A bumper crop of high-quality starting pitching in the South Atlantic League this year continued its tour of Lake Olmstead Stadium’s visiting dugout Saturday night. The Augusta GreenJackets once again had no answer.
Boston Red Sox prospect Henry Owens, the 36th overall pick in last year’s draft, struck out eight over a career-high six scoreless innings in a 2-1 Greenville Drive win.
“He’s got three major league pitches, and he had good command on all of them,” GreenJackets manager Lipso Nava said. “I tip my hat to the guy. Obviously our offense was dry with him in there, and we couldn’t get anything going.”
The 19-year-old left-hander used a slow, looping curve to do most of his damage. Seven of his eight strikeouts came on swings and misses.
“I was pretty comfortable (with the curveball). I had a good feel for it in the bullpen before the game,” Owens said.
“Usually I throw more changeups but today I had a better feel for the curve.”
Owens left after 88 pitches through six innings, giving the GreenJackets a better chance to climb out of a 2-0 deficit.
Red Sox first-round pick Blake Swihart laced a two-out RBI single to center field in the second, and Keury De La Cruz, among the top hitters in the league with a .336 batting average, drove in the second run with a grounder to first in the fifth inning that scored Jose Vinicio.
Augusta’s attempt at a comeback started when Jeff Arnold, the first to face reliever Tyler Wilson, led off the bottom of the seventh with an infield single, moved to second on a Brett Krill grounder and scored on John Eshleman’s single to cut the lead in half.
But the GreenJackets (16-18) stranded five runners over the last three innings. Alberto Robles, playing in his second game with Augusta, hit a dribbler back to the pitcher with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to seal the GreenJackets’ loss.
Augusta starter Kyle Crick, taken by San Francisco in last year’s draft 13 picks after Owens, allowed two runs on four hits and a walk but took the loss. Crick (1-2) struck out five to increase his team-leading total to 32.
The GreenJackets also failed to capitalize off the best outing of the season from reliever Aldaberto Mejia, who held Greenville to one hit over two and two-thirds scoreless innings. Paul Davis took over with two outs in the eighth and retired all four batters he faced.