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Lynchburg Hillcats Game Notes (Opening Day)

April 5, 2013 - Carolina League (CarL) Lynchburg Hillcats

LYNCHBURG HILLCATS (0-0) vs. POTOMAC NATIONALS (0-0)

April 5th, 2013 -- 7:05 PM

@ Pfitzner Stadium

RHP Navery Moore (0-0, -) vs. LHP Robbie Ray (0-0, -)

THE HILLCATS: The defending champion Hillcats open up the 2013 season against the Potomac Nationals for the third straight season tonight at Pfitzner Stadium...Last year, the Hillcats won the first half Northern Division Title, but finished fourth in the second half...The first half win secured them a playoff spot...The 'Cats would defeat the Wilmington Blue Rocks 2-1 in the divisional series, and then beat the Wisnton-Salem Dash 3-1 in the Mills Cup Championship Series...It was the second championship for Lynchburg in four years (winning in 2009 as a Pirates affiliate)...The Hillcats finished last season with a regular season record of 72-68 (39-31; 33-37)...Finished fourth in batting (.254) and second in ERA (3.54)...

VS. POTOMAC: The Hillcats went 10-10 against the Nationals in 2012 and 3-7 at Pfitzner Stadium...The Hillcats won the first series at the Pfitz 2-1, but were swept 3-0 in their next trip and went 1-3 in the final four game slate...This will be the third straight year Lynchburg meet Potomac for the season opening series...The opening 2011 series (in Potomac) was split 1-1 after opening night was rained out and not made up until the following trip...Last year (in Lynchburg), the Hillcats swept Potomac in three...Lynchburg holds the all-time advantage 181-167...

MAKE WAY FOR THE CHAMPS: Lynchburg and Potomac have claimed four of the last five Mills Cup Championships in the Carolina League...Potomac won in 2008 and 2010, and Lynchburg claimed the Cup in 2009 and 2012...It's been six years since a Southern Division team took home the title...The Kinston Indians, replaced by the Carolina Mudcats in 2012, won in 2006...The Frederick Keys took home the trophy in 2007 and 2011 rounding out the six straight Northern Division titles...

RETURNERS: This year, the Hillcats Opening Day active roster holds nine returners...There are also five players on the disabled list that all saw time in Lynchburg last season...Six of the nine active returning players were on the Hillcats roster during the championship playoff run last September, RHP Caleb Brewer, LHP Matt Chaffee, RHP Ryan Weber, UTL Matt Weaver, OF Matt Lipka, and OF David Rohm...Although, Lipka was on the DL...

BACK AT THE HELM: The Hillcats saw their entire coaching staff return as a unit for the first time ever in 2012...This year, Manager Luis Salazar and Pitching Coach Derek Botelho are back but they are joined by new Hitting Coach John Moses...Bobby Moore (2011-2012 Hitting Coach) is coaching for Low-A Rome this season...Moses last served as the hitting coach for the Corpus Christi Hooks in the Texas League in 2011...He won the Mike Coolbaugh Texas League Coach of the Year award that year...The training staff is brand new as well...Joe Toenjes, the athletic trainer, enters his first year of full-season ball coming from the Gulf Coast League...Christopher Dayton, the strength coach, enters his first year with the Braves organization...

THIRD TIME'S A CHARM?: OF Robby Hefflinger starts the season with the Hillcats for the third straight spring...In each of the last two years, he has been sent down to Rome after slow starts in Lynchburg...Played 12 games with the 'Cats in 2011, hitting just .114 (5-for-44) with 19 strikeouts, reassigned to Rome...In 2012, shot out of the gate with an eight-game hitting streak, batting .429 (12-for-28) with two home runs in the first two game of the season...Over his next 29 games, he hit .168 (16-for-95) with 36 strikeouts, and again went back to Rome...This year, Hefflinger comes to Lynchburg as the 29th-rated prospect in the organization, and Baseball America also says he has the best outfield arm in the system...

PUT ME IN COACH: CF Matt Lipka was limited to just 51 games last season (50 in CF, 1 at DH) due to injury, but when he played, the Hillcats were 35-16 (.686)...Without Lipka, the team was 37-52 (.416)...He hit .271 with 2 home runs, 13 RBI, 32 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases...A supplemental first round pick back in 2010 out of high school, Lipka enters 2013 as the youngest Hillcat (4/15/92) for the second straight season...Baseball America rates him as the 14th-best prospect in the Braves system...

HOW WILL THEY START?: Lynchburg's position players this year include four players on the April roster a year ago, and six April members of the 2012 Low-A Rome club...Lynchburg went 13-9 in the first month of the season last year batting .294 with 26 HR, while Rome went 7-18 while batting .222 with just 8 HR...Lynchburg went on to win the first half and later the Carolina League championship...Rome would finish the first half 18-52, 29 games out of first, but rebounded in the second half with a 44-24 record...They won the second half, but lost in the first round of the playoffs...

GOLDEN BACKSTOP: C Cory Brownsten started the 2011 season with the Hillcats but finished the year with Rome...Served as the back-up catcher with Lynchburg, played in six games and hit .190...He then spent all of last season with Rome, and while he struggled at the plate(.206 AVG), he excelled behind it...Posted a .981 fielding percentage in 77 games, and only allowed 3 passed balls...Also lead the South Atlantic League in caught stealing percentage (40.2%), catching 47 of 117 potential base stealers...He was honored as the 'Sally' League Defensive Catcher, and the Braves named him Rome's Defensive Player of the Year......

HE...GAT IT!: C Evan Gattis, 2012 Hillcat, took the Carolina League by storm last April when he hit ..385 with 9 HR, 29 RBI, 7 doubles, and 14 runs scored...He was then called up to Double-A Mississippi which is where he played whenever healthy the rest of the season...Gattis, who spent four years away from baseball, is one of the best comeback stories in the game...He added another chapter Wednesday night with his first big league hit, a home run off of Roy Halladay in his MLB debut...Gattis made the Opening Day roster for the Braves in response to C Brian McCann beginning the year on the disabled list, but if his bat continues at the pace it has shown throughout his minor league career, the Braves may find a spot for him even after McCann's return...

TONIGHT'S OPPOSING PITCHER: LHP Robbie Ray was selected in the 12th round of the 2010 draft by the Washington Nationals out of Brentwood (TN) High School... Was committed to the University of Arkansas, flipped to Vanderbilt, but ultimately signed for a reported $799,000...Pitched in just one inning for the Vermont Lake Monsters (NYP) after signing just before the deadline in 2010 (perfect inning)...Spent 2011 in Low-A Hagerstown...Struck out 95 in 89 innings with a 3.13 ERA...Struggled in with Potomac last season...Went 4-12 with a 6.56 ERA...Struck out 86 in 106 innings...Nationals asked him to commit to a 4-seam fastball last year, giving up his sinking 2-seamer...Still just 21 years old (10/1/91)...Went 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA against the Hillcats last year in 3 appearances, 2 starts...Struck out 19 and walked only 2 in 16 innings...

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