Akeem Bostick hadn't toed a rubber for game action in two weeks due to a shuffled rotation and the South Atlantic League All-Star Game break. It certainly didn't look that way Monday.
The right-handed Rangers prospect matched a career high by striking out seven batters over five innings, allowing just two hits as the Class A Hickory Crawdads blanked the Kannapolis Intimidators, 2-0.
The outing continued the strongest stretch of the season for Bostick, who extended his scoreless-inning streak to 15, dating back to a June 4 no-decision vs. Charleston.
"Coming into this start, I was more thinking, 'Let's establish the fastball and get ahead, then with my off-speed stuff make them half-decent to where I can get outs,'" Bostick said. "I was just seeing how long I could go into the game."
With confidence in his heater, the 19-year-old carved his way through the Intimidators' lineup. After surrendering consecutive singles to Hunter Jones and Cleuluis Rondon to open the first inning, Bostick induced a double-play ball to start a string of 14 straight batters retired to complete his night.
Making his first start since June 9 at Delmarva during which he went seven shutout innings, Bostick's pitch count was closely monitored as he faced just one over the minimum. The Florence, South Carolina native felt no ill effects from his long layover between outings.
"My last time out, I felt like I really needed that," he said. "When I went seven in Delmarva, my arm was a little bit tired, but I still managed to get through it. I don't think I threw a fastball over 90, but I was still making the pitches and getting the outs. This outing, I was still making the pitches, but my velocity was up a little more over last time."
The Crawdads handed Bostick the lead early when Evan Van Hoosier led off the bottom of the first with his sixth home run of the season. Van Hoosier sparked his team again in the third with a leadoff double, later scoring on a double-play ball off the bat of Joe Jackson.
With the win, Bostick's ERA dropped from 4.86 following a May 30 loss at Greenville to 3.75 after his second consecutive victory. While he'll return to the mound much quicker for his next start, the 2013 second-round pick's preparation will remain the same.
"The last two outings, I established both sides of the plate well with my fastball," he said. "I'll probably go later on in the week and watch film on both of them as far as from a mechanics standpoint -- where I was standing, what allowed me to get there."
Ryne Slack and Jose Valdespina worked around four walks in three combined innings of relief and Cody Kendall allowed one hit in the ninth for his seventh save.
Kannapolis starter Robinson Leyer (4-4) allowed two runs on six hits while walking two and striking out four in five innings.