Now that it’s August, minor league seasons are starting to come down to the wire, and professional baseball players are thinking about playoff appearances and potential September promotions.
For Cartersville alumnus Sam Howard, that might mean a September callup to the majors.
Howard made his second consecutive scoreless start last week for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes in the Colorado Rockies organization, giving up two hits, one walk and no runs in six innings against the Round Rock Express on Friday.
That came five days after Howard threw 5.2 scoreless innings against the Iowa Cubs.
Over the course of the two outings, the lefty cut his Triple-A ERA from 5.13 to 3.98.
Howard struck out four in his most recent outing against Round Rock, including former big leaguers Drew Stubbs (twice) and Will Middlebrooks.
Despite the strong effort, Howard didn’t get the win, as the game stayed scoreless until the 10th inning, when Albuquerque finally scored a run for the 1-0 victory.
The Isotopes, at 57-57, are one game behind the Salt Lake Bees for first place in the Southern Division of the Pacific Coast League.
Howard has thrown 52 innings in 10 starts for the ‘Topes, going 4-2 while striking out 46 batters. Over two stops in the minors so far this year, he’s thrown 98.1 innings with a 3.20 ERA.
Connor Justus, meanwhile, is hoping to salvage something from a tough season and take some momentum into next year.
The former Cartersville and Georgia Tech shortstop went 0-for-19 in five games last week, dropping his batting average back down to .207 for the Class A-Advanced Inland Empire 66ers in the Los Angeles Angels organization.
The slump came right after one of his best games of the season, a 3-for-5 effort on July 31 against the Stockton Ports that raised his average to .219.
Justus is hitting .207/.327/.322, with 51 walks, which is third in the California League.
The 66ers are 22-22, in third place in the Southern Division of the Cal League.
In collegiate summer play, Adairsville grads Sean McDermott and Sam Seaman are champions after their Marietta Patriots team beat the Atlanta Crackers twice to sweep the Sunbelt League championship series.
McDermott went 1-for-4 and doubled in the first run of the game for the Patriots in the first game, a 3-2 win that took 11 innings.
The clinching game didn’t have quite the same level of suspense, as the Patriots, with the game tied 4-4 after six innings, scored nine runs over the last three innings to take home the championship. McDermott was 0-for-5 in the clincher.
The first baseman, who’ll attend Mercer in the fall, finished the season hitting .283, with three homers, 16 RBIs and 14 runs scored in a team-high 99 at-bats.
Seaman, who’ll be a freshman at Gordon State, impressed in part-time play, hitting .269 in 26 at-bats.
Lastly, Elliott Anderson didn’t have quite the storybook playoff run that McDermott and Seaman did, as his Amsterdam Mohawks team was swept in two games in the Eastern Division championship series of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
Anderson, a Cartersville alumnus and rising sophomore at Auburn, pitched in both games against the Mohawk Valley DiamondDawgs, and was the last pitcher on the mound for the Mohawks in the 2017 season, surrendering the winning run in the 10th inning of Game 2.
Anderson had relieved with two on and one out in the ninth after an RBI single tied the game at 3, and escaped the jam by getting a flyout and a strikeout.
He then came back out for the 10th but wasn’t as sharp, surrendering a leadoff single. After a fielder’s choice at second got one out, a passed ball moved the runner into scoring position.
Anderson intentially walked the hitter to set up the double play again, but it would be a moot point as Mohawk Valley’s Clay Koniencki singled home the winning run.
That came after Anderson had gotten the last two outs for the Mohawks in Game 1, closing out the top of the ninth in another 4-3 loss.
Anderson made 15 appearances out of the bullpen for Amsterdam, throwing 21 innings with a 3.86 ERA.
He struck out 22, but walks were an issue as he surrendered 16 free passes. He had one save.