Thursday, August 31, 2017

Alvarez's Pitching and Hitting Ends Chiefs' Winning Streak

 Story and photo by Kevin Van Pelt

Syracuse, N.Y. - The SyracuseChiefs three-game winning streak ended Wednesday night at NBT Bank Stadium, as they lost to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs 7-3.

Led by the pitching of Henderson Alvarez, the IronPigs took the lead early and never gave it up. Alvarez pitched seven strong innings giving up three earned runs and only walking one batter.  

Alvarez was making his first career start with the IronPigs after being signed by the Phillies on August 22.

However, it was also the bat of Alvarez that helped the IronPigs get the victory. In the third inning, Alvarez ripped a double to open up the inning against Chiefs pitcher A.J. Cole. Later he scored on an RBI-single by shortstop Scott Kingery. After RBI singles by third baseman J.P. Crawford and second baseman Angelo Mora, the Chiefs were down 3-0 at the end of the third.

Chiefs get on the board, IronPigs answer

It wasn't until the fifth inning that the Chiefs finally broke through in the run column. Catcher Spencer Kiebloom drew a walk to start the inning for Syracuse. His patient at-bat paid off, as the next batter, third baseman Michael Almanzar, ripped a double down the line and Kiebloom hustled from first base to score the first run for the Chiefs. Rafael Bautista drove in the second run of the inning, grounding out to third to drive in Almanzar.

The IronPigs answered quickly, hitting Cole often. After Brock Stassi singled and Angelo Mora doubled,, Cole to settled down and struck out the next two batters.

The Chiefs intentionally walked the number eight batter catcher Logan Moore to get to Alvarez. The decision proved costly. Alvarez singled to drive in two runs and bring the lead back up to three for the IronPigs.

From there, Alvarez was on cruise control, only allowing one more run before being pinch hit for in the top of the eighth. Alvarez only threw 77 pitches, but considering it was his first start of the season, the team opted to keep his pitch count low.

As for Cole, his night was over after giving up the two-RBI single to Alvarez. He gave up five earned runs in six and two-third innings and took his fifth loss of the season.

Lehigh tacked on two insurance runs in the eighth inning to pull away and keep the Chiefs in check.


This was the Chief’s 84th loss of the season, but they can still win the series against the IronPigs with a win Thursday tonight to close out the series. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.

As for the IronPigs, they remain in the wild card hunt as they move two games behind the Rochester Red Wings after their loss to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRaiders.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Chiefs Cook IronPigs

Story, Photo by Kent Paisley

Syracuse, N.Y. – The Syracuse Chiefs and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs came into NBT Bank stadium this Tuesday evening with similar quality of play recently, yet vastly different records.

The IronPigs turned on the greaser early in the season, starting with a scorching 42-19 record, but have had a cooler record of 32-42 since. They sat at 74-61 on the year coming into Tuesday’s contest.

The Chiefs held a half game lead on the worst record in the International League Standings at 52-83.

Taking the hill for the two teams were Jake Thompson for the IronPigs, with a 5.34 ERA in 21 appearances, and John Simms for the Chiefs, with a 6.82 ERA in 6 appearances.

They went on to outperform their ERAs in a pitchers' duel.

Simms, a Houston native, was pitching for the first time since Tropical Storm Harvey struck.

See Newhouse Sports story on Simms emotions here

Mirrored Opening Frames 

The IronPigs were set down in order to start the game. The Chiefs opened the bottom of the first with singles by center fielder Rafael Bautista and right fielder Andrew Stevenson, but that's as far as they got.

In the top of the second, the IronPigs got their first baseman Brock Stassi and left fielder Andrew Pullin on first and second with a single and a walk with one out. That's as far as they got.

The Chiefs proceeded to go down in order in the bottom of the second.

First Blood 

The pitchers' duel was on from there, as Simms and Thompson traded scoreless innings in the third.

After sitting ten consecutive Chiefs down, Thompson gave up the first run of the game  on a two-out solo homer to left field by second baseman Brandon Snyder in the bottom of the fourth, giving the Chiefs a 1-0 lead.

It was Snyder's 24th homer of the season. But the emotion of the homer wasn't about himself, but supporting Simms.

"Obviously it (Tropical Storm Harvey) is directly affecting him... it's awful," Snyder said. For him to come out and pitch well, it helped." 

Thompson and Sims again traded scoreless innings in the fifth, but the sixth inning opened with mayhem benefiting the IronPigs.

IronPigs leadoff hitter Scott Kingery hit a towering popup, which Chiefs first baseman Clint Robinson lost up in the lights. The other Chiefs infielders thought Robinson had it, and the ball landed on the mound behind Simms. 

Kingery never hesitated out of the box and advanced to second base without a play. Second baseman J.P. Crawford followed Kingery's at bat with a walk.

Simms then clamped down for the Chiefs. He fired a strike to third base to get Kingery out on a force play after a bunt directly to him by center fielder Carlos Tocci.  

Stassi hit a fly ball to right center field which did not advance Crawford to third, and right fielder Dylan Cozens struck out looking, to end the IronPigs' threat.

Cozens was ejected shortly thereafter for complaining about the outside strike by home plate umpire Roberto Ortiz. He was replaced by Herlis Rodriguez in right field for the remainder of the game. 


The Chiefs carried the momentum into the bottom of the frame, as they had first and second with no one out with cleanup hitter Robinson to the plate. He proceeded to hit into a 4-6-3 double play, resulting in a runner on third with two outs. 

