Aaron Blair may be new to the whole pro baseball experience, but he got to experience the best part of it on Wednesday.
The D-backs' No. 16 prospect yielded four hits and struck out five over six innings as Class A South Bend blanked Great Lakes, 3-0, in the opening game of the Midwest League playoffs.
Blair walked three while throwing 92 pitches for the Silver Hawks. After issuing a two-out walk to Brandon Trinkwon in the second inning, the Marshall University product retired nine straight batters, a stretch that ended when Trinkwon singled with one out in the fifth.
"At the beginning, I had trouble finding the strike zone," Blair said. "The last three or four [innings] I was attacking with my fastball, throwing strikes and I was able to put people away with my offspeed."
Selected with the 36th overall pick by Arizona in June, Blair joined South Bend on Aug. 18 after making eight starts in the short-season Northwest League for Hillsboro. The 21-year-old right-hander was 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA and fanned 13 batters over 17 2/3 innings.
Blair reflected on the experience of starting the opening game of the playoffs just three months after being drafted, though he was quick to downplay being selected for that role.
"It's gone by really fast," he said. "The Draft being three months away and looking back now, it's something to cherish. It was really exciting. We kept the rotation from the season, so it just happened to be my turn."
Despite being with the squad less than three weeks, the Nevada native is a big fan of his teammates.
"The team here, we're solid all the way around," Blair said. "We don't have the huge prospects or the people that everybody comes to watch, we're just a bunch of good players."
Fidel Pena hit an RBI single in the third and Breland Almadova smacked a two-run double with two outs in the eighth.
Jimmie Sherfy fanned one in a perfect ninth to close out the game for the Silver Hawks, who head home to resume the best-of-3 series Thursday.
In other playoff action:
Snappers 9, Lumberkings 6
Chris Bostick smacked a three-run double in the top of the 10th inning, finishing 4-for-5 with four RBIs and falling a triple shy of the cycle for Beloit. Nick Rickles homered and plated three runs while Renato Nunez hit a two-run blast. Mariners' No. 12 prospect Tyler Marlette hit a solo homer for Clinton. Box score »
TinCaps 5, Hot Rods 1
Padres' No. 13 prospect Joe Ross retired the final seven batters he faced, yielding just a second-inning single over six scoreless innings for Fort Wayne. Mallex Smith collected two hits and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot and Reynaldo Bruguera plated a pair of runs for the TinCaps. Marty Gantt drew a bases-loaded walk in the ninth for Bowling Green. Box score »
River Bandits 2, Kernels 1
Teoscar Hernandez singled and scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth as Quad Cities slipped by Cedar Rapids. Astros' top prospect Carlos Correa was 3-for-4 with a run scored and Rio Ruiz reached base three times while plating a run. Brett Lee gave up a run on four hits and fanned six over five innings, but did not figure into the decision for the Kernels. Box score »