Kopech, Ball combine for five hitless frames

Red Sox's No. 5 prospect doesn't allow a hit in AFL debut; No. 14 fans two in two frames

Kopech, Ball combine for five hitless frames

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Surprise Saguaros beat the Scottsdale Scorpions on Saturday, 8-1, thanks in part to stellar pitching by Red Sox prospects Michael Kopech and Trey Ball.

The duo combined to throw five hitless innings with seven strikeouts and a walk. Kopech's outing would have been perfect if not for an error in the third inning.

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"I was able to execute some pitches that I haven't been able to execute in the past," said Kopech, the Red Sox's No. 5 prospect and No. 67 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 list. "I got comfortable really early. I'm still getting back into the swing of things, it's been a few weeks into the season. I'm not quite as loosened up as I have been, but I'll get back to it. Overall, I felt like I did pretty well."

Kopech, who was the starting pitcher for the Saguaros, was dealing right from the start, beginning the game by striking out Scottsdale shortstop Michael Hermosillo -- an Angels farmhand -- on three pitches.

"It was good to see that right off the bat, because in the bullpen (my pitches were) pretty bad, it was rough," Kopech said. "To come out into the game and have everything working for me already, it's a good adjustment and I know that I was able to make it."

Kopech finished the day after three frames, with no walks and five strikeouts. He threw 30 of his 42 pitches for strikes.

Ball, Boston's No. 14 prospect, entered in the fourth inning. The 22-year-old left-hander tossed 27 pitches in two innings, walking one and striking out two.

"I felt my pitches were working all right. I felt like I was rushing a little bit, my command was off," Ball said. "But I felt like my pitches were working really well and we had the great defense behind us to allow us to do that."

In the fourth, Ball was on the mound when Gleyber Torres, the Yankees' No. 2 prospect and MLBPipeline.com's No. 17 overall, hit a ball back to the mound. Ball snagged it and fired to second to nab Mets No. 3 prospect Gavin Cecchini for one, and Saguaros shortstop Nick Gordon (Twins No. 2) threw to first to get Torres and end the inning.

"I threw a two-seam away, and he just hit it right back to me. I just stayed with it and showed how pitchers can be athletic," Ball said with a chuckle. "It was a good turn."

Kopech and Ball had plenty of run support in the game, including production from fellow Red Sox prospects. Baseball's No. 1 overall prospect Yoan Moncada went 2-for-4 with two runs and a walk, and Red Sox's No. 12 prospect Mauricio Dubon went 2-for-4 with a solo home run.

"Those two are awesome," Ball said of Moncada and Dubon. "Just playing with them this year and seeing what they can do and how they do it -- Moncada can hit the ball and run for speed. (Dubon) can play everywhere as you can see, out in centerfield today. They're great players and they're going to do well."

Matt J. Layman is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.