published Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Thief in the night — Speedy Pensacola newcomer steals in Chattanooga Lookouts' win

Chattanooga Lookouts infielder Rafael Ynoa singles in the fifth inning Wednesday against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at AT&T Field.
Chattanooga Lookouts infielder Rafael Ynoa singles in the fifth inning Wednesday against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at AT&T Field.
Photo by Allison Love.

After tearing up the base paths in the California League, Billy Hamilton is now the Southern League's problem. The Chattanooga Lookouts got a taste of what the new Pensacola Blue Wahoos' speedster can do Wednesday night at AT&T Field.

In his Class AA debut after running all over high-Class A for Bakersfield (Calif.) during the first half of the season, the 6-foot-1, 160-pound shortstop added to his steal total and tripled in the Lookouts' 5-1 win to even the two teams' records at 12-8.

What's the big deal about a stolen base in a loss? It was No. 105 in 83 minor league games this season.

Hamilton had a stunning 104 stolen bases in 82 games for Bakersfield. The Southern League's leaders had 30 at the all-star break, while the Los Angeles Dodgers' Dee Gordon, a former Lookout, led the majors with 30.

Hamilton stole his 30th base on May 2.

"Of course we've all heard about his speed and what he's done, and you've got to respect that, but we didn't change our game with him," Lookouts catcher Griff Erickson said.

Facing Lookouts pitcher Matt Magill in his first at-bat, Hamilton struck out swinging. He struck out again in the third before reaching on a fielder's choice in the sixth. Then the fun began.

Hamilton had Magill's full attention. After a first pitch to Ryan LaMarre, Magill threw over to first base three times in a row. The next throw home was a pitchout with Hamilton running and he still reached second base safely despite a good throw from Erickson.

"He got one off of us, and we've just got to get him next time," Erickson said.

A two-out, RBI triple by Hamilton in the eighth got Pensacola on the scoreboard.

Erickson put the Lookouts in front 2-0 in the fourth with a two-run, two-out double to right-center field. The Lookouts added two more runs in the fifth inning and led 4-0 as Magill was cruising on the mound. Magill allowed there hits and struck out seven in 6.0 innings.

Luis Nunez added an insurance run in the seventh with a solo home run for a 5-0 Lookouts lead. Nunez and Nick Buss went 3-for-4.

Selected by the Reds in the second round of the 2009 draft, Hamilton stole 103 bases in 135 games last season and he's already ahead of that mark in 2012.

If Hamilton keeps up his pace, he's going to shatter Vince Coleman's minor league record of 145 stolen bases, set in 1983.

Coleman was the last major leaguer to steal more than 100 bases in a season, swiping 109 in 1987. That was three years before the 21-year-old Hamilton was born.

The Dodgers made a series of moves Wednesday: third baseman C.J. Retherford was promoted to Chattanooga from high-Single A Rancho Cucamonga and Pedro Baez was sent down to Rancho Cucamonga; meanwhile, outfielder Anthony Jackson was activated from the 7-day disabled list and Brahiam Maldonado was placed on the DL.

Aaron Miller (4-5, 4.31 ERA) is scheduled to start tonight for the Lookouts, with Tony Cingrani (4-1, 1.50) set to go for the Blue Wahoos.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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