Pitching just 45 minutes away from where he grew up, Vincent Velasquez felt right at home Friday night in Lake Elsinore.
The Astros' No. 9 prospect allowed one baserunner and recorded four strikeouts over five shutout innings as Class A Advanced Lancaster beat Lake Elsinore, 5-1.
"Today was kind of iffy in the beginning," Velasquez said. "I lost track of my pitches, I would sort of say. I wasn't really overpowering my fastball too much after I realized I wasn't really locating it well. I was just trying to spot up and get as many ground balls as possible, trying to really use my defense. I felt comfortable toward the end, after that first inning. I picked it up toward the third, fourth, fifth."
The JetHawks staked Velasquez (2-0) to a lead in the top of the first inning when Astros No. 13 prospect Teoscar Hernandez cashed in Tony Kemp's leadoff walk with an RBI triple and top prospect Carlos Correa followed with a sacrifice fly. The 2-0 cushion and helped the Pomona, Calif., native find his stride.
"That's always the best thing to have, a good offense to give you a little boost," he said. "The first three, four, five hitters get on base and get that first run for you, that's always a blessing. It's a boost to go out there and maintain that lead and go out there and pitch."
To look at Velasquez's night, it would be hard to discern he was feeling anything less than comfortable. Pitching in front of his parents and two brothers, the 21-year-old right-hander struck out the leadoff man in the bottom of the first and retired the first nine batters he faced.
Alberth Martinez's leadoff single in the fourth was the only blemish on Velasquez's night, but Martinez was erased on a double play by Hunter Renfroe. The 2010 second-round pick fanned Reynaldo Bruguera to close the third and struck Luis Domoromo and Diego Goris in the fifth to end his night.
Hernandez and Correa came through again in the fifth to pad the Lancaster lead. Hernandez brought home two runs with his second triple of the night and Correa followed with an RBI single to cap the JetHawks' scoring. Correa's hit snapped an 0-for-16 drought that dated to Sunday.
The JetHawks roughed up Storm starter Ruben Mejia (0-1) for five runs on six hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Kyle Westwood worked the final four innings for his first save of the season, allowing a run on three hits and a walk with two strikeouts.
On a talented roster that includes two former first overall Draft picks in Correa and pitcher Mark Appel, Velasquez and his teammates have raced out to a 7-2 record and sole possession of first place in the California League South Division standings.
For Velasquez, a professional stint so close to home has been a welcome adventure.
"It's a good feeling to have to play in front of your family and friends," he said. "I couldn't be more thankful to have them out here to support me and be there for me as much as possible. The whole Cal League thing, being here, it's been very fun, but I've still got to come do my job."