Former Cartersville baseball standouts Sam Howard and Connor Justus got off to slow starts with their respective minor league baseball teams this season.
The ex-Canes might have turned the corner this week. Although, Howard did have to leave his most recent start with an apparent injury.
He picked up a win and pitched well in a no-decision, while allowing just three earned runs over a combined 9 1/3 innings for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. Walks have been the biggest problem for the left-handed pitcher.
If cuts down on those, while keeping his strikeout-rate close to one-per-inning, Howard could potentially earn a promotion to the Colorado Rockies at some point during the season.
Justus, meanwhile, had been struggling at the plate before recently heating up. Playing up the middle for the Los Angeles Angels' Double-A affiliate, Justus has raised his batting average to .243 over the past couple of weeks after sitting below the Mendoza line much of the campaign.
Over the past week, he hit .368 and also drew five walks. Even through the offensive struggles, Justus has played well defensively. Should his offensive production continue to trend upward, he might not remain with the Mobile BayBears the entire year.
MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Sam Howard (Albuquerque Isotopes, Colorado Rockies organization; Cartersville) — Howard picked up his second win of the 2018 season Monday, May 7, as the Isotopes knocked off visiting El Paso 11-7. Howard went five innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits and three walks. He fanned four of the 21 batters he faced. Saturday night, Howard tossed 4 1/3 innings of shutout baseball in a no-decision. He allowed only two hits and three walks while striking out two before departing with an apparent injury in an eventual 6-3 win for Albuquerque. The southpaw is now 2-3 for the season in seven starts. He has a 5.01 ERA in just over 32 innings with 30 strikeouts. Albuquerque (19-18) is in second place in the PCL Pacific Southern Division. The ‘Topes continue a four-game series at Las Vegas through Tuesday night and return home Thursday for an eight-day homestand against Reno and Salt Lake that runs May 17-24.
Connor Justus (Mobile BayBears, Los Angeles Angels organization; Cartersville) — Justus had one of his best weeks of the season at the plate as he continued a five-game hitting streak. In Sunday’s home game against Birmingham, Justus went 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and scored a run in a 3-2 win. For the week, he was 7-for-19 (.368) with five walks and four runs scored. He has hit .242 over the last 10 games and has raised his season average to .206. With 23 starts at shortstop and eight at second base, the defensive standout has a .926 fielding percentage in 135 total defensive chances. Mobile (17-19) is in second place in the Southern League’s South Division, 6.5 games behind first-place Biloxi. The BayBears opened a three-game home series with Birmingham Monday night and then travel to Jacksonville for a six-game series that begins Thursday through Monday, May 21, and includes a makeup game from an earlier rainout.
Elliott Anderson (Auburn So., Cartersville) — Anderson worked in the sixth inning of two of the Tigers’ three games this past weekend at 5th-ranked Ole Miss. The southpaw entered with a man on first and no outs in the sixth inning Thursday night and got a pair of groundouts sandwiched around an RBI single before being lifted with two outs in the inning and a runner at third. The Rebels went on the defeat 16th-ranked Auburn 5-4. Friday, Anderson allowed one earned run in completing the sixth inning. He hit a batter and yielded an RBI double in an eventual 8-3 Auburn loss. Ole Miss completed the sweep Saturday by topping Auburn, 10-3, making the Tigers 1-3 for the week. In 21 appearances this season, Anderson is 5-0 with a 3.21 ERA in 28 innings pitched. Auburn (35-17, 13-14 SEC) plays at Troy Tuesday before hosting LSU Thursday through Saturday to close out the regular season. The SEC Tournament begins May 22 in Hoover, Alabama.
Mason Robinson (Louisiana Tech R-Jr., Woodland) — Robinson went 4-for-16 including a walk, three runs scored and four RBIs in four games this week. The Bulldogs had a 12-1 win a Grambling State Wednesday and then took two of three at 13th-ranked and Conference USA-leading Southern Miss over the weekend. Robinson has appeared in 53 games this season with 51 starts in the outfield. He has a .279 batting average that includes six homers, 14 extra-base hits, and 34 RBIs in 223 plate appearances (197 official at bats). The Bulldogs (35-18, 18-9 C-USA) are currently tied for second place with Florida Atlantic and trail Southern Miss by 2.5 games with one conference weekend remaining in the regular season. Most projections have only two NCAA tournament bids for Conference USA, including the automatic bid for the conference tournament winner. Louisiana Tech hosts a three-game conference series with Old Dominion Thursday through Saturday to end the regular season. The C-USA tournament begins May 23 in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Tristin Smith (Young Harris R-Jr., Adairsville) — Smith was 0-for-6 in three games at the Peach Belt Conference Tournament in St. Augustine, Florida, but did walk twice and contribute one RBI with a sacrifice fly. The Mountain Lions beat 26th-ranked USC-Aiken Friday, but he lost to Flagler College and 9th-ranked Columbus State Saturday to end their year. Smith appeared in 37 games and started 29 this season. He finished with a .232 batting average in 112 official at bats with five homers and 25 RBIs. Young Harris completed the year with a 26-24 record.
Tyler Washington (Young Harris R-Jr., Adairsville) — Washington had one hit in each of the Mountain Lions’ three games at the Peach Belt Conference Tournament in St. Augustine Friday and Saturday and was 3-for-10 in the event. Young Harris defeated USC-Aiken in their tournament opener, but lost to Flagler College and Columbus State to end their year. Washington finished the season with a .322 batting average in 47 games that included 44 starts. He had 16 extra-base hits, including five homers and 19 RBIs in 146 official at bats.
Kailah Rain (Embry-Riddle Sr., Cartersville) — Rain went 0-for-3 in each of Embry-Riddle's postseason games last week. The Eagles fell to Saint Leo 3-0 and University of West Florida in the double-elimination Division II South 2 Regional. Rain finished her senior season with a .323 batting average, six doubles, four triples, 30 runs scored and 29 RBIs. She also stole 14 bases in 15 tries while featuring in 46 of the team's 48 games.
TRACK AND FIELD
Miles Bearden (Kansas State Sr., Cartersville native) — Bearden placed 10th in the men's high jump at the Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Waco, Texas.
Spencer Fields (Rhodes College So., Kingston native) — Fields finished second in the 10,000-meter run at the North Central College Dr. Keeler Track and Field Meet in Naperville, Illinois.
Samantha Patterson (Jacksonville State Sr., Woodland) — Patterson took fifth in the pole vault in the Ohio Valley Conference Track and Field Championship over the weekend in Cookeville, Tennessee.
— Charles Wilson of Bartow Sports Zone contributed to this report.