Kyle Freeland has experienced great success since being drafted in June. Now he gets to experience a trip to the postseason.
The Rockies' No. 4 prospect gave up three hits and tied a career high with six strikeouts over five innings Friday night as Class A Asheville clinched a South Atlantic League playoff berth with a 3-0 blanking of Delmarva.
Freeland (2-0) walked one batter while throwing 45 of 61 pitches for strikes. He recorded four ground-ball outs, inducing one double play, and faced two batters over the minimum in his fourth start for the Tourists.
"From the get-go, I was able to locate my fastball, in and out," Freeland said. "Kept them on their heels with the off-speed [stuff]. From the beginning, it was good."
The 21-year-old left-hander equaled his strikeout total from his SAL debut on Aug. 5, when he tossed five two-hit innings against Lakewood. He credited being able to keep hitters guessing with a blend of pitches.
"I had one strikeout with a curveball and I think the others were sliders or fastballs," Freeland said. "It was a good mix of stuff, so they didn't know what was coming. Especially with a 1-2 or 0-2 count, they could be thinking slider and we'd hit them with a curveball or fastball and keep them on their heels."
Freeland's effort helped the Tourists wrap up their second playoff berth in three years. They have a five-game lead over second-place Savannah in the race for the Southern Division second-half title.
"It's awesome," MLB.com's No. 70 overall prospect said. "I got called up about a month ago and got with a team that has great chemistry and wins all the time. For us to be able to clinch a playoff berth and be with this group of guys is fantastic."
Drafted eighth overall by the Rockies, the Colorado native began his career with four starts for Rookie-level Grand Junction in the Pioneer League. In nine starts across the two levels, he's yielded four runs on 29 hits over 36 innings.
"There hasn't been a huge adjustment," Freeland said. "What I have noticed is that hitters are a lot more aggressive at the plate. And with the aggressiveness. they have a plan while they do it.
"The numbers show I'm doing pretty well. Still have a lot of stuff to work on, but I'm very happy with the way I've started my professional career. I need to keep improving my changeup, and that's made big strides since I've gotten to pro ball. Other than that, pitch efficiency and being able to read hitters."
Troy Neiman followed Freeland and recorded three strikeouts over three perfect innings before Trent Daniel pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 14th save.
Jose Briceno singled home a pair of runs and Correlle Prime went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Tourists.
Shorebirds starter Bennett Parry fell to 1-3 after allowing three runs -- two earned -- on four hits while striking out 10 over five innings.