Pelicans double up P-Nats in matchup of top prospects

pel-6In a match-up of highly ranked pitching prospects, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, finished on the plus side of an 8-4 win over the Potomac Nationals on Friday night at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark.

Pelicans right-hander Duane Underwood Jr., ranked as the seventh-best on the Cubs Top 30 prospects list by MiLBPipeline.com, improved to 5-0 when he out-dueled Nationals third-ranked prospect, right-hander Reynaldo Lopez.

The Pelicans (25-14) catapulted into the lead with a five-run third inning after trailing 2-0. Daniel Lockhart opened the frame with a single to right and moved up to second base when Trey Martin reached on a bunt single. Mark Zagunis drew his league-leading thirtieth walk before Pin-Chieh Chen squeezed a double down the left field line. That hit scored two runs to tie the game, and Jacob Rogers put Myrtle Beach in front with a two-RBI single to left. Lopez struck out his second and final batter before being pulled after 2 1/3 innings on the mound.

Reliever Kevin Perez took over and surrendered a double to Kevin Brown, who moved the Pelicans in front 5-2.

Potomac (18-23) got to Underwood Jr. early when second baseman Christopher Bostick knocked a single to right and shortstop Stephen Perez followed with a single to left. Underwood Jr. escaped the inning before right fielder Brandon Miller put the Nationals on the board with a solo home run to left field in the second. Bostick, a former Pelican, gave Potomac a 2-0 advantage with a lead-off home run in the third, his first of the season.

With Underwood out of the game after six innings pitched, the Nationals would not score again until the eighth when left fielder Isaac Ballou mashed a lead-off home run to right field off reliever Juan Paniagua. First baseman John Wooten followed with a triple to the wall in left centerfield, and scored two batters later on an RBI single from third baseman Khayyan Norfork.

The Birds responded in the bottom of the frame with a pair of runs to cap the scoring. Brown drew a one-out walk and moved to third when shortstop Carlos Penalver tallied his first hit of the night. Martin followed with an RBI single, and Zagunis sent Penalver home to score with a base hit up the middle. With that single, Zagunis extended his career-best hit streak to 12 consecutive games. Chesny Young saw his nine-game hit streak come to an end.

Right-hander Jasvir Rakkar replaced Paniagua in the eighth, pitching 1 2/3 frames to collect his sixth save of the year. The two runs Paniagua surrendered were the first for the right-hander, ending a streak of 12 1/3 innings pitched to begin his season.

Underwood Jr. (5-0) picked up his fifth win, striking out four while walking two. He surrendered two earned runs on six hits, yet his 1.38 ERA remains the third-best in the Carolina League among qualifying pitchers.

Lopez (2-1) was saddled with his first loss, allowing five earned runs on five hits, walking one and striking out two. Perez, who lasted 3 1/3 innings, surrendered one earned run while punching out two and walking two. Cody Davis finished the contest with two innings pitched. He gave up a pair of earned runs on three hits.

The Pelicans continue the four-game series against the Nationals on Saturday. The first pitch in game two is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. ET. The Birds call upon right-hander Paul Blackburn (2-2, 5.73), and the Nationals counter with right-hander Tyler Maples (0-0, 3.75).

All four games over the Memorial Day holiday weekend will start at 6:05 p.m.

Photo by Larry Kave, MB Pelicans

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