The first RBI of Chase Illig’s professional baseball career will be one the former Tazewell High School star will never forget.
It came on July 1 for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Yankees East and was a ninth-inning sacrifice fly that allowed Miguel Marte to score. The opposing pitcher for the Gulf Coast League Tigers West was Sam Kessler, who happened to be Illig’s former teammate at West Virginia University.
“Getting to face Sam was pretty cool,” Illig said. “Not only was he my teammate at WVU, but also my roommate the past three years as well. Anytime you get to play against familiar faces, it’s always awesome.”
The next day against the GCL Phillies West, Illig collected his first pro hit and it was a fifth-inning single off Brett Schulze. It would turn out to be the only hit Illig’s team had that day.
“Getting my first professional hit was definitely a dream come true,” Illig said. “Leading up to that at-bat I had hit a lot of balls hard in previous games, so I knew eventually that first one would fall in. My first at-bat that day I walked on eight pitches and felt really comfortable at the plate against a quality arm that was no-hitting us through five innings. My second at-bat was against the relief pitcher they brought in.
“Our hitting coach [Ty Hawkins] gave us the rundown on the kid’s scouting report with how he sits 94 to 96 [miles per hour] and has an average breaking ball. So, once I got in the box I knew I was sitting on a fastball I could drive until I got to two strikes because I knew he didn’t have a great slider. The first pitch of the at-bat he threw me a slider for strike one. The next pitch was a 95 mile-per-hour fastball down and away that I hit back up the middle. Off the bat, I knew it was a hit and it was an awesome feeling. Now that I have that first one under my belt, I know plenty more are coming soon.”
Illig is 1-for-12 with two RBIs and two walks in his first six games of pro ball after being a 29th-round draft choice of the New York Yankees last month.
“So far everything and everyone in the Yankees organization has been amazing,” Illig said. “The organization as a whole really is top notch. It’s been an unbelievable experience so far.”
Will Carter promoted
The New York Yankees promoted Science Hill High School graduate Will Carter to the Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Saturday.
Carter was 1-1 with two saves and a 3.43 ERA in 23 outings for the Trenton Thunder of the Class AA Eastern League. The right-handed pitcher is in his fifth season as a pro and this will be his first stint at the Class AAA level.
Grimm saves the day
Justin Grimm notched his first save of the season on Friday night for the Class AAA Oklahoma City Dodgers.
Grimm pitched two scoreless innings to polish off Oklahoma City’s 4-3 Pacific Coast League victory over the Round Rock Express in the second game of a doubleheader and ended things by striking out Derek Fisher.
The former Virginia High standout is 4-4 with a 5.54 ERA this season for the top farm team of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his 33 appearances were tied for the fourth-most in the PCL entering Saturday.
Futures is now for Craig
When Indianapolis Indians manager Brian Esposito asked to see first baseman Will Craig in his office recently, the ex-Science Hill High School slugger and Pittsburgh Pirates prospect wasn’t sure what the skipper wanted.
“I thought I was in trouble for something,” Craig said.
Instead, Esposito let Craig know that he had been selected to play in the MLB All-Star Futures Game, which is scheduled for today at Cleveland’s Progressive Field and features many of the game’s elite prospects. The contest begins at 7 p.m. and will be televised by MLB Network.
“It feels amazing to represent the Pirates and my family as well,” Craig said.
Craig is currently hitting .250 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs for Indianapolis, Pittsburgh’s Class AAA affiliate.
Cunningham Ks 11
Chase Cunningham (Tennessee High) collected a career-high 11 strikeouts for the Southern Illinois Miners on July 3 in a 7-6 victory over the Florence Freedom.
Cunningham allowed just two runs on four hits, while walking two. He is 6-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 11 starts in the independent Frontier League.
He will participate in the Frontier League vs. Can-Am League All-Star Game on July 10 in Pomona, New York.
Former Sullivan East High School standout Hunter Stratton is 5-3 with a 4.78 ERA for the Bradenton Marauders, the High-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
His 20 appearances are tied for the team lead.
Hayes has been lights out
Former Science Hill High School star Reed Hayes has pitched 15 1/3 innings this season for three different teams in the Baltimore Orioles farm system and has yet to allow an earned run.
The right-hander has allowed just five hits, while striking out 12 and walking six with the Aberdeen IronBirds (short-season advanced), Delmarva Shorebirds (Low-A) and Frederick Keys (High-A). Opponents are hitting just .100 against him.
Trey takes his cuts
Trey Cabbage (Grainger) is hitting .250 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 38 games for the High-A Fort Myers Miracle since being promoted from Low-A Cedar Rapids on April 28.
He had hit safely in six of his last seven games entering Saturday. Cabbage is in his fifth season in the Minnesota Twins minor league system.
Since coming off the injured list on July 1, right-handed pitcher Tristan Archer (Sullivan South) has crafted two scoreless outings for the Class AAA Louisville Bats.
He struck out all three Columbus Clippers batters he faced on Friday in a perfect eighth inning.
The Cincinnati Reds acquired Archer in a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers organization on May 27 and he’s a combined 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA between San Antonio and Louisville.
Ex-Cav cut loose
Ryan Dickt, a former standout at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, was released by the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs on June 25.
Dickt was 1-for-11 with one RBI in six games for San Rafael.
Lee moves up
The Washington Nationals promoted pitcher Andrew Lee (Morristown West) to the Class AA Harrisburg Senators on July 1. Lee was 2-5 with a 3.45 ERA for High-A Potomac before being moved up.
He threw four hitless innings on Thursday in his first game for Harrisburg.
Today in History
>>> Bristol, Virginia, native Charlie Caldwell made his MLB debut for the New York Yankees on July 7, 1925 in their 12-2 loss to the St. Louis Browns in the first game of a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park.
He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
The first batter Caldwell faced in what would turn out to be a brief three-game big-league career was future Hall of Famer George Sisler, who flew out to right field for the final out of the seventh inning.
Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and starting pitcher Waite Hoyt were the future Hall of Famers in the Yankees lineup.
Caldwell would become a hall of famer too, but in a different sport. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1961 after winning 146 games as the head coach at Williams College and Princeton University.
>>> Abingdon, Virginia’s own Gail Harris went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and scored twice for the New York Giants on July 7, 1957 in their 10-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first game of a doubleheader.
>>> Ernie Ferrell Bowman (Science Hill) contributed a fifth-inning single off Curt Simmons for the San Francisco Giants in a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader on July 7, 1963.
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