July 18, 2016 

Lynchburg Hillcats

On this date in 2016, the Lynchburg Hillcats had quite the KO of the Wilmington Blue Rocks. There was a lot of great stuff from this game, so we’ll start where things really got started, the second inning.

While Mark Mathias doubled and Luis Lugo gave up a double and struck out two in the first inning, neither team managed to score. In the second, the Hillcats got off to a running start to the inning when Yu Chang walked to lead off the frame. Luigi Rodriguez followed with a single and Taylor Murphy brought them both home with a homer. With the lead established, it was time for Lugo to get back to work.

After a perfect second, Lugo allowed a single in the third, but picked off the runner. He added two more K’s in a perfect fourth, then allowed one single in the fifth, giving him just two batters over the minimum through five. He wouldn’t allow another base runner as he went two more innings of shut out ball. Overall, Lugo allowed three hits and struck out 10 without a walk over his seven scoreless innings.

As Lugo was dominating, the Hillcat hitters were swishing two pointers. In the fifth, Greg Allen doubled to lead off the inning and went to third on an error. Mathias followed with a walk and advanced on a separate throwing mistake. Anthony Santander then brought home Allen with a sac fly, then Bobby Bradley brought in Mathias with a double for the second run.

Bobby Bradley1
Bradley takes a hack during 2016 MiLB spring training practice. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

In the sixth, the pair of runs were a little more simple as Taylor Murphy singled and came home on a Paul Hendrix homer. The next run was scored in similar fashion as Bradley lead off the seventh with a solo shot to right. You may say, “that’s not very special, he does that all the time.” Well, unimpressed person, right after that Sicnarf Loopstok hit a triple. He would score the second run of the inning on a two out, Taylor Murphy single.

As if performing a curtain call, the two runs in the eighth involved nearly everyone previously mentioned in the game. Allen and Mathias singled to start the inning, then Bradley moved them both up two bases with another one base hit. Loopstok walked this time around (something still uncommon, but statistically ten times more likely than him hitting a triple), the Luigi Rodriguez brought home Mathias with a two out single.

With the Hillcats offense and Lugo done for the day, Jordan Milbrath came in to pitch. He allowed a single, but quickly returned the man to the dugout with a double play. Billy Strode finished things out with a perfect ninth including a strike out.

Overall, three Hillcats had at least three hits with Bradley leading the way with four hits. He knocked in three himself while Murphy brought home four and three different hitters scored two runs apiece.

Taylor Murphy1
Murphy watches a fly ball while on rehab with the 2017 Arizona League Indians. – Joseph Coblitz, IBI

While most know Bradley and Chang from their limited time with the Indians in 2019 and Allen from his extensive time in the big leagues, but three of the stars of this game had very different paths. Murphy stayed with the Indians through spring training 2018, then was released, never reaching above AA. He was signed by the Braves, but it was a very short experiment that ended later in 2018.

Lugo ran through his seven years of team control and became a MiLB free agent following the 2017 season and signed with the Orioles. He then went to the Royals, then the Cubs through a slew of MiLB transactions until he was finally invited to MLB spring training with Chicago in 2020. Luigi Rodriguez seemed to have it all with power, speed and good defense, but it truly was too good to be true as he tested positive for PEDs in 2017. Like Lugo, he became a free agent at the end of the 2017 and signed with the Giants. One year later, he tested free agency again and was pushed into retirement.

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