With the end of the damage in sight, Thompson threw a fastball high, ticking catcher Nick Rickles' mitt and going all the way to the backstop, resulting in Stevenson scoring from third. 

Snyder struck on the next pitch, but the damage was done. The Chiefs claimed a 2-0 lead, and added to that lead in the bottom of the seventh.

Once again with two outs, Thompson threw a wild pitch to advance Chief's catcher Pedro Severino and shortstop Irving Falu from first and second to second and third. 

Bautista took advantage of the ducks on the pond, hitting a bloop single to left field which drove in Severino and Falu, increasing the Chief’s lead to 4-0 through seven innings. 

Simms was for the evening after seven, throwing 102 pitches and giving up three hits. Simms gave credit for his dominant start to barrels missing balls.

"My fastball had a lot more life on it," Simms explained. "Even when I missed, it was OK" 

In the top of the eighth, Crawford hit a solo shot to right field to make it a 4-1 deficit for the IronPigs, but proved too little too late to turn on the greaser and launch a comeback.

Austin Adams came in for the Chiefs to wrap up the save in the ninth, his fifth save out of six opportunities this season, with the final score of 4-1.

The Remainder of the Season

This was the second win for the Chiefs in the four-game series against the IronPigs, having won Monday night 7-3. 

The Syracuse Chiefs play the IronPigs Wednesday at 6:35 P.M. at NBT Bank Stadium, with the series continuing through Thursday. 

The Chiefs have six games remaining in their season, all at home. Their next and final series is a four game series against Buffalo, starting Friday. 

The Area Codes that Matter

Story, Photo by Kent Paisley 
Simms photo courtesy Syracuse Chiefs (Danny Tripodi)

Syracuse, N.Y. – The Syracuse Chiefs and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs came into NBT Bank stadium this Tuesday evening to play baseball in the 315 area code. 

The Chiefs went on to win 4-1, behind a stellar performance by starting pitcher Chris Simms, throwing seven scoreless innings while allowing three hits and striking out nine.   

But only three numbers mattered to Simms.

281, 713, and 832. 

The area codes of Houston Texas, his hometown, which Simms drew on his cleats before the game.    

“I’ve lived there for pretty much my whole life," Simms explained. "That’s home, that’s where I’m from, that’s where I went to school, that’s where I’ve gone back every year, that’s where everyone I know lives.

“It’s kind of hard not to think about it.”

Tropical Storm Harvey has been an unprecedented natural disaster in the Houston Texas area, with the top reading of 51.88 inches of rain recorded as of Tuesday afternoon in parts of Houston, per the New York Times.

It’s hitting home for Simms, and he sees constant reminders of the destruction in his home town and his alma matter, Rice University.. 

“There’s snapchat stories, Instagram stories, of all my friends, massive oak trees toppling over at Rice, guys going outside and seeing 30 feet of water,” he said.

Tropical Storm Harvey is still battering Houston, and he’s processing playing baseball over being with his family.

“There’s nothing I can actually do. I’m in Syracuse, New York, but these are the people I actually know.”

While the zip codes may be the numbers that matter to Simms, for now what truly matters are the people in his life.

The Syracuse Chiefs have launched a fund drive for clothes donations. For a list of local charities to consider donating to help out those affected by Tropical Storm Harvey, visit Charity Navigator.    

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Best Fights are Sometimes Not Televised

Story and photos by Jose Cuevas

Verona, N.Y. – Bellator 182 was an incredible event with action packed bouts. However, due to time constraints some fights were left off the Preliminary Bouts and moved after the televised portion of the card. These fight were not televised and only the people in the arena could watch them. 

The final fight of the entire card was between two Central New Yorkers: Joshua Ricci from Whitesboro and Brandon Warne from Ovid.  Ricci trains at the Baldwinsville Impact Team Andrello MMA gym. Both fighters brought large entourages to the fight and the entire arena resonated with raucous cheering.

Ricci's fans cheering him on
Warne's fans cheering him on
Warne and Ricci both feint kick in the center of the cage
The fight was hotly contested as Warne exchanged solid strikes with Ricci. However late in the first round Ricci took Warne down and attempted a rear naked choke. Despite not being able to hold on to the maneuver he maintained ground control utilizing excellent wrestling skills. 

Ricci locks in a Rear-Naked Choke
Heading into the second round a chant of "Ruthless! Ruthless! Ruthless!" rose from Ricci's side of the crowd. Ruthless is the name of Ricci's fight team and it was all in full support of him. Ricci maintained control but Warne would not give up refusing to allow Ricci to subdue him.

Ricci goes for a takedown and Warne stuffs (defends) it 
Heading into the third round Ricci was aggressive trying to finish off Warne, but Warne remained defiant and his rooting section chanted his name.  As Warne was building momentum after stuffing Ricci's takedown attempt, Ricci caught him in a rear naked choke again.

Warne trying to use the cage to escape Ricci's Rear Naked Choke
As much as Warne tried to fend off the tenacious Ricci he could not.  The fight concluded and we went to the judge's scorecards. All three gave the fight to Ricci giving him a unanimous decision to remain undefeated at 4-and-0.

Ricci was announced the winner and he celebrated with his team and fans
Some people had cleared out of the arena before the final bout and that made for a more intimate setting where the remaining crowd was split between Ricci and Warne. The local boys put on a show that rivaled the fights on the main card.

The intensity of the fans that stayed for this bout elevated the ambiance and encouraged the fighters to give it their all. Just goes to show you that the biggest fights may be the ones you never hear about.

Well, until now.