Gray Fenter had gone without a double-digit strikeout game over 69 outings in his professional career and he was "kinda chasing" that accomplishment. He finally checked that box off in his 70th appearance.The right-handed Baltimore prospect threw five perfect innings and struck out a career-high 11 to lead Class A
Gray Fenter had gone without a double-digit strikeout game over 69 outings in his professional career and he was "kinda chasing" that accomplishment. He finally checked that box off in his 70th appearance.
The right-handed Baltimore prospect threw five perfect innings and struck out a career-high 11 to lead Class A Delmarva to a 7-0 blanking of Lakewood at FirstEnergy Park. Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft, blasted his first South Atlantic League homer in support of his starter.
The breaking pitches Fenter (8-2) threw proved to be the difference against the BlueClaws, who were kept off balance from the outset. Establishing the curve and slider helped set a tone that lasted through the five frames.
"My curveball was probably my best pitch," the hurler said. "My slider was good, my fastball was good, but my curveball was probably the best it's been all season. It was at another level tonight and that was because I was locked in and my pitching coach [Justin Ramsey] told me a few tips that really ended up working out."
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Those tips, which mainly centered around a "body-connection thing," have helped Fenter throughout the season. Since the beginning of the year, he and Ramsey have strived to improve the starter's repertoire and it's paid off. The Arkansas native sports an 0.95 ERA in five appearances (four starts) this month to lower his overall mark in the South Atlantic League to 1.81. The duo's working relationship has been a big component to Fenter's best statistical season in the organization.
"[Ramsey] has been a blessing to me all year, he's really helped me get my stuff to where it is now," the 6-foot pitcher said. "I would honestly not be where I am without him. I knew it was going to be a good year because me and him have a similar personality. We have fun, but we know when it's time to get serious. He's really helped me with my fastball, slider, curveball, changeup -- everything in the book."
In his previous start last Wednesday, Fenter worked three perfect frames and whiffed four for the Shorebirds. He brought that same energy to the mound against the BlueClaws, tossing 50 of his 66 total pitches for strikes. Only three balls left the infield against the 23-year-old -- two flyouts and one lineout -- during the outing.
It didn't take much time for Fenter to settle in, as he whiffed two of the three hitters in the first inning -- including fifth-ranked Phillies prospectLuis Garcia -- and struck out six in a row into the third.
Fenter finished his final frame with authority, getting Carlos De La Cruz swinging in a quick three-pitch at-bat to set a personal best in punchouts. The 2015 seventh-round pick eclipsed his previous career high of eight strikeouts -- which he had accomplished three times -- to reach double digits for the first time. On a strict innings limit with the playoffs approaching, Fenter knew his day was done after five frames.
"It's a combination of knowing what I have that night and being able to go back and watch film with [Ramsey]," he said of his recent success. "He lets me know when I'm on time, and honestly, everything he's done this year with me has been a blessing."
Matthew Hammonds allowed three hits and a walk with five strikeouts over four innings to pick up his second save of the year. The combined effort enabled Delmarva rack up its league-leading 20th shutout of the season.
"It's been a fun year, especially as a pitcher," Fenter said. "Our staff has been unbelievable all year. You've got Matt De La Rosa that's got the most holds [in the South Atlantic League with 12] right now. Ruben Garcia, late callup, he's striking guys out and going three or four. Whatever we need him to do, he's doing the job. Hammonds tonight striking out five, I don't even know what he did, but he put up zeros and that's really all that matters."
Rutschman, baseball's No. 6 overall prospect, went yard in the fifth. Facing righty reliever Gilmael Troya, the backstop sent the ninth pitch of the at-bat over the right-field wall for a two-run homer. No. 14 Baltimore prospectAdam Hall finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored.
Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt.