— Neil Medchill is not exactly your prototypical nine hole hitter. But perhaps it’s appropriate that on a team that leads the Eastern League with 117 home runs, a 6-foot-4, 220 pound slugger at the bottom of the order made the difference in last night’s 1-0 Thunder win.
In a scorless game in the bottom of the sixth inning, Medchill got behind in the count to Reading starter Mario Hollands, 1-2. But he fouled off the next pitch, then took a ball…then, he sent a ball about 360 feet over the fence in right field for a solo home run.
“For me, I wasn’t happy with my first at-bat and then my first couple swings (of that one),” Medchill said.
“I felt really long, and all I did was try to shorten up and protect. Honestly, I’m not afraid to strike out, but I just wanted to shorten up and put a good swing on a pitch. That’s what I’m really trying to do right there.”
He wasn’t even sure he got enough of the ball to send it deep.
“I haven’t played here enough to really know the ballpark,” said Medchill, in his second stint with the Thunder after a brief April call-up.
“I knew I hit it hard, I was just hoping it got up and it did.”
Thunder manager Tony Franklin sure doesn’t seem to be too upset about having the luxury of that kind of power throughout his lineup, especially in the nine spot.
“What it says is that we’ve got threats up and down the lineup,” Franklin said. “One through nine, they can hurt you with the longball and they can hurt you with a lot of things. It’s a plus to have that, no question about it, knowing that your ninth hitter can drive in three or four runs with one swing of the bat. Every team doesn’t have that. Our power numbers are just tremendous, I never would have expected that.”
— Shaeffer Hall turned in what could possibly be the best start of his season, but it sure didn’t look that way just three batters into the game. Hall allowed the first three Reading Phillies batters to reach, loading the bases with no outs for the meat of the R-Phils order.
Then his defense helped him out. Thunder shortstop Addison Maruszak made a nice over the shoulder running catch a few steps behind the infield dirt on a Leandro Castro pop-up, and Miguel Abreu grounded into a 5-3 double play to end the threat and get Hall out of the frame unscathed.
“That wasn’t easy,” Hall said.
“What I’m trying to do there is limit the damage. The first guy popped up and everybody stayed put, so I was just telling myself to get a ground ball. I was able to get a changeup down and he rolled over and hit it to (third baseman Kevin) Mahoney. It was a good play by him and a good dig by (first baseman Luke) Murton to get out of that. After that, I settled down and got better as the game went on.”
That seems to be a bit of an understatement. The talented lefty may not have the best stuff on whatever staff he ends up on, but he’ll most likely be the best pitcher. He spun seven scoreless innings, exiting with the lead after allowing just one walk and seven hits.
“Numbers and stats wise, yes (it was probably my best start),” Hall said. “But I feel like I’ve had just as good of starts as this that just hasn’t shown up. I’m glad that I was able to go seven scoreless, and I wish I could have gone deeper.”
— After a scoreless eighth inning from Ryan Pope, Jon Meloan came in to close the game out and things instantly got dicey.
Plucked out of the independent Atlantic League earlier this season, Meloan allowed a leadoff single to Abreu, and then hit Cody Asche to put runners on first and second with nobody out. But Reading catcher Sebastian Valle ‘s bunt never got more than a few feet in front of the plate, and J.R. Murphy alertly threw to third base for one out, followed by Mahoney’s strong throw to first to get Valle out for the double play. Meloan then struck out Jiwan James on three pitches to seal the victory.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been in that situation a lot,” said Meloan of his early jam. “Once those things happen, you’ve still got to pitch. I’ve learned not to panic, and I feel like having that experience helps me.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com