By Bill McCaughey
For the Fort Bend Star
The Sugar Land Skeeters began the second half of the Atlantic League season by winning their first two series.
The Skeeters took two out of three from New Britain, and three out of four from the first half Freedom Division champion York Revolution, to put them in first place. Because the Atlantic League All-star game is Wednesday, the Skeeters are off until Friday when they play in Bridgeport.
The Skeeters finished the first half of the Atlantic League season 35-35, placing them in second place in the Freedom Division. The Skeeters had closed to within two games of the first place York Revolution but then lost their last five games of the first half of the season. York and the Long Island Ducks have qualified for the end of season playoffs by finishing first in their divisions for the first half.
On the Fourth of July, the Skeeters broke their all-time attendance record with a crowd of 8,606. The previous record was 8,597 on Sept. 12, 2012. In addition to the Skeeters victory over New Britain, there was a fireworks display after the game.
The Skeeters have three assistant coaches this year, Jeff Scott, Raffy Montalvo and Troy Dean Conkle. Scott was a high school three sport star in Kankakee, Ill., and was drafted in the third round (1972) by the Texas Rangers. Scott pitched for six years in the minor leagues and then became a manager at the age of 24. He served in player development and scouting positions for many years before managing in the Atlantic League beginning in 2006.
Raffy Montalvo was born in Puerto Rico and was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1980 when he was 16. In 1985, the Dodgers traded Montalvo and a player to be named later to the Astros for Enos Cabell. Unlike the character in The Field of Dreams who never got his chance to play in the Major Leagues, Montalvo pitched one inning for the Astros in 1986. He gave up one earned run on one hit and two walks. After that one inning, he was sent to the minor leagues and played until 1999.
Troy Dean Conkle played four seasons in the Texas-Louisiana League, first as an infielder and then as a relief pitcher. Conkle’s career batting average was .289 and his best pitching year was 1996 when he pitched in 17 games and had a 3.00 earned run average.
The New Britain Bees have been put up for sale. This is their first season in New Britain, Conn. The Bees are expected to stay in New Britain due to their stadium lease.
SKEETER OF THE WEEK
The Fort Bend Star Skeeter of the Week is Ricky Hague with a .393 batting average with two home runs during the week. Runner-up was Roy Merritt who pitched 13 innings with a 2.08 earned run average and picked up a win.
Last Sunday Kent Matthes went 2-for-2 with a home run and two RBI’s, then announced his retirement after the game. Ben Guez also retired last week.
The Skeeters have signed Dan Runzler, a left-handed pitcher formerly with the Rochester Red Wings of the AAA International League. Runzler had two wins and one loss with a 5.82 earned run average for the Red Wings in 2016. He was a ninth round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants in 2007.
“Runzler is a hard thrower,” said pitching coach Jeff Scott. “In his first inning for us, he was hitting 95 to 98 miles per hour on the speed gun.”