By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn third baseman Dimas Ponce doesn't have the name recognition of some of the Cyclones' other budding prospects.
He wasn't a first-round draft pick like centerfielder Brandon Nimmo or catcher Kevin Plawecki. He wasn't selected to the New York-Penn League All-Star Game like Brooklyn hurlers Hansel Robles, Gabriel Ynoa, Julio Mateo or John Mincone. And he isn't among the team leaders in batting average, home runs or RBIs.
But according to Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly, Ponce has been just as important as any other player on the Baby Bums' youth-infused roster this summer.
"He’s special," Donnelly said of Ponce after watching the 21-year-old, fourth-year pro from Panama go 3-for-5 with a homer, two RBIs and three runs scored in Sunday's 10-5 triumph over Vermont before a crowd of 6,005 at Coney Island's MCU Park.
Ponce, who is batting .207 with a homer and 11 RBIs in 45 games this season, leads all NY-Penn third baseman in fielding percentage. He also boasts an above-average baseball IQ, especially for a player who was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of his native country in 2009.
On Sunday, Ponce strutted his stuff throughout Brooklyn's seventh straight home victory. He drilled a leadoff single before scoring on Alexander Sanchez's double in the fourth inning, starting the fifth by smacking his first homer of the summer over the left-field fence and executed a perfect squeeze bunt to plate Nimmo in the sixth.
Ponce also fielded everything that came his way to perfection, including a grounder which he turned into a force play at the plate to thwart the Lake Monsters' bid for a ninth-inning rally.
"There aren’t too many guys that I’ve seen who can get a squeeze bunt down and hit a home run [in the same game]," Donnelly gushed following Sunday's win.
Ponce plays almost every day for the Cyclones, having missed just nine of their first 54 contests despite his lack of prowess at the plate. While players like Nimmo, Plawecki, shortstop Phillip Evans and first baseman Jayce Boyd get the lion's share of media attention on Coney Island, Ponce quietly gets the job done day after day for the NY-Penn Wild Card leaders, who are now threatening to overtake Hudson Valley atop the McNamara Division.
Ponce's 19 runs scored this season rank him fifth on the team in that category, but the runs he's saved and generated with his stellar defense and heads-up situational play are inestimable by sheer numbers.
"He’s way ahead of the curve as far as baseball knowledge," Donnelly added. "I don’t care what his batting average is, he can play for me any day."
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Paul Sewald, the Mets' 10th-round pick out of San Diego in June, continues to baffle New York-Penn League opponents, having yet to yield a single run over his first 12 appearances as a professional.
Sewald, who tossed a one-hit ninth inning to close out Saturday's 6-3 win over Vermont for his fourth save of the season, has now slung 20 2/3 scoreless frames with his talented right arm for the Cyclones, who continue to lead the 14-team circuit in runs allowed (163), ERA (2.50) and virtually every other pitching category worth noting.
As the streak continues to build, and the season draws nearer to its close, Sewald was asked Saturday whether the scoreless run was weighing heavily on his 22-year-old mind.
The Las Vegas native responded like a grizzled casino card shark, rather than a pro baseball neophyte.
"I don't get nervous when I pitch," Sewald stated plainly after striking out two Lake Monsters in his most recent sparkling effort. "It's been 22 years of pitching, believe me, I don't get nervous. I only go out there to throw the best pitch possible and not worry about [the streak]."
Sewald even went as far as to admit he hasn't really needed much mentoring from Cyclones pitching coach Marc Valdes, a former Major Leaguer who has overseen the rapid development of the staff this summer.
"[Valdes] has been good," Sewald said. "He hasn't really given me a lot of instruction, but for the guys who want it, he's always there. You can always get better."
Better than a 0.00 ERA is pretty hard in baseball, but as Sewald continues to blossom in the Mets' chain, he will undoubtedly feel the fire of a rough outing or two. At least that's what conventional thinking suggests.
"Throwing my fastball for strikes is the most important thing," he said when asked to explain his ongoing stinginess on the mound. "It's been kind of nice so far [this summer]. It's easier in the pen when you know your role."