Audio: Romero touches 'em all
Matthew Fox's player page
Complete playoff coverage
Try on an authentic Snappers cap
Matthew Fox struck out 10 over six innings Friday as the Beloit Snappers forced a decisive fifth game in the Midwest League Championship Series with a 5-0 blanking of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
Fox (1-0) fanned the side in the first en route to his first career double-digit strikeout game. He gave up three hits and a walk with a pair of wild pitches.
The 24-year-old right-hander struck out at least one batter in every inning by spotting his fastball on both sides of the plate while spotting his breaking pitches. Ironically, Fox said this performance might not have been possible if he had not undergone shoulder surgery that wiped out his 2005 season.
"Back in college, I was able to get away with just blowing a mid-90s fastball by everyone," Fox said. "If you have a good fastball and a so-so secondary pitch, you can have success. But once I had surgery, I really had to learn how to be a pitcher. Everyone says it a lot, but you won't get far with a high-80s fastball.
"It's been a while since I've pitched in cool weather and West Michigan is a very good-hitting team, but I felt loose and had command of all my pitches. [Catcher] Greg [Yersich] was calling a great game and the guys on defense behind me were doing a pretty good job, so I'm glad the way things turned out."
After dropping the first two games of the best-of-5 series in West Michigan, the Snappers will host Game 5 on Saturday at Pohlman Field.
The Snappers gave Fox an early cushion in the first as Deibinson Romero followed a walk to Joe Benson and a base hit by Steven Singleton with his first postseason homer. Benson padded the lead in the fifth with his second playoff blast.
"Having your guys stake you to an early lead takes a lot of pressure off you," said Fox, one of the Twins' five first-round picks in the 2004 draft. "It gives you some breathing room and allows you to relax, focus and puts the pressure on the other team."
Matthew Williams tossed a scoreless seventh and Aaron Craig struck out one over the last two innings.
The Whitecaps had their best chance to score in the second when Brennan Boesch led off with a double and Jordan Newton singled with one out. But Fox got Santo De Leon to pop out and retired Audy Ciriaco on a comebacker.
West Michigan starter Jeffrey Gerbe (1-1) gave up five runs on six hits and a walk while fanning nine in seven innings.
Michael Echan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.