"For me personally, it was a must-win in my eyes from the get-go," McKenzie told MiLB.com. "Tonight was an opportunity for us to get back into this. You don't want to go down by two games, even if it was still a five-game series. I wanted to give my team a chance to win tonight and I think I did that."
It was the third straight double-digit strikeout performance for the 20-year-old right-hander, who fanned 11 and 10 batters, in his last two regular-season starts.
"Tonight, I came out with intensity and full trust in [catcher Martin Cervenka]," he said. "I was throwing the pitches he was calling and throwing them with intent. I wanted to go out there and pitch like I always do, which means treating every outing like it's my last. The game plan was the same as always coming in. We just broke down each hitter's tendencies and then it was a matter of executing the fastball and using the curve to go off that."
Overall, the 6-foot-5, 165-pounder recorded at least 10 strikeouts in six of 25 starts with Lynchburg this season to finish with 186 strikeouts, second most among all Minor League hurlers. He also posted a 3.46 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 143 innings, during which he held opposing hitters to a .203 average.
The Carolina League announced Friday that it was cancelling the 2017 Mills Cup Championship Series ahead of Hurricane Irma. Instead, the winners of circuit's two division series, both of which had already been reduced from five to three games, would be named co-champions. After splitting the first two games of the series, Lynchburg and Frederick will square off in a winner-take-all, Game 3 on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. ET.
The rest of the best performances from top prospects Friday
• No. 55 overall prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres' No. 4) posted three hits out of the leadoff spot to back a strong outing from left-hander Joey Lucchesi (Padres' No. 9) in Double-A San Antonio's 9-0 rout of Midland in Game 3 of the Texas League semifinals. Tatis, just 18 and already in Double-A, plated one run and scored once in a 3-for-4 performance that also improved his postseason average to .364. Lucchesi, meanwhile, turned in seven scoreless innings on the mound to record the win. Throwing 93 pitches (55 strikes) and scattering six hits in the outing, the 24-year-old southpaw issued one walk, struck out five and generated seven ground-ball outs.
• No. 65 overall prospect Matt Manning (Tigers' No. 2) racked up a career-high 10 strikeouts in five innings, but ultimately received a no-decision as Class A West Michigan's season came to an end with a 4-3 loss in 11 innings to Dayton in a decisive Game 3 of the Midwest League semis. The 19-year-old righty allowed one earned run on four hits and two walks in the outing, during which he threw 84 pitches, 53 for strikes.
• No. 88 overall prospect Justus Sheffield (Yankees' No. 5) and Taylor Widener (No. 16) fired a combined no-hitter to lead Double-A Trenton to a 2-0 victory over Binghamton in Game 3 of the Eastern League semifinals. Sheffield, 21, started and worked the first four frames, issuing two walks and striking out four in his second start for the Thunder since returning from the disabled list. The 22-year-old Widener took over in the fifth inning and proceeded to rack up seven strikeouts while facing one over the minimum over the game's final five frames to record the win in his Double-A debut. It was the fifth postseason no-hitter in Eastern League history and just the third since 1937.
• No. 98 overall prospect Miguel Andujar (Yankees' No. 6) went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI as Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre edged Lehigh Valley, 4-2, in Game 2 of the International League semifinals. The 22-year-old third baseman is 4-for-11 with three extra-base hits in the best-of-five series (which is currently tied at one game apiece) after slashing .315/.352/.498 with a career-high 16 home runs and 36 doubles in 125 regular-season contests between Scranton and Double-A Trenton.
• Orioles No. 5 prospect Cedric Mullins scored two runs and fell a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, though it wasn't enough to keep Double-A Bowie from dropping Game 2 of the Eastern League best-of-five semifinals against Altoona, 8-4. The 22-year-old center fielder was plagued by hamstring injuries in 2017, but fared well when healthy, hitting .265/.319/.460 with 13 home runs and 53 runs scored in 76 games with Bowie.
• Pirates No. 8 prospect Nick Kingham turned in arguably his best performance of the season, tossing seven scoreless innings and pacing Triple-A Indianapolis in 6-0 shutout over Durham in a must-win Game 3 of the International League semis. The 25-year-old right-hander permitted four hits (all singles) and three walks and struck out four, throwing 61 of his 95 pitches for strikes. The Indians trail Durham in the best-of-five game series, 2-1.
• Reds No. 6 prospect Aristides Aquino and Gavin LaValley (No. 20) hit back-to-back solo shots and combined to go 5-for-12 with three RBIs and three runs scored as Double-A Pensacola defeated Jacksonville, 5-4, in 12 innings to claim a share of the Southern League championship. LaValley finished 3-for-6 at the plate while Aquino delivered two key hits, including a game-winning single RBI single in the top of the 12th.