON, Ohio -- Jeremy Sowers was stung by a bee on his left pitching hand early in Friday's game, but it was the Erie SeaWolves who really felt the sting.

The Akron Aeros left-hander held the SeaWolves to one run over 71/3 innings in a 6-3 win in Game 3 of their best-of-five Eastern League Southern Division playoff series at Canal Park.

The Aeros, playing before an announced crowd of 7,101, grabbed a 2-1 series lead. A win over Erie tonight in Game 4 at Canal Park would clinch the series for the Aeros. Erie needs to win tonight to force a Game 5 on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. at Jerry Uht Park.

Sowers threw strikes, got ahead of hitters and showed pinpoint control. He allowed just four hits before departing in the eighth.

"From early on, I was able to establish my fastball in and out and by doing that and working ahead, I was able to put them in a lot of defensive counts," Sowers said. "Toward the end they started making some adjustments to that and put the ball in play and got some baserunners. Those last two innings, they were tough outs."

Until then, Sowers was in complete control. He struck out six in the first four innings and blanked the SeaWolves on three singles through seven innings.

Sowers was stung on top of his left hand with two outs in the third inning. Play was stopped while Akron trainer Michael Salazar checked his hand. Sowers sported a reddish lump on his hand afterward.

"I went to set and I don't know if it was in my back pocket, but something stung me," Sowers said. "I never found the bee. It was quite embarrassing to have people come out there, and everybody is thinking something serious must have happened."

Sowers joined the Aeros on Tuesday night, but the Eastern League initially blocked his assignment to the Aeros from Triple-A Buffalo.

The Cleveland Indians countered by recalling Sowers and optioning him to Akron, making it a major league transaction and circumventing the Eastern League playoff rules.

"He absolutely dominated and he schooled us," SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck said. "He was on. I knew we would have a tough time today. I had that feeling that with a left-hander of his experience. He was very tough on our left-handers. He would probably be one those pitchers you would say probably doesn't belong in this league.By the way it worked for them, it was good for them. It puts (lefty Shawn) Nottingham in the bullpen, and he's been a starter all year for them. It definitely strengthens their team."

Sowers was 4-5 with a 4.10 ERA in 15 starts with Buffalo. He began the season in the Indians' rotation, but after struggling there, was assigned to Buffalo.

"He had a game plan to go out there and locate his fastball where it needed to go," Akron manager Tim Bogar said. "He pitched in effectively, especially to their left-handed hitters, and controlled the plate. We didn't have that the first two nights (of the series) and I thought Jeremy did a great job with that."

The Indians have indicated that Sowers is a possible option to use in a Sept. 26 doubleheader in Seattle.

Akron broke a scoreless game in the fifth against Erie right-hander Andrew Kown on second baseman Argenis Reyes' sacrifice fly to left-center.

Akron padded its lead in the sixth on Ryan Goleski's two-out double and Stephen Head's two-run homer to right.

The Aeros added three insurance runs in the seventh off of Erie reliever Randor Bierd on Brandon Pinckney's RBI grounder and Jordan Brown's two-run homer inside the right-field foul pole.

Erie spoiled the shutout bid in the eighth on Mike Hernandez's RBI single to left, and added two ninth-inning runs.

Notes: Tonight's probable starters for Game 4 at Canal Park are Erie right-hander Dallas Trahern and Akron right-hander Bobby Brownlie.

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Hollimon unable to save 'Wolves

BY RON LEONARDI

ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: September 10. 2007 6:00AM

Michael Hollimon found a way to elicit some laughs in a somber Erie SeaWolves clubhouse after Saturday's season-ending 8-6 playoff loss at Akron.

His Triple-A season ended Friday when the Toledo Mud Hens were eliminated by Durham in the International League playoffs.

Reassigned to Erie on Saturday, Hollimon gave the SeaWolves an immediate spark with a single and two-run homer against the Aeros.

Still, the SeaWolves squandered a pair of four-run leads. Akron eliminated Erie 3-1 in their best-of-five Eastern League Southern Division playoff series.

"Man, I'm a loser everywhere I go, what the heck," Hollimon joked in the team's Canal Park clubhouse.

Actually, Hollimon is one of the Detroit Tigers' prized prospects, and next month the switch-hitter will look to expand upon his outstanding Double-A rookie season. He is one of five Erie players selected by the Tigers to compete in the Arizona Fall League beginning in October.

Hollimon, an Eastern League All-Star, will be joined by Erie first baseman Jeff Larish and right-handed starting pitchers Eddie Bonine, Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop.

SeaWolves manager Matt Walbeck often has referred to Hollimon this season as "the heart of this team."

That was evident when the SeaWolves' switch-hitting infielder was promoted to Toledo on Aug. 30 after playing the entire season with Erie.

When he left, the SeaWolves proceeded to lose four straight games, but managed to hang on and win the Southern Division regular-season title with an 81-59 record, 1½ games ahead of Akron.

He played eight games with the Mud Hens before his Erie return Saturday.

"I was real excited about going to play in Triple-A but it came right before our last series of the regular season against Altoona and it had come down to the point where we had worked so hard for, and it was tough to leave," Hollimon said.

During the regular season, Hollimon provided Erie with solid defense at second base and proved his value as a top- and middle-of-the-order hitter. In 127 games, he batted .282 with 14 homers, 76 runs batted in, 91 runs scored and a .282 average.

"You can't replace his leadership skills and the energy that he brings to the team," Walbeck said.

Erie will be well represented in the Arizona Fall League.

Larish led the Eastern League with 28 homers and 101 RBIs during the regular season. He added a homer and seven RBIs in four postseason games.

Bonine was 14-5 with a 3.90 earned-run average during the regular season and finished second in the league in wins. Trahern went 12-6 with a 3.87 ERA., while Badenhop was 3-0 in four starts, including a playoff win, after his Double-A promotion from Single-A Lakeland on Aug. 17.

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