Nola continues progress, improved hitting in AFL win

Marlins prospect drives in two runs, contributes defensively in Salt River victory

Nola continues progress, improved hitting in AFL win

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ever since the Marlins selected Austin Nola in fifth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, he has continued to get better.

Nola has increased his batting average in each of his three Minor League seasons and that trend has continued in the Arizona Fall League.

Box score

The Marlins' second base prospect went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs as the Salt River Rafters defeated the Scottsdale Scorpions 8-6 at Salt River Fields.

Friday's game was the 10th game in which the 20-second pitch clock -- a new initiative that Major League Baseball's Pace of Game Committee is testing during the Arizona Fall League -- was in effect. Friday's game was on the lengthier side of things as it lasted three hours and six minutes, raising the average time of pitch clock games to two hours and 39 minutes.

"It always feels good to get a win," Nola said. "When you're winning and everything is going good on all cylinders, that's what you hope for. You hope to play the game the right way and do everything right and that's what we did today."

Nola wasted no time contributing as he capped a three run second inning with an RBI single.

In the sixth, Nola struck again as he drove an RBI double into the gap that proved to be the decisive run.

"I felt good," Nola said. "I was just trying to have good at-bats, be loose and relaxed at the plate and the result takes care of itself. Just tried to put the barrel on the ball and did well."

Friday's game wasn't the first in which Nola has been able to put the barrel on the ball.

Nola is working on a three game hitting streak and after hitting .245 in 134 games with AA Jacksonville, Nola is hitting .298 through 13 games in the AFL.

"Just trying to have better at-bats," Nola said. "I'm trying to be consistent, that's the key. Have good at-bats all around the board, no matter what time of game it is and just play my game. That's what I'm trying to do."

The hits and the RBI stand out in the box score, but after giving his team the lead with his bat, Nola helped preserve that lead with his glove.

After the first batter of the eighth grounded out, Scottsdale put runners on first and second while Salt River was clinging to a one-run lead.

Yankees prospect Greg Bird, who had an RBI single earlier in the game, stepped to the plate.

"Greg Bird had hit it that way quite a few times and he always hits the ball hard through the middle of the field so I was just ready for something to come my way," Nola said.

Bird did hit the ball hard, but Nola was ready as he made a diving catch and then fired to first to get the runner out, completing the double play and preserving the lead.

Friday's game was another strong one for Nola, but as the 24-year old progresses through the Minors and the AFL, the only thing he's focused on is gathering information.

Nola credits his experiences for his continued development and feels the more he plays, the better he will continue to get.

"Just learning," Nola said. "The more I experience, the more I play, the more I learn. I take every game as an opportunity to learn from it and become a better ballplayer."

William Boor is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.