Selected fifth overall in the 2011 Draft, Starling went 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs as the Rookie-level Burlington Royals evened up their best-of-3 Appalachian League semifinal with a 4-2 win over Johnson City.
Batting third, MLB.com's No. 12 prospect lofted a sacrifice fly to center field to score C.J. McElroy from third base in the first inning.
After striking out in the third, Starling beat out an infield single to shortstop in the fifth before homering over the left-field fence against new Cardinals pitcher Samuel Tuivailala to lead off the seventh.
The home run was Starling's 11th of his young career. The 6-foot-4 outfielder, who bypassed an opportunity to play baseball and football at the University of Nebraska, batted .275 with 10 longballs and 33 RBIs in 53 regular-season games.
Kansas City's No. 1 prospect finished the year with 35 runs scored, 28 walks and 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts. Among his 55 hits were eight doubles and two triples.
On Thursday, Burlington left fielder Terrance Gore went 2-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot, and Daniel Stumpf (1-0) allowed one hit over 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief.
Johnson City's McElroy smacked a solo homer, walked and scored two runs in the losing effort.
The Royals will host the decisive Game 3 on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.
In other Appy League action:
Danville 9, Elizabethton 2
Center fielder Logan Robbins' bases-clearing double highlighted a seven-run fourth inning as the Braves staved off elimination with a win over the host Twins.
Danville second baseman Ronald Luna and right fielder Blake Brown each collected two hits in the victory, and catcher Troy Snitker reached base twice, plated two runs and scored once.
E-Twins' left fielder Max Kepler slugged a two-out homer in the first inning to stake starter Brett Lee (0-1) to an early lead, but the southpaw surrendered six runs on three hits and three walks over 3 2/3 frames.
The clubs split their four regular-season matchups, but one team's bid for glory will end Friday night in Game 3.
Elizabethton has won four of the past nine championships, while Danville either won the league or finished runner-up in five of the previous six. Box score