Maurice has left the building.
The first series of 2022 is in the books and the River Cats start their season 4-2. This series marked the debut of the Sugarland Space Cowboys, formerly known as the Skeeters since their inception back in 2012 while they were a part of the independent Atlantic League. While the Skeeters did come into the Triple-A West/Pacific Coast League in 2021 as part of Major League Baseball’s realignment and management plan, the deal also involved the Houston Astros purchasing majority ownership of the team. The name change, and rebranding was announced after the 2021 season to better align the team with the Astros, Sugar Land’s proximity to the Johnson Space Center, and of course, cowboys because Texas.
People keep talkin’ about me, baby.
Game 1 started with Sugar Land first baseman making history as he hit the first home run in Space Cowboy’s history. A two-run blast off Sacramento starter Jakob Junis, and yes, it was reported that the ball made is safely back to Sugar Land when it landed. J.J. would end the six-game series hitting .313 with two home runs, and five RBI, with a 1.200 OPS.
Heliot Ramos and David Villar have been the talk of the series because of their bats, and for Ramos’ call up this weekend, but it all started on Opening Night. The River Cats jumped all over Sugar Land starter J.P. France on Opening Night. After walking leadoff batter Luis Gonzalez, France gave up a two-run home run to Ramos who knew it was gone as he shuffled hopped a few steps down the first base line enjoying the moment. France would last only 0.2 innings before the River Cats chased him to the clubhouse.
In the second inning, David Villar would crank out a three-run home to put the Cats ahead for the night, and then walk it off with a single in the bottom of the ninth to seal the Opening Night victory for the River Cats. Villar would end the six-game series only batting .188, but his two home runs, and seven RBI over the series were literal game changers.
On the pitching side, Sean Hjelle was almost perfect in his 2022 debut going 3.2 innings having only given up a walk, with no-hits, and five strikeouts. Raynel Espinal who put in 3.2 innings on Saturday night where he scattered three hits, allowed zero runs and struck out seven. The performance kept the River Cats in the game in the pitchers dual, but Sugar Land’s Chad Donato was just too much and he handed the River Cats their first loss of the season. Other notable River Cat performances were put in by former Texas Rangers top prospect and first round draft pick Luis Ortiz, as well as Wei-Chieh Huang.
Well, don’t you worry, don’t worry, no, don’t worry, mama.
Sunday’s final match of the series was all Sugar Land, and J.P. France who simply dominated the River Cats and redeemed himself for the poor outing on Opening Night. The Cats would take their second loss of the season on a windy Sunday afternoon by a score of 8-1. Matijevic would hit his second home run of the season, and France would throw four complete no-hit innings and strike out eight, until allowing two hits and one run before being taken out in the fifth.
The River Cats begin their second series today with a 1:05pm start in Reno against the Aces who come into the game with a 3-3 record after opening the season in Las Vegas. The Cats will be seeing some familiar faces as Caleb Baragar, and Braden Bishop who have played with the River Cats in 2019, and 2021 respectively and are now with the Aces.