Intimidators' starter Alec Hansen struck out 10 batters in five innings. It was his highest strikeout total at this level and second highest of his young professional career. Kevin Escorcia and Mike Morrison were dominant in relief as well, striking out a combined five Drive hitters in four scoreless innings. For the game, Drive batters were erased on strikeouts 15 times. Here is Hansen striking out Roldani Baldwin on a pitch in the dirt:
All of the Kannapolis offensive damage was done in the first inning against Drive lefty starter Robby Sexton. Mitch Roman got the scoring started with a double to left, scoring Joel Booker. Then, three consecutive batters knocked in runs with hits: a single by Brandon Dulin, a double by Zach Remillard and a single by Seby Zavala. In the first, the Intimidators scored four runs on five hits. That would be more hits than they would record in their final seven innings at bat.
The Drive scored a pair of runs off Hansen in the top of the second on a Roldani Baldwin double and Lorenzo Cedrola single. The last run of the game was scored by Greenville in the top of the fourth on a single by Santiago Espinal. The Kannapolis bullpen was dominant, closing the door on a one run win.
A the low A level, it is hard to know which players are most worth following since they are so far from the major league level and the most highly touted players on these rosters were playing college baseball at this time last year. Kannapolis does have some interesting guys on their roster, however. I'm not going to cover any of the opposition's prospects in this case since none are particularly highly rated or caught my eye, but I would be remiss not to mention that Drive second baseman Jagger Rusconi had about as bad of an offensive game as possible. He struck out his first four times and then grounded into a game ending double play. On to the Intimidators.
Entering his junior season at Oklahoma last year, Hansen was considered an early first round draft candidate. But he struggled mightily that season, which caused him to fall into the second round where the Sox grabbed him. Since turning pro, he's been outstanding. He was so dominant in rookie ball last summer that he earned a promotion to Kannapolis before the season ended. Hansen's overall line on Monday wasn't all that great, allowing six hits and three walks in five innings. But then there were the ten strikeouts. Unfortunately, that meant a lot of deep counts and his pitch count piled up quickly. Overall, I was impressed. He got a ton of swing-and-misses out of both his fastball and breaking balls. Here he is throwing a high fastball by Greenville #3 hitter Chris Madera:
Another 2016 draft pick, Fisher was one of the best hitters in college baseball last year for Southeastern Louisiana. Like Hansen, he dominated rookie ball last summer. The left-handed hitting outfielder has had mixed results this season so far, not hitting for power and striking out a lot for such an accomplished college hitter. But he is still an intriguing player to keep an eye on. Oh, and he sports a sweet mustache too. In this game, his only hit came on a perfectly executed bunt which hit the third base bag. It was the Intimidators second bunt single of the inning. Here it is:
Another interesting outfielder on the Kannapolis roster is Adalfo. Like Fisher, he hasn't been able to tap into his home run power too often so far this season, but he does have 15 extra base hits and an average around .300. This was a rough one for him though. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He signed with the Sox out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, but is still only 20 years old. As I've mentioned several times in these posts, the Sox lack elite outfield prospects (or did prior to the weekend signing of Luis Robert, anyway). So guys like Adolfo will get every opportunity to make their case to be a part of the Sox future outfield.
Finally, I'm ending with someone who I had never heard of before yesterday. When Morrison took the mound in the 8th, I looked up his stats and was stunned by what I saw: 19 1/3 innings, 0 runs allowed, 4 hits, 3 walks and 30 strikeouts. This looks like a guy who should expect to be promoted soon. He built upon those numbers with a two inning save on Monday. He did not allow a hit and struck out three. He did walk a pair of guys though. Hard to give up runs when nobody ever gets hits off of you. Here he is baffling Roldani Baldwin with an off-speed pitch in the dirt.
It has been raining most of the day here in Charlotte, so we'll see what happens. But I'm scheduled to see the Knights take on the Syracuse Chiefs tonight, Tuesday, in the final game of my trip. This will feature the AAA squads of the two MLB teams I root for (Sox and Nats), so I should be very familiar with a lot of the guys on the field. Carson Fulmer is scheduled to start for Charlotte. This would have been Joe Ross' night for the Chiefs, but the Nats brought him back up to start tonight's game in DC.