The players keep going and the wins keep coming for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Outfielder Courtney Hawkins had his contract purchased by the Cincinnati Reds, who assigned him to High-A Daytona. The 24-year-old Corpus Christi native became the 11th Skeeters player to have his contract purchased by a Major League Baseball organization and the 13th player to have his contract purchased by a professional baseball organization this season, both leading the Atlantic League. The 11 contracts add to the franchise’s single-season record, surpassing the previous record of nine set in 2013.
Skeeters Manager Pete Incaviglia said he wasn’t surprised Hawkins got another chance to play affiliated baseball.
“Courtney has worked hard and made some adjustments,” he said. “He deserves all the credit… Hopefully someday we’ll see him in the big leagues.”
Despite all the departures, the Skeeters keep on winning. The first half Freedom Division champions are 63-32 overall, eight games ahead of Liberty Division leaders Somerset Patriots, who are the next closest team. As of Sunday night the Skeeters remained the best team in the Atlantic League in the second half with a 22-10 record. With the Skeeters taking two of the first three games of a seven-game series from the Patriots, the Long Island Ducks (21-11) have been able to sneak past the Pats to lead the Liberty Division.
The Skeeters began last week on the road with three games at the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. After a rainout on Tuesday, the Skeeters crushed the Crabs in a doubleheader. They took the first game 12-2 with Yasutomo Kubo getting his second win of the season and former Skeeter Brett Marshall suffering the loss. Catcher Derek Norris was 4-4 in the game with a home run and four runs-batted-in. In the nightcap, the Skeeters blanked the Blue Crabs 7-0. Jean Machi got his first win as a Skeeter. Outfielder Anthony Giansanti led the offense going 3-4 with two homers, three RBIs and three runs.
The brooms came out on Thursday as the Skeeters swept the Crabs 12-4. Alex Wimmers came in for starter Dallas Beeler and got the win. Juan Silverio was 2-5 at the plate with a home run and four RBIs.
Facing a more formidable foe upon returning home on Friday, the Skeeters took the Patriots 11 innings before earning the 3-2 walk-off win. The Skeeters will held scoreless through seven inning at the hand of Vince Molesky but picked up two runs off Logan Kensing in the bottom of the eighth to take a 2-1 lead. Skeeters closer Felipe Paulino, who leads the league in saves, gave up a run in the ninth to send the game into extras. Former Skeeter Zech Zinicola came in for the Patriots in the 11th and loaded the bases with an intentional walk to Derek Norris. Silverio belted a single, bringing Barrett Barnes in for the winning run.
Although the fireworks show was Friday night, the sparks continued to fly on Saturday as the Patriots took the game 5-4. In the middle of the sixth inning, Incaviglia came out of the dugout to protest an interference call. A Patriots player made a comment from their dugout and both benches cleared. No punches were thrown but tension remained high the rest of the game.
“That’s baseball,” Incaviglia said.
Skeeters pitcher Paco Rodriguez, newly re-acquired after a stint in the Minnesota Twins organization, took the loss. Javier Betancourt went 1-4 with a run, a triple, and an RBI.
On Sunday the Skeeters returned to their winning ways with an 8-5 victory over the Pats. Vicente Campos came in relief to get the win and Paulino notched his 25th save. Matt Chavez provided the power at the plate going 2-3 with runs, a home run, and three RBIs.
The Skeeters remain in the toughest part of their schedule this half. They play the Patriots through Thursday before going to Lancaster for three games. After getting Monday off, the Skeeters go to Lancaster to face the Patriots again for three games. They return home for three games with the New Britain Bees, followed by three games with the Blue Crabs. There will be fireworks after the game on Aug. 25 and a post-game concert by Jack Ingram on Aug. 25.
With Hawkins departing on Friday, the Skeeters picked up Paco Rodriguez and activated bullpen catcher Jeff Allen for three days. Pitcher Angel Nesbitt was released. On Monday the Skeeters signed infielder Luke Dykstra.
Skeeter of the Week
Anthony Giansanti went 2-for-5 in Sunday’s win, extending his hitting streak to nine games. Giansanti has gone 16-for-37 (.432), with 11 runs, five doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs over that span. Incaviglia credited him with being a leader on the field and in the clubhouse.
“”He’s played lights-out offensively and defensively and it putting up some tremendous numbers,” he said.
Giansanti set the Skeeters franchise record with a 26-game hitting streak in 2017. He is also third in the league with 65 runs, sixth with a .481 slugging percentage and seventh with 25 stolen bases.