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From 35th-round pick to ace11/19/2006 12:49 AM ET
By Marissa Rega / Special to MLB.com
The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes weren't sure what they were going to get from rookie starter Adam Cowart. They found out they had one of the Northwest League's top pitchers.
With a virtually perfect season, the 23-year-old right-hander topped the circuit with a 10-1 record, 1.08 ERA and 0.71 WHIP, earning MiLB.com's Class A Short-Season Starting Pitcher of the Year Award.
"We didn't really know what to expect," Volcanoes manager Steve Decker said of Cowart, San Francisco's 35th-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
A product of Kansas State, Cowart did not allow an earned run in his first 25 2/3 innings with Salem-Keizer. In his second start, the Houston native carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, ultimately yielding one hit over six frames in a 6-1 victory over the Boise Hawks.
"We really started looking at him as one of our aces," Decker said.
Cowart struck out a season-high seven batters in beat Everett on Aug. 8 and held opponents to a .178 batting average. His ERA was second-lowest in the Minor Leagues, just behind Christopher Salamida, who posted a 1.06 mark for the New York-Penn League's Tri-City ValleyCats.
"(Cowart's) a submarine-type pitcher," Decker explained, likening him to former big leaguer Steve Reed.
Decker, the Northwest League's Co-Manager of the Year, said that Cowart "pitches with a quick tempo" and "doesn't fear contact at all."
"You can't hit a ground ball by him," he added.
Cowart, who boasted a .967 fielding percentage, got the win in four of five outings during one stretch in August as he helped Salem-Keizer take 22 of 23 games.
He went 10-0 in his first 14 starts, but during the Volcanoes' final regular-season game on Sept. 3, he suffered his only loss as Eugene posted a 5-2 victory. Cowart surrendered three runs on five hits, including a two-run homer, struck out five and walked two over a season-low 4 2/3 frames.
Cowart bounced back by tossing his first professional complete-game shutout in Game 2 of the Northwest League Finals, limiting Boise to three hits in a 5-0 win that tied the best-of-5 series. He went on to earn a spot on the Northwest League All-Star Team.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.