Start after start, Kohl Stewart continues to get better. Friday night marked the best outing of his brief Minor League career.
The Twins' No. 4 prospect went a career-high six innings, allowing an unearned run on one hit to earn his first Midwest League win as Class A Cedar Rapids defeated Clinton, 6-1.
"Whatever [catcher] Mitch [Garver] put down, I was trying to stick to whatever his plan was," Stewart said, "and it was working. I didn't really stray away from that at all. My slider was good tonight, so I threw a couple of those and mixed in a couple of curves and changes and a lot of fastballs. Everything worked out."
While Stewart issued just one walk and struck out six, Friday wasn't completely free of adversity. He plunked leadoff man Zach Shank in the first inning before retiring the side in order. Tyler O'Neill led off the second with a single before the 19-year-old right-hander got Corey Simpson to line into an inning-ending double play.
Shank was hit by a pitch again in the third, but Stewart also escaped unscathed. An inning later, O'Neill drew a two-out walk, moved up on a wild pitch and scored the LumberKings' only run on an error by third baseman Bryan Haar.
Stewart retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth, getting five straight outs on ground balls before catching Jack Reinheimer looking to end his night.
"Our main focus was just to try to get ahead," Stewart said of his final two innings. "We threw a couple changeups to a couple guys, just to keep guys off-balance as best we could. The more ground balls we get, the better, the more guys we can get out. That was our plan, just to work fast and work ahead."
Stewart dropped his ERA to 3.15 and Midwest League hitters are batting just .164 against the fourth overall pick in last year's Draft.
"I think guys attack mistakes a lot better," Stewart noted of Class A. "There are definitely more mature hitters. I'm trying to just work on going right at guys and trying to focus on what the guy behind the plate's calling and trying to make the best pitch I can, one at a time. But definitely, there are really good hitters here."
In addition to calling a solid game for his starter, Garver collected three hits, including a double, and three RBIs.
Clinton starter Jake Zokan (1-1) allowed two runs -- one earned -- on six hits over 5 1/3 innings, striking out four and walking one.