The Gastonia Honey Hunters of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball have had a banner year thus far, breaking a single season record in team stolen bases. Plus, Jake Skole, an outfielder for the team, has become the first player to have back-to-back 20-20 (20 home runs, 20 stolen bases) seasons in the Atlantic League.
First, Gastonia shattered the Atlantic League record with three base thefts in its 11-2 win, 75th of the season, against the Charleston Dirty Birds Wednesday night. This achievement, along with clinching its spot in the South Division Championship, comes in only its second year as an organization.
The previous record was 265 stolen bases by the Somerset Patriots in their 2000 season in a total of 140 games. The Honey Hunters currently have 266 stolen bases in 110 tilts of the 2022 campaign. There are 22 regular season contests remaining.
“Anytime you are the one to break a record that has been there for a while, it is a pretty cool feeling, but this is a team record,” Cole Freeman, who Gastonia recently brought into the fold as an infielder, said in a press release.
“I wish it could have been one of the other guys that have 50 stolen bases because they deserve it”, he continued. “But I think it speaks a lot on how much this team loves to get after it on the bases as well as put pressure on the defense,”
Freeman has already played a significant role in the teams’ victories with three stolen bases under his belt in the short time he has been with the Honey Hunters.
Gastonia Manager Mauro “Goose” Gozzo, whom the New York Mets drafted in the 13th round of the 1984 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, said he placed a crucial element on putting together a club with players who can blaze on the basepaths.
“From the very beginning of the last off-season, speed was certainly a factor of ours Gazzo explained. “It’s great to see the guys buy into playing an aggressive style of the game and break the Atlantic League’s team stolen base record.”
Outfielder Reece Hampton paces the Honey Hunters with 54 base thefts, while infielder Jack Reinheimer has 45 and outfielder Zach Jarrett owns 29.
On the power output side of things, Skole had launched 23 home runs and 30 stolen bases during the 2021 season with Gastonia. As of Wednesday, August 24, Skole has slugged 20 dingers and stolen 24 bases for the 2022 campaign.
When asked about this accomplishment, Skole shared his mindset on the game: “Swing to do damage. Always shoot your bullets, you only get three of them, use them. Run to cause havoc. Error on the side of aggression. Make them make plays.”
The South Division Championship starts Tuesday, September 20 at CaroMont Health Park in Gastonia, N.C. Click below for details about the South Division Championship: https://www.gohoneyhunters.com/2022playoffs
— Jerry Del Priore