Montanez Continues To Dominate Pacific Coast League Pitching

Montanez Continues To Dominate Pacific Coast League Pitching

Sunday May 1, 2011
Posted: 5:55 p.m.
CUBSIowa AAA
Lou Montanez continued his tear Sunday afternoon for Iowa, which upended Omaha, 7-5, at Werner Park.

Montanez had three hits, extending his hitting streak to seven games while pushing his batting average to .432, second best in the Pacific Coast League. He also picked up his 28th RBI, which is also second in the league. Montanez has reached base safely in 20 of 21 games in which he has appeared this season.

Brad Snyder also had a big game, collecting a pair of hits, including the three-run homer that highlighted a six-run second inning. He extended his hitting streak to six games and is 12 for his last 32. Tony Campana also picked up a hit to extend his hitting streak to five games.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx 1-2 earned the win with 1 23 scoreless innings after coming on in relief of starter Jay Jackson, who lasted only 4 13 innings.
Tennessee AA
The Tennessee bats finally fell silent Sunday afternoon as they dropped a 4-1 decision to Carolina at Smokies Park.

The Smokies were 0-for-5 with runners on base and didnt score until the eighth inning when Marwin Gonzalez smacked a solo homer. Trey McNutt 1-2 allowed two runs over six innings to take the loss.
Peoria A
Yordy Cabreras two-run double sparked a three-run sixth inning Sunday afternoon, lifting Burlington to a 4-3 victory over visiting Peoria at Community Field.

The Chiefs held a 2-1 lead before Yohan Gonzalez took the loss, allowing two of the runs on two hits in 13 of an inning. Austin Kirk started and allowed two runs on three hits over 5 23 innings. He also fanned seven.

Richard Jones had a solo homer for the Chiefs, who had only six hits. Matt Szczur had one of those hits, extending his hitting streak to nine games with a fifth-inning single. Greg Rohan, the Midwest League leader in RBIs, hits and doubles, missed the game with flu-like symptoms and a fever.

In other action, Justin Jacksons solo homer in the 10th lifted Dunedin to a 2-1 victory over Daytona at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Ryan Searle took the loss. Aaron Kurcz started and tossed five shutout innings. Matt Cerda had two of Daytonas four hits.
WHITE SOXBirmingham AA
The Barons frenetic season continued Sunday afternoon with a 6-4 loss to Mobile at Regions Park.

Birmingham, after allowing three first-inning runs, rallied to take a 4-3 lead only to see the BayBears tie it in the seventh and then score twice in the eighth. Kyle Cofield took the loss, allowing two runs on three hits in 1 23 innings. Justin Edwards had started an allowed the three first-inning runs, all of which were unearned. He finished up by scattering eight hits over 5 23 innings.

Tyler Kuhn was 1-for-4 with an RBI and is hitting .343, good enough to place in the top 10 among Southern League hitters. Justin Greene was 2-for-4 with a homer and an RBI.

In other action, Winston-Salem was sent to its fifth consecutive defeat on Sunday as Wilmington rallied for three eighth-inning runs en route to a 4-2 victory at Frawley Stadium. Taylor Thompson 1-1 had a 0.82 ERA heading into his eighth-inning appearance before a Whit Merrifield two-run single gave the Blue Rocks the lead. The Dash managed only four hits. Charlotte also lost on Sunday afternoon, dropping a 9-3 decision to visiting Columbus. Lucas Harrell took the loss despite Johnny Nunez allowing six earned runs in a third of an inning of relief. Dayan Viciedo had a double and two RBIs. ... Hickory overcame an early deficit, rallying for a 4-3 victory over visiting Kannapolis. Jake Petricka allowed four runs on nine hits over five innings to suffer his first loss of the year. Mike Blanke had a pair of hits for the Intimidators.

Kevin Czerwinski can be reached at ktczerwinski@gmail.com.

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Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

[MORE BEARS: Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved]

Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”