Cardinals prospect Cooper Hjerpe shines in first Class AA no-hitter in Springfield: Minor League Report

Cardinals prospect Cooper Hjerpe shines in first Class AA no-hitter in Springfield: Minor League Report

Cardinals prospect Cooper Hjerpe shines in first Class AA no-hitter in Springfield: Minor League Report

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Looking for positive momentum amid an eight-game losing streak, Class AA Springfield reversed its fortunes in dramatic fashion Thursday.

Cardinals prospects Cooper Hjerpe and Andrew Marrero combined for a seven-inning no-hitter to propel the S-Cards to a 5-0 victory over Corpus Christi in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

The impressive performance marked the first no-hitter in team history for Springfield.

“It’s unbelievable to throw a no-hitter, and I honestly had no idea it was the first in Springfield history, so that’s the joy on top of that,” Hjerpe said. “It’s great to be a part of something like this and pretty cool to do something of this magnitude.”

Hjerpe and Marrero retired 21 of the 22 Hooks hitters they faced, with the lone walk coming on a two-out walk in the third inning. They struck out nine hitters and benefited from errorless defense to give the S-Cards their first win since June 8.

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In just his second start since being promoted to Springfield, Hjerpe had his strongest outing of the season.

Hjerpe, who hasn’t pitched past the fourth inning in any start this season, tossed a career-high five innings, striking out six and walking one. He threw 45 of 64 pitches for hits in just one start after issuing four walks and five runs over 2⅔ innings in his Class AA debut on June 12.

“I think establishing the fastball early, seeing that they weren’t able to time it as well as they should have, and so sticking with that for the most part was huge,” Hjerpe said. “Being able to locate the corners and go up to change eye level with the type of fastball that sets everything up.”

Hjerpe recorded his second performance of at least four hitless innings this season, also doing so with four hitless frames against Fort Wayne in his final start for Class High-A Peoria on June 6. The Cardinals’ first-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft picked up his first win of the season with Thursday’s effort and recorded his seventh game with at least five hits.

Springfield manager Jose Leger credited Hjerpe’s ability to command the strike zone and work forward in the count as key components to his success. The left-hander walked 10 of the first 13 batters he faced.

“That’s been the main goal all year is to get ahead of the shots,” Hjerpe said. “It’s a game changer. . . . Being able to establish that first pitch strike is huge because it opens up everything else.”

In support of Hjerpe, Marrero retired all six batters he faced, including three by strikeout. Marrero sealed the no-hitter with a strikeout of Zach Dezenzo, freezing Hooks’ cleanup hit with an off-speed pitch in the bottom of the zone.

“(Marrero) got his confidence back,” Springfield manager Jose Leger said. “He (rediscovered) his fastball, and now hitters have two pitches to worry about.”

The right-handed reliever, who possesses a dynamic slider, recorded his sixth straight scoreless appearance. Marrero allowed just one hit in 8⅓ innings with 10 strikeouts in that span, lowering his ERA to 5.40.

While Hjerpe and Marrero quieted Corpus Christi’s offense, the bottom of the S-Cards lineup provided the offensive impetus. Six-hole hitter Nathan Church led the effort with a 2-for-2 day, driving in one and scoring a run. First baseman RJ Yeager and designated hitter Chandler Redmond each added an RBI as Springfield totaled four hits and drew seven walks from Hooks’ pitchers.

The S-Cards built on their momentum from the second half of their doubleheader, cruising to a 4-2 victory to resume the sweep and improve to 35-31.

Jordan Walker homers, reaches base three times

Looking to snap an 0-for-12 skid, Class AAA Memphis righty Jordan Walker broke out in emphatic fashion.

Walker skied a center-cut fastball to straight center field for a two-run homer as part of a three-hit day in the Redbirds’ 5-2 win over Jacksonville at AutoZone Park in Memphis. The 427-foot blast marked Walker’s third home run of the season, all coming in June.

The 2020 first-round pick started his night with a leadoff single that had an exit velocity of 108.9 mph in the second inning. Walker followed that up with a 427-foot home run in the fourth inning, posting a 109.4 mph exit velocity in the blast. He then added a leadoff single in the sixth inning to secure his first three-hit game of the season.

Walker’s outstanding play extended to the defensive end as he picked up his fourth assist of the season with a clutch throw to plate a runner at home in the top of the sixth. Locked in a 2-all tie, Walker singled and launched a perfect fly home throw to catch Jacksonville’s Tristan Gray to end the inning.

The three-hit performance improved Walker’s average to .267 and raised his RBI total to 15 at Memphis. He has 15 extra-base hits, five of which came in June, but is still looking for more consistency this month. In 56 at-bats this month, Walker posted a .232 average and a .411 on-base percentage plus slugging with seven walks and 12 strikeouts.

Willson Contreras continues rehab assignment, bullpen shows

Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras continued his rehab assignment with Class AAA Memphis, serving as the team’s designated hitter for the second time in three games.

Contreras, who is recovering from a fractured left forearm, reached base twice in his 1-for-3 performance, had a two-out single in the fifth inning and walked to start the eighth. He also hit and grounded into a double play in his first two at-bats, but improved to 2-for-8 at the plate in his first three rehab appearances. The fifth-inning single left Contreras’ bat at 104.6 mph.

It is not yet known how long Contreras’ rehab assignment will be extended.

Memphis’ bullpen proved itself in the win, pitching four scoreless innings in relief of Zack Thompson, who allowed two runs on three hits over five innings.

Cardinals No. 26 Andre Granillo pitched a scoreless eighth inning with a strikeout, and former University of Washington pitcher Ryan Loutos picked up his sixth save of the season. Loutos has allowed just one run in six innings over his last six appearances for the Redbirds, improving his minor league ERA to 1.66.

Granillo used a four-pitch mix, led by his fastball and slider, to continue a dominant season, during which he pitched to a 1.20 ERA in 23 games. Loutos needed just 10 pitches to cruise through the ninth inning, producing a pair of whiffs on his plate.

Connor Thomas and Jacob Bosiokovic pitched scoreless sixth and seventh innings, respectively.

Ixan Henderson, Travis Honeyman lead Low-A Palm Beach to playoff spot

A strong performance by left-hander Ixan Henderson and a two-hit effort by Travis Honeyman propelled Class Low-A Palm Beach to a 5-2 victory over Tampa, clinching a Florida State League playoff spot for third consecutive season.

Henderson scattered five hits and two runs (one earned) over 6⅔ innings in his second straight quality start. The performance was Henderson’s longest outing of the season, and the eighth-round pick in the 2023 MLB draft improved to 4-1 this season with a 2.53 ERA. He has yet to give up more than three runs since his second start of the season on April 17, posting a 2.05 ERA in nine starts since then.

Honeyman, the No. 10 prospect in the Cardinals’ system, finished 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. It marked Honeyman’s sixth multi-hit game in June, including his fourth since being promoted to Palm Beach. In nine games with the PB-Cards, Honeyman hit .286 with six doubles and one RBI.

Palm Beach finished the first half atop the East Florida State League with a 37-29 record, clinching a playoff spot. The PB Cards defeated Jupiter, the Marlins Low-A affiliate, by one game to secure the automatic playoff bid, awarded to the winners of the first half of the two divisions.

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