Elizabethton, TN: On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to see the Princeton Rays take on the Elizabethton Twins in the second game of the Appalachian League Championship Series. Elizabethton had taken the first game of the potential three game series.
The Princeton Rays had a very exciting young team, filled with top prospects. Wander Franco, who seems headed to top ten status, was the headliner.
Shane Baz, whom the team acquired as the PTBNL in the Chris Archer trade, took to the mound for Princeton and delivered his best outing since being traded. He worked in and out of trouble a couple of times on the night, and looked increasingly tired as the game went on.
At one point during the performance, he attempted to add a hesitation to his delivery, but ended up spiking the pitch, bouncing the ball into the gut of the opposing hitter. That hitter would eventually come around to score the lone run allowed by Baz.
When Baz located his fastball, he was nearly unhittable, but he struggled with command of his breaking pitches. Nonetheless, Baz still racked up 7 strikeouts before leaving with two outs in the sixth inning.
The Princeton bullpen wasn’t terrible, but thanks to their lack of command the final three innings of the game took over 90 minutes, with multiple mound visits and pitching changes. Nonetheless they allowed just one run. Unfortunately, that’s all it would take as the Princeton Rays fell, 2-1, ending their season.
On the offensive side of things, Osmy Gregorio and Vincent Byrd had the hardest hit balls of the night, bot went for singles. Meanwhile, Grant Witherspoon knocked in the lone Princeton run, with a double in the 3rd.
In the 6th inning, Jake Palomaki hit what appeared to be a go-ahead solo home run down the right field line, but the umpire signaled the ball was foul. The Princeton manager, Danny Sheaffer. loudly protested, but somehow missing out on an ejection.
Wander Franco was very aggressive in his at-bats as part of an 0-4 day. He grounded out weakly twice, popped out to short, and lined out to center field. He was way out in front during his plate appearances as well, pulling every pitch he made contact with. On defense, he struggled as well, but did display impressive arm strength when given the opportunity.
Watching Appalachian League ball is a wonderful chance to see Rays prospects at the very start of their careers. No doubt some of the players I saw this week will be playing on Tropicana Field turf in the not-too-distant future.