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Fisher Cats stumbled early, never recovered

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 04. 2017 8:45PM
Fisher Cats' manager Gary Allenson is shown before an August game against Hartford at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — An 11-4 season-ending win against Portland on Monday, giving the Fisher Cats nine wins over the final 14 games, wasn’t enough to prevent the team from posting its worst win total (59-80) and winning percentage (.424) in the 14-year history of the Manchester franchise.

The Fisher Cats quickly fell under the .500 mark on April 20 and never reached it the rest of the year. The team was 19-30 entering June and already 13 games behind the division leader. They were 18 games out of first place entering July and 29½ back by Aug. 1.

“Three things I would say happened to us,” said manager Gary Allenson, who returned to New Hampshire after managing the team in 2013. “Our roster obviously changed from the time we started the season, our overall pitching wasn’t consistent enough, and many of the players who competed at this level for the first time went through some growing pains.”

Allenson pointed out that when the team opened its season, Anthony Alford, Roemon Fields and Jonathan Davis were the outfield starters. “What was hit in the air to those guys wasn’t going to hit the ground often,” said Allenson.

Alford, who batted .310 in 68 total games, got called up to Toronto in May after hitting .325 in 33 games with New Hampshire. But he injured his wrist in just his fourth game against Milwaukee on May 23, requiring surgery, and he returned to New Hampshire on July 21. On Sept. 1, he was called up to Triple-A Buffalo, hitting .333 in three games. Fields played just 16 games with New Hampshire before transferring to Buffalo where he’s hitting .286 with 42 stolen bases in 102 games. Davis played in 128 games with New Hampshire and batted .249 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs.

“Alford picked up where he left off, hitting over .300 and he’s been one of our positive stories of the season,” said Allenson. “Davis has put himself on the radar with a good year. He’s as good a center fielder as I’ve ever had.”

Allenson also mentioned catchers Reese McGuire and Danny Jansen, who was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo in mid-August after hitting .291 in 52 games with the Fisher Cats.

“Jansen started the season in A-Ball hitting .370 there and didn’t miss a beat when he came here,” said Allenson. “He made the most of his opportunity when Reese got injured and now Reese is hitting .300. It’s nice to have two catching prospects in the organization.”

Richard Urena was another bright spot. The shortstop played in 129 games and batted .247 with five homers and 60 RBIs. He led the team with 26 doubles. Urena was called up to Toronto last Friday, collecting one hit in three at-bats heading into Monday’s game against Boston at Fenway Park.

Also, Ryan McBroom, who was traded to the Yankees’ organization on July 23 , had solid numbers with New Hampshire in 96 games, hitting .243 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs.

Allenson said starting pitchers Conner Greene (5-10, 5.29), Sean Reid-Foley (10-11, 5.09), Francisco Rios (3-9, 4.29), Shane Dawson (4-9, 6.16) and Jon Harris (7-11, 5.41) went through “growing pains. Many of them were pitching at this level for the first time. For the most part our bullpen wore out in stretches when our starters couldn’t get into the fifth or sixth inning.” New Hampshire was 10th overall in team pitching with a 4.47 ERA with 26 saves, tied for last with Portland.

Allenson said his team couldn’t solve Trenton (3-18) or Binghamton (8-13) this season.

“Trenton steamrolled us,” said Allenson. “Take away our record against them and Binghamton and we’re a better team than we appear.”

Asked he was planning to return to New Hampshire next season, the 62-year-old Allenson said, “It’ll be Toronto’s decision, but I still enjoy managing.”

Off the field, the team renovated the pavilion and patio at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium and hosted the two-day Eastern League All-Star Classic.

“This was a very successful season because of our staff and their commitment,” said team president Mike Ramshaw. “They spent lots of time and effort in putting on a show during the off-season, coming up with many outside-of-the-box ideas to keep fans entertained with new on-field promotions.”

Ramshaw, a 1992 graduate of Pinkerton Academy who now resides with his family in Londonderry, was promoted to team president during the off-season after serving the organization as its vice president of sales. He succeeded Rick Brenner.

“Obviously for me personally with this being my first year as president, I didn’t want to let people down,” said Ramshaw. “I wanted to make sure we continued to maintain or exceed what we had done before. Again with the great work from our entire staff, we were able to do it.”

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