On Baseball: G'days for Berti boosted his game
MANCHESTER -- Jon Berti has had success everywhere he’s played professional baseball. Even in Australia.
Berti, one of three New Hampshire Fisher Cats selected to play in Wednesday’s Eastern League All-Star Game, was named the Most Valuable Player of the Australian Baseball League’s Canberra Cavalry last year, when he hit .309 in the leadoff spot and broke the league record for stolen bases by stealing 31 in 46 games.
“Early in the offseason the Blue Jays called me and asked me if (playing in Australia) is something I’d be interested in,” Berti explained. “It’s a three-month season (November through January) and we play Thursday through Sunday, so you get plenty of time off to see the cities.
“Each team has maybe four, five or six affiliated guys, and you have some independent ball guys and some Australian guys. The (level of competition) depended on the day, because some days you’re facing a guy who was pitching in the big leagues a year or two ago who’s maybe trying to get back into it. Sometimes you’re facing guys who aren’t in affiliated ball. It was a mixed group. It was definitely a great experience.”
Berti, who has played primarily second base this season, entered Thursday night’s game against New Britain batting .264. He led the team in hits (92), triples (five) and stolen bases (26 in 36 attempts). Although he bats high in the order, Berti was also second on the team in RBIs (30).
His five-game hitting streak came to an end in Wednesday’s 7-1 victory over New Britain, but Berti hasn’t gone hitless in consecutive games since June 4-5.
“Probably my best asset is to get on base, put some pressure on the defense and have my guys drive me in,” he said.
Pitchers Randy Boone and Dustin Antolin are the other Fisher Cats who were selected to play in the Eastern League All-Star Game, which will be held in Altoona, Pa.
“I didn’t expect it,” Berti said. “It kind of came as a surprise, but it’s definitely an honor to be invited and to go. I’m looking forward to meeting and hanging out with different guys from throughout the league and get a chance to have some fun.”
The Blue Jays selected Berti out of Bowling Green State University in the 18th round of the 2011 draft.
He led the Florida State league in stolen bases (56) and runs scored (85) in 128 games last season, when he played for Class-A Dunedin.
Following the 2013 season, he received one of the Blue Jays’ Webster Awards, which recognizes the Most Valuable Player in each of Toronto’s affiliated minor league teams.
“I wouldn’t say I’m ever satisfied with things,” Berti said. “I just want to keep working on everything, and help us win some games.”
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THE Fisher Cats will wrap up the first half of the season with a five-game series at Portland that begins tonight. The teams will play a single game tonight, Sunday and Monday, and a doubleheader Saturday.
The Fisher Cats won’t face Portland ace Henry Owens, who is scheduled to pitch in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday in Minneapolis. Some have speculated that he will be promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket following that game.
Owens, who will turn 22 on July 21, picked up his 12th victory of the season when he struck out 11 in eight innings of Sunday’s 6-1 triumph over New Britain. That performance raised his record to 12-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.21.
Owens is 8-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his last eight outings. He’s surrendered 38 hits in his last 72 innings on the mound.
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NASHUA’S Kevin Nolan entered Thursday’s contest 19 for 49 in his last 15 games (.388). He had four doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs during that stretch. … The Fisher Cats are 25-12 in their last 37 games. … Catcher Jack Murphy was transferred from New Hampshire to Buffalo on Thursday. Right-handed pitcher Blake McFarland was promoted from Dunedin to New Hampshire. … The Fisher Cats have scheduled a doubleheader against Reading on Aug. 1 at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. The doubleheader, which will feature two seven-inning games, will allow the teams to make up a game that was rained out in Reading on July 3. The Fisher Cats will be the home team for both games. Tickets for Aug. 1 are good for both games of the doubleheader. First pitch for the first game is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.