Sandgnat’s Spring Half-time Review by Heskin

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Updated: October 16, 2017

CRYSTAL LAKE HERALD

SPORTS – GNATS NOW
Sandgnat’s Spring Half-time Review by Heskin
Updated: March 23, 2026 – 11:55PM CDT

By Howard Heskin, Staff Writer – Twitter @HowardHeskin1

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1B Rob Raines

Notably missing from this year’s Spring Training is Sandgnats GM RJ Ermola. Apparently, he was sent to the South Pacific on a “scouting mission” by his wife to the Island of Mo’orea for being long absent (from their marriage) during the 2025 season. Rumor is that the GM will return for the last week of Spring Training in time for some important roster cut decisions.

The first 2 weeks of the 2026 Sandgnats Spring Training is in the books. Most of the roster looks the same as last season except for a few changes in the bullpen and notably the acquisition of 1B/DH Rob Raines.

Spring Training is less about wins and losses and more about spreading the workout time between warming up the veterans and testing of younger players. With a small sample of 2 weeks let’s see how things are shaking out with hitting, pitching and some new faces.

Hitting

1B Rubén Memde could be feeling the pressure of maybe needing to split time with Raines. He’s off to a hot start hitting an OPS of 1.192 while launching 3 homes runs and driving in 8 with only 19 at bats.

2026 Royal Raker award winner CF Jerry Long is also off to a hot start posting an OPS of 1.043 with 8 walks and 2 home runs in 22 at bats.

Second year 3B Ed Brown has also impressed early this spring with 15 hits in 33 at bats. He also has walked 4 times and drove in 9 runs.

Competing to hold onto his back up Shortstop role is Spencer Lewis. With the addition of Rob Raines there might not be a spot on the active roster this season for him given he is only a defensive specialist at Shortstop. He will need to compete with Memde and newcomers SS Earl O’Quinn and 1B Takane Chikafuji who have more defensive versatility. So far in 2 weeks Lewis has made a statement with an OPS of 1.014 and a line of .375 /.389/.625 with 2 stolen bases in only 16 at bats.

Pitching

Invited to Spring Training this season is CL Christian Moore. He was drafted in the 2021 first-year player draft (Round 4, Pick 29, 136th overall pick) by the Sandgnats out of the Memphis University Belles. He’s worked his way through the Sandgnat organization earning a selection to the 2023 Great Northern League All-Star Game. In AAA last season he posted an ERA of 2.95 and 1.19 WHIP over 58.0 innings pitched in relief. He does need to work movement of his pitches if he expects to make it to the PEBA level. So far this Spring he has impressed with a WHIP of .71 and holding opponents to .083 batting average.

The much maligned Tatsui Kouno who disappointed again last season with an ERA of 4.43 despite holding his WHIP to 1.13 has had an impressive Spring so far posting an ERA of 1.50 and WHIP of 1.17 with 12 strike outs in 12 innings pitched. His 35 home runs surrendered last season were due to a lack of movement on his pitches. He is looking to improve with his hard work ethic on reducing those numbers.

Newcomer Joshua Hall who was acquired via trade with Bakersfield this off-season has started with an impressive Spring in 9 innings of relief pitching. He has given up zero runs and struck out 9 with only 2 hits surrendered.

Heskin will check back in when its time for the cut down to the 25 man active roster. Go Gnats!