Ballou, Blair in Playoffs as Pro Rookies


Former Marshall stars Isaac Ballou and Aaron Blair

Former Marshall stars Isaac Ballou and Aaron Blair

Sep 4, 2013

By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Welcome back, Isaac!

As Minor League Baseball heads into the playoffs tonight, the two products of Marshall Head Coach Jeff Waggoner’s program who are professional rookies find themselves in the 2013 postseason.

One of them, Hagerstown Suns outfielder Isaac Ballou, finds himself in a familiar place – in the ballpark where he played Conference USA home games for four seasons with the Thundering Herd.

Ballou and the Suns play Game 1 of the Class A South Atlantic League’s best-of-three Northern Division playoffs tonight (Wednesday) at 7 at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston. Admission is free. Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) will be in the Maryland city on Friday and Saturday.

Meanwhile, former Herd right-hander Aaron Blair gets the opening-game start tonight at 7:05 for the South Bend Silver Hawks – Arizona’s low Class A Midwest League team – at Great Lakes. Blair was the No. 39 overall pick (a compensation pick at the end of Round 1) in the June MLB draft by the Diamondbacks. The Las Vegas native signed for $1.435 million. He joined South Bend in the final two weeks of the season after starting the season in late June with Hillsboro (Ore.) in the short-season Northwest League.

The Minor Leagues’ regular season ended Monday.

Ballou’s rookie summer – like Blair’s – began in a short-season league. The fleet outfielder from Smithfield, Va., headed to the Auburn Doubledays in the New York-Penn League. He had solid success before moving up to the Washington Nationals’ SAL club in the final 10 days of the regular season.

Another Herd baseball alumnus, catcher Thor Meeks, is also with Hagerstown. He’s been on the disabled list since he joined the club in May, serving as the Suns’ bullpen catcher.


 

 

While Blair and Ballou are the only players among nine Marshall Baseball alumni who will be in the Minor League postseason, others had successful seasons.

After a move up to the Class AA Southern League, tall right-hander Kevin Shackelford prospered with the Huntsville (Ala.) Stars, in the Milwaukee Brewers’ system. Shackelford, who was converted from catcher at Marshall, went 1-1 with a 1.23 ERA and 6 saves in 20 games for Huntsville after a midseason promotion.

Meanwhile, among several Herd alums in the Midwest League, right-hander Arik Sikula starred as the closer for the Lansing Lugnuts in the Toronto system. Sikula went 6-1 with a 1.93 ERA, fanning 60 and walking 18 in 60 2/3 innings. His 19 saves were tied for No. 2 in the MWL.

Opposing hitters batted only .191 against Sikula this season.

In middle relief for the Lugnuts, righty Ian Kadish fanned 79 in 67 innings over 49 games, finishing 5-4 with a 3.36 ERA.

Meanwhile, in the Majors, Oakland right-hander Dan Straily continues to represent Marshall in the American League West pennant chase battle with Texas.

Straily, scheduled for his next start Saturday against Houston, is 8-7 with a 4.38 ERA in 23 starts. He has 102 strikeouts in 127 innings.

Here’s a look at the MLB-affiliated Minor League regular season numbers in 2013 for former Marshall players:

Isaac Ballou, OF (Washington Nationals)

Auburn Doubledays (New York-Penn, short-season Class A)

BA      G         AB      R         H         2B       3B       HR      RBI     BB       SO       SB

.294     59        211      33        62        14        1          2          20        30        31        8

Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic, Class A)

.111     6          27        2          3          0          0          0          2          2          6          1

Aaron Blair, RHP (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Hillsboro Hops (Northwest, short-season Class A)

W-L    ERA   G         GS       IP        H         ER      BB       SO       SV

1-1       2.90     8          8          31        25        10        13        28        0

South Bend Silver Hawks (Midwest, Class A)

0-2       3.57     3          3          17.2     19        7          4          13        0

Joe Church, RHP (San Diego Padres)

Lake Elsinore (California, Advanced Class A)

W-L    ERA   G         GS       IP        H         ER      BB       SO       SV

0-0       13.50   2          0         2.2       5          4          3          2          0

Fort Wayne Tin Caps (Midwest, Class A)

3-3       6.12     22        0          40        53        25        19        34        1

Note: Finished season on 7-day DL

Ian Kadish, RHP (Toronto Blue Jays)

Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest, Class A)

W-L    ERA   G         GS       IP        H         ER      BB       SO       SV

5-4       3.36     49        0          67        63        25        15        79        0

Mike Mason, LHP (Colorado Rockies)

Asheville Tourists (South Atlantic, Class A)

W-L    ERA   G         GS       IP        H         ER      BB       SO       SV

3-1       3.38     21        0          29.1     27        11        10        28        0

Note: Suspended for season Aug. 2 by Colorado Rockies

Thor Meeks, C (Washington Nationals)

Hagerstown Suns (South Atlantic, Class A)

On 7-day disabled list for SAL season; serving as Suns bullpen catcher.

Kevin Shackelford (Milwaukee Brewers)

Brevard Manatees (Florida State, Advanced Class A)

W-L    ERA   G         GS       IP        H         ER      BB       SO       SV

1-3       5.06     24        0          32        39        18        4          23        2

Huntsville Suns (Southern, Class AA)

1-1       1.23     20        0          29.1     23        4          7          25        6

Arik Sikula, RHP (Toronto Blue Jays)

Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest, Class A)

W-L    ERA   G         GS       IP        H         ER      BB       SO       SV

6-1       1.93     50        0          60.2     41        13        18        60        19

Note: Tied for second in saves in Midwest League

Greg Williams, LHP (Texas Rangers)

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Carolina, Advanced Class A)

Did not pitch in 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery 11 months ago; rehabbing at Rangers’ complex in Surprise, Ariz.

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Meanwhile, another minor League pitcher with a Marshall connection fared well in his rookie season, too. Brett Barber, the son of former Herd football receiving great Mike Barber, pitched in relief at Bluefield in the short-season Appalachian League after signing as Toronto’s 37th-round pick in the June draft.

Barber, who played at Hurricane High and Ohio University, went 2-2 with a 3.80 ERA (7 saves) in 19 games (21 1/3 innings). The right-hander struck out 23 and walked 5 for Bluefield.