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TWitM: Storm Chasers tie franchise record for dingers

This Week in the Minors: Omaha wraps up season with a series sweep for retiring manager Brian Poldberg

Emmanuel Rivera and Nick Pratto were among Storm Chasers who finished the season with a lot of extra bases.
Minda Haas Kuhlmann

‘This Week in the Minors’ is our weekly look at notable performances from all over the system, from big-name prospects and less-heralded guys alike. The mission is to answer this simple question: “Who had a good week?”

Today, we’ll cover results from Wednesday, September 29 through Sunday, October 3.

AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (73-56)

schedule | roster

The Storm Chasers were the only team remaining on the calendar, as all lower levels wrapped up their championships last week. Triple-A did not have playoffs, but rather a “Final Stretch” which was basically just 10 games added onto the end of the schedule to make up for some of the games lost in April when the season was delayed.

A big deal this week was Bobby Witt, Jr.’s quest for his 30th stolen base, which would combine with his 35 doubles and 33 homers to give him a 30/30/30 season - a rare feat. And he did steal a base in the first inning of Thursday’s game! Huzzah!

....right? But alas, for all of Witt’s many talents, he is still beholden to the whims of the weather. And in the middle of the 3rd inning of that very game, the skies opened up and dumped enough rain to wipe out the game. With just three games to go in the season, and rain in the forecast for Friday and Saturday as well, the game was cancelled altogether, and therefore the stolen base did not happen after all.

Witt missed Friday’s game to accept his George Brett Hitter of the Year award in Kansas City. On Saturday, he tried to steal after hitting a single in the first, but was caught. The only other time he was on base that night, he had a runner ahead of him. On Sunday, he went 0-fer, and that was that.

Oh, and that rain in the forecast for Friday and Saturday never came. It misted heavily for about 10 minutes during Saturday’s game, but the weather was otherwise perfect.

Another milestone wiped out by that rain was Lucius Fox’s 20th steal. This is the first time in his career that he has stolen fewer than 20, but he only played 57 games around an injury early in the season. However, Fox did keep up the hit streak he had established going back to September 17, picking up six more hits. Among those were two doubles and two homers.

Emmanuel Rivera finished the season with a monster series. All but one of his six hits were doubles, and the other was a home run. He had also doubled in the rain-shortened game. Left fielder Dairon Blanco finished up his season with a strong week at the plate, going 6-for-18 with two doubles and two homers, one of which was a grand slam.

After a tumultuous season that saw him up and down between Kansas City and Omaha so many times, outfielder Edward Olivares finished his season with a cool streak: he reached base in each of his last 12 plate appearances.

Utility man and designated wasp puncher Erick Mejia had hits in each game of the series, including a home run that tied the franchise record for most dingers in a single season, joining the 1999 Omaha Golden Spikes.

Catcher/3B MJ Melendez didn’t add any home runs to his tally this week, but still finished 2021 as the home run king for all of Minor League Baseball. He did hit a triple and two doubles this week, and drew three walks. First baseman Nick Pratto went 4-for-12 on the week, with a double and two homers. He also walked five times, but those make for less exciting videos than this home run highlight:

After finishing each of Northwest Arkansas’s three wins for their championship, right-hander Jose Cuas debuted for the Storm Chasers with three shutout outings totaling five innings. Righty Grant Gavin finished the season with two no-hit, shutout appearances, giving him a shutout streak of five outings dating back to September 18.

Another feature of the Final Stretch was a home run contest among all the teams, with money for each homer going to a local charity, and an extra cash donation from MiLB for the team that hit the most. That team was Omaha! Seven of their 24 came in just one game, on Saturday:

Sunday’s win was the final game of manager Brian Poldberg’s career, and his 1,356th career managerial win. On a personal note, I feel grateful for Poldberg’s leadership and the culture of respect he brought with him. He’s a good man and Carter Lake, IA will be thrilled to have him home full-time.

I know a few of you went to Principal Park for some of these Chasers games. What did you think? I had never been there before but I had a great time! And I liked the soybean race, and the concessions are way better than...well, some other parks. Ahem.

Thank you all for following along this season, one week at a time!