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Hartford Yard Goats start inaugural season with near-perfect record

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The Double-A Yard Goats got their franchise off the ground with a successful 4-1 start.

Pat Valaika
Pat Valaika led the way for Hartford at the plate
Dustin Satloff

The first week in Hartford's history was a good one, as the team went 4-1 and took their first series win against the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Kyle Freeland was the first pitcher on the bump for the team, and he delivered the first pitch in team history for a strike, before Jackson Williams tossed the ball to the dugout. The team is loaded, with five of the Rockies' top-10 prospects (according to Baseball America) playing for the team. With week one of their two-month long road trip about in the books, let's take a look at how things played out.

The first game also resulted in the first win for the team, as they picked up a 5-4 victory in what was originally supposed to be their first home game. Kyle Freeland threw five strong innings, giving up four hits, one run, walking one and striking out three on his way to the win. Rosell Herrera and Ryan McMahon led the way for the team offensively, going 4-for-4 with three RBI and 3-for-3 with a walk, respectively. Pinch-hitting for Freeland in the fifth, Dillon Thomas hit a double with one out and came around to score the first run in Yard Goats history on a single from Herrera. Two batters later, it was Herrera's turn to score off of a Pat Valaika single. This gave the Yard Goats the lead for good, as Matt Carasiti closed the game out.

In game two of the four game set, it was once again Hartford who came out on top as the Yard Goats grabbed the 8-3 win. Zach Jemiola got the start, going 4.2 innings while allowing eight hits, one run, walking one and striking out four. Carlos Hernandez came on in relief of Jemiola and got the win thanks to his 1⅓ scoreless in which he only allowed one hit. The brunt of the offense came from Pat Valaika, David Dahl and Ryan McMahon. The trio drove in six of the team's eight runs. Also of note, McMahon played half of the game at first base, which was his first in-game test at the position. Raimel Tapia had an encouraging game as well, despite going 0-for-3 he managed two walks from the lead off position. It's been a bit of a rough start for Tapia so far, hitting just .143 in four games, but his on base percentage is over 150 points higher at .294. While it's too early to draw any meaningful conclusions, it's interesting to note that the the three walks he has taken so far have already eclipsed his total for the 23 games he played in the Arizona Fall League this winter, when he only walked twice.

In the third game of the season, and part one of a Saturday doubleheader, it was another Hartford win. This time, the score was 5-1 as the Goats got the seven-inning win. Antonio Senzatela got his first Double-A start and made the most of it, allowing three hits, one run, walking one and striking out six in his six innings. Dahl homered for the second time in as many games, and drove in three runs in the process. Juan Ciracio and Pat Valaika drove in the other two runs for the team and Rayan Gonzalez came on and closed the game out without allowing a hit.

Unfortunately for the team, all undefeated franchises must eventually lose, and for the Yard Goats that first loss came in the second part of the doubleheader. The 4-0 defeat saw the offense sputter, as the team was only able to muster one hit and five total base runners. It was an equally rough outing for starter German Marquez, the prospect acquired as part of the Corey Dickerson trade. In his debut inning with his new organization, he allowed three runs and committed a throwing error. When all was said and done, he pitched three innings, allowed four hits, struck out five and watched four runs score. The silver lining for Marquez was that only one of the four was earned, due to a fielding error by Juan Ciracio on the very first ball in play.

The Yard Goats began their second series on Monday at New Hampshire, and grabbed the 4-1 victory. Matt Flemer threw six strong innings, giving up five hits, one run and walking one. Konner Wade followed Flemer with two strong innings in which he allowed only one hit before Matt Carasiti came in and got the save. Pat Valaika led the offensive charge for the team, going 2-for-3 with two RBI. David Dahl tallied his third home run of the season, and Correlle Prime got his first hit as well as his first RBI in a 1-for-4 performance.

Player of the week:

Granted, it wasn't a full week, but it was Pat Valaika who powered the Yard Goats in their inaugural series (plus one). The 23-year-old was 7-for-18 in the first five games of the season, finishing with a slash line of .389/.400/.500, recording six RBI and scoring three runs himself. He also walked once and struck out four times. Valaika was a ninth round pick out of UCLA in 2013.

Rosell Herrera's strong week deserves to be mentioned as well. In four games, the former top-100 prospect went 5-for-11, hitting .455/.571/.545 with three RBI, two walks, one strike out and four runs scored.

The Yard Goats will play two more games against New Hampshire before they head to Portland for a four game set, the first time they will officially be on the road. At this time next week, they will be in the middle of a three game series with New Hampshire.