LCHS grads Eric Smith, Kelson Brown keep progressing in minors

The following are updates on local baseball players at the minor league level.

Eric Smith (La Cañada High, 2009) catcher/designated hitter, Ogden Raptors: Smith just managed to push his hitting streak to five games against the Missoula Osprey with a line-drive single in the top of the eighth Tuesday.

In the five-game span, Smith has three multi-hit games and is batting .380 (eight for 21) with six runs scored, four runs batted in, a homer, a triple and a double for the Ogden Raptors, a rookie affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Smith's second minor-league homer came in the bottom of the first Saturday in a 5-2 loss to the Grand Junction Rockies. It was part of a two-for-three performance for the former Spartan.

His best game of the streak, though, was a two-for-four outing Aug. 8 in an 8-6 win over the Idaho Falls Chukars. He drove in three runs on a triple, a double and a sacrifice fly.

For the season, Smith is hitting an impressive .353 (66 for 187) with 41 runs, 39 RBI, 13 doubles, seven triples and two home runs. He is also slugging .529 with a .432 on-base percentage.

The Raptors were tied for last place in the second half of the Pioneer League South Division season with a 7-9 record heading into Wednesday's game with the Osprey. They've guaranteed themselves home-field advantage in the playoffs by winning the first half with a 21-17 record, which gives them a 28-26 overall record.

Christian Bergman (St. Francis High, 2006) starting pitcher, Modesto Nuts: Bergman's struggles continued Tuesday in his worst start of the year. The former All-Area Baseball Player of the Year hadn't given up more than five runs in a start until July 27 when he surrendered six. The Visalia Rawhide hung seven runs on the Nuts ace Tuesday.

Modesto picked up the slack and saved Bergman — who gave up nine hits, a home run, a walk and struck out two through five innings — from the loss with a four-run seventh inning for a 10-7 win.

Bergman looked to have recovered Tuesday from a minor bump in the second inning, when he gave up three straight hits for two runs, by retiring the side in order in the third and fourth. Then he gave up five straight base knocks, including a three-run homer to Jonathan Griffin, for five runs in the fifth.

The rough outing came after Bergman appeared to have returned to form with a strong outing against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes Aug. 8. He pitched six scoreless innings, scattering six hits, two walks and striking out three, in a no-decision performance in the Nuts 3-2 walk-off win.

The former Golden Knight's record of 14-5 is still the best in the California League and his 3.33 earned-run average is third-best through 24 starts in a league-high 146 innings. He has walked 33, given up 12 home runs — four coming in his past three starts — and struck out 110 this season. His WHIP is also tied for fourth-best in the league (1.21).

The Nuts (62-58) were in first place by two games in the second half of the California League North Division season with a 28-22 record coming into Wednesday's game with the Rawhide after it took third in the first half with a 34-36 record.

Kelson Brown (La Cañada High, 2006) Bradenton Marauders infielder: Brown has continued his progress through the minor leagues, as he was promoted from the State College Spikes to the class-A advanced Bradenton Marauders in 2011. He was bumped to the Altoona Curve, the Pirates double-A partner, for the 2012 season.

The third baseman has appeared in 49 of 121 Curve games this season and is batting .277 (33 for 119) with 16 RBI, four doubles, two homers and a triple.

The former Spartan last saw the field Aug. 9 in a 9-4 win over the Bowie Baysox. He lined a two-out double to center field to score two runs in the bottom of the fourth to finish one for four with two RBI from the No. 9 spot. It gave him a two-game hitting streak after he singled in his previous appearance Aug. 3.

The Curve was in fourth place in the Eastern League Western Division with a 59-62 record coming into Wednesday's game with the Portland Sea Dogs.

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