Former Crowder player and current Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes (Colorado) right fielder Sam Hilliard had a little bit of a slow start to his 2019 season, barring a home run and four RBI one game against the Salt Lake Bees (Los Angeles Angels).
That was until back-to-back two-hit performances against the Reno Aces (Arizona) that raised Hilliard’s batting average 90 points from .143 to .233.
Hilliard scored twice and drove in two runs in Albuquerque’s 13-2 win Wednesday against Reno.
On the season, Hilliard owns a .233 average (7 for 30) with six runs scored, one homer, seven RBI, and 11 strikeouts and four walks.
The 25-year-old Hilliard, who played on the 2014 Region 16 championship team at Crowder, ranks tied for ninth in the Pacific Coast League with his seven RBI and tied for 11th in runs scored.
The Rockies picked Hilliard in the 15th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Wichita State, Hilliard’s collegiate destination for one season after Crowder.
Hilliard has steadily advanced through the ranks of the Colorado system, playing one season in rookie ball (2015), Single-A (2016), Single-A Advanced (2017), and Double-A (2018).
Hilliard earned midseason all-star honors in the Eastern League last season for the Hartford Yard Goats, in the California League two seasons ago for the Lancaster JetHawks, and in the South Atlantic three seasons ago for the Asheville Tourists.
Additionally, Hilliard earned all-prospect honors playing for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League this past offseason.
Hilliard is ranked the 10th best prospect in the Rockies system.
— Former Crowder and current Single-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee) pitcher Aaron Ashby took a no-decision in his season debut recently against the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota).
Ashby allowed two earned runs on four hits with five strikeouts and two walks over 5 1/3 innings.
Ashby enters 2019 as the No. 9 ranked prospect in the Brewers system.
In his first professional season last season, Ashby put together a 2-3 record with a 3.59 ERA and 66 strikeouts and 17 walks over 57 2/3 innings between Wisconsin and rookie ball Helena. Ashby pitched much better at the higher level Wisconsin.
The Brewers selected Ashby — who enjoyed two outstanding seasons at Crowder — in the fourth round of the 2018 MLB Draft.
Ashby is the nephew of former Crowder and former MLB pitcher Andy Ashby, who logged nearly 100 wins during his MLB career. Andy Ashby won 17 games for the San Diego Padres in 1998.
— Former Crowder and veteran pitcher Mike Kickham, now playing for the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes (Miami), earned his 42nd career professional victory with two innings of spotless relief against the Iowa Cubs on Tuesday.
It was definitely a far better second outing for the 6-foot-4, 220-pound southpaw who’s been plying his trade professionally since 2010. San Francisco made Kickham a sixth round pick that year.
Kickham gave up three earned runs in 1/3 inning in his 2019 debut and thus, he lowered his ERA over 70 points from 81.00 to 11.57 after two scoreless innings.
Over his career with nine different teams, Kickham owns a 42-49 overall record with a 4.06 ERA and 644 strikeouts and 299 walks over 751 1/3 innings.
Kickham reached the majors in 2013 and 2014 with San Francisco, and earned a 0-3 mark with a 10.98 ERA and 30 strikeouts and 11 walks in 30 1/3 innings.
— In the offseason, former Crowder closer and current Double-A Portland Sea Dogs (Boston) reliever Andrew Schwaab joined his third professional organization.
On December 13, 2018, Triple-A Pawtucket claimed Schwaab off waivers from the Double-A Erie Sea Wolves (Detroit).
Schwaab became part of the Detroit organization after the Tigers signed him to a minor league contract less than a week after the Single-A Advanced Tampa Tarpons (New York Yankees) released him. The Yankees signed Schwaab to a minor league contract in 2015.
Schwaab has the distinction of playing for three hallowed organizations.
In his most recent outing for Portland, where former Crowder pitcher Jalen Beeks excelled at a couple years back, Schwaab pitched two scoreless innings and picked up four strikeouts against the Reading Fightin Phils (Philadelphia).
Over his career, Schwaab has earned midseason all-star honors twice, in 2016 in the South Atlantic League for Charleston and in 2017 in the Florida State League for Tampa.
Schwaab owns a 15-11 record and a 3.43 ERA with 36 saves in 45 opportunities and 204 strikeouts and 78 walks over his first 189 professional innings.