Clinton sweeps behind unhittable Walters
For the second straight game, Jake Walters didn't allow a hit. And that dominance punched the Class A LumberKings' ticket in the Midwest League semifinals Thursday night.The right-handed Miami prospect gave up an unearned run on two walks and five strikeouts as Clinton romped past Kane County, 10-1, at Northwestern
For the second straight game,
The right-handed Miami prospect gave up an unearned run on two walks and five strikeouts as Clinton romped past Kane County, 10-1, at Northwestern Medicine Field in the best-of-3 quarterfinals series.
Walters retired the first seven batters and took a 4-0 lead into the third inning when he walked
"It always takes the pressure off," he said of the early run support. "Sometimes we score a little too much where I'm sitting down for about 30 minutes. But our offense right now is definitely helping me not be on edge. I had a little more jitters than usual, but I calmed myself down.
"It's a playoff atmosphere. In college I didn't get many postseason opportunities, but it was a big game and I had to remember it's the same old thing. Some stuff worked out for sure."
The 23-year-old needed only nine pitches to retire the side in the fourth. D-backs No. 24 prospect
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Walters checks the scoreboard every inning, so he knew he had a no-hit bid going.
"It's just out of habit," he noted. "But it didn't really hit me until the fifth. A lot of guys go hitless through the first four innings, then they get a couple hits. I had a great defense behind me. They made some really nice plays behind me."
The University of Alabama product said most of teammates seemed unfazed by the bid and he had a lot of interaction with them, rather than following the baseball superstition of leaving a hurler throwing a no-hitter alone.
"It was still kind of consistent throughout the game," Walters said. "They were giving me fist bumps. I was also asking guys what they saw on certain hitters so I could stay ahead. A couple guys may have been standoffish, but that's understandable."
The LumberKings added six more runs by the seventh with Marlins No. 20 prospect
"We scored four in the sixth. I told our catcher
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He dispensed the Cougars on six pitches in the seventh to cap his night. Walters threw 48 of his 76 pitches for strikes.
Although he wanted to pitch the eighth, the 6-foot, 190-pound hurler knew he was on a limit.
"Talking to our pitching coach (Mark DiFelice) for the playoffs, our coordinators don't want us going to deep, pitch count-wise," Walters said. "I was at a certain point where they felt comfortable to take me out. I wanted to go out. I was shocked, but after taking a couple minutes to think about it, it makes sense. There's no telling what the eighth would have been like."
The seven hitless innings in the playoffs extended his hitless and scoreless streaks to 14 innings following seven no-hit frames against Burlington on Aug. 20 in his last start of the regular season.
"It's pretty simple," Walters said. "My fastball command has been really good. I'm commanding both sides of the plate. The catchers have been doing a really great job in our gameplan and reading swings. The defense really deserve the credit."
After walking Lynch with two outs in the eighth, the no-hitter ended when Fletcher beat out an infield single to second base on a 1-2 offering from
Banfield went 3-for-5 with two doubles, four RBIs and a run while Misner added three hits and three runs.
"We are all excited," Walters said. "We've been riding a pretty good hot streak in the second half. We've all bonded and really grown together. We are glad to see each other having some success. ... We know we have an off day tomorrow, so we can kind of rest. We still need to maintain this level of play that we're at right now and continue our momentum to the second round of the playoffs."
In other Midwest League action:
Cubs 7, Hot Rods 4
South Bend scored four runs in the ninth to sweep Bowling Green. Third-ranked Cubs prospect
Captains 4, Loons 0
Ninth-inning heroics saved Lake County from a quarterfinals sweep. After Great Lakes'
Kernels 2, River Bandits 1
Quad Cities hurler
Dan Stokes is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByDanStokes.