The Hudson Valley Renegades have continued their strong play to maintain a two-game lead over the Brooklyn Cyclones in the McNamara division of the New York-Penn League. This past week featured two impressive comebacks—on Monday, the Renegades trailed 8-0 in the seventh inning to Staten Island and won 9-8 on a Joey Rickard walk-off single, while on Wednesday they came back from a 9-3 deficit and beat Tri-City 10-9 in 12 innings thanks to a Marty Gantt single. The ‘Gades went 5-2 in the past week, one that saw a continuance of strong performances and the welcoming of first-round draft pick Richie Shaffer.
Hot hitting in several forms
Centerfielder Joey Rickard has been tearing it up for the Renegades since his arrival at Hudson Valley following a College World Series championship with Arizona. Through 17 games, Rickard is hitting for a .349/.414/.444 line with three doubles and a home run.
"Joey Rickard continues to get big hits for us," manager Jared Sandberg said, "he continues to impress, being in the leadoff spot getting on base and scoring runs."
First baseman/catcher Luke Maile also had a hot start to the week, going 5-for-5 in the Renegades nine-run comeback win against Staten Island. Maile, a 2012 eighth-round selection out of Kentucky, is hitting .350 with four doubles in his last 10 games.
"Any time you get five hits in a game that's pretty impressive," Sandberg said. "It's good to see him, after he had a little slide where his average dipped, he was getting humbled a little bit, but to have that big night was a nice way for him to get back on track."
Outfielder Marty Gantt has also picked it up after a lackluster beginning and is hitting .361 in his past 10 games, including four multi-hit games in his last six.
Newcomer Richie Shaffer, the Rays' pick at 25th overall in this year's draft, made his professional debut with the Renegades on Monday and has shown signs of why he was a first-round pick. In addition to putting on shows in batting practice, the third baseman out of Clemson is 5-for-16 through five games, Sunday's game against Williamsport featured Shaffer's first game with an extra-base hit (a double) as well as his first without a strikeout.
Henderson earns his first start
Brandon Henderson, perhaps the most impressive relief pitcher for the Renegades in 2012, came out of the bullpen to make his first start in game two of a doubleheader against Tri-City on Friday. The 20-year- old southpaw had made nine relief appearances for the Renegades, earning the most innings for any Hudson Valley pitcher without a start.
Henderson, the Rays' 15th-round selection in the 2010 draft out of Chesnee, S.C., did not allow a run in his first six appearances of 2012. As a reliever, he racked up a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings while striking out 22 compared to only 14 hits and three walks. Despite struggling in his first start, giving up three runs on six hits in 4.1 innings, his season ERA stands at 2.48.
"He's been impressive out of the bullpen," Sandberg said, "and with his ability to change speeds we needed someone to step into the rotation for the doubleheader and he seemed like the right guy. Just from the point of deserving a start, he deserved it.
Henderson will return to the bullpen for now.
Pitcher Sean Bierman has given up one total run in three starts… Taylor Guerrieri gave up two runs on five hits on Friday, the first time he has given up more than one run this season… The Renegades will try to sweep Williamsport tonight before series away at State College and Jamestown starting Wednesday.
Eric Vander Voort is the Hudson Valley beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @ecvandervoort.
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