All season, Enderson Franco has been Hudson Valley's ace. On Wednesday, in its most important game of the summer, he got the ball again and did not disappoint.
The Rays prospect tied a career high with eight strikeouts over seven innings as the Renegades blanked visiting State College, 3-0, to take Game 1 of the best-of-3 New York-Penn League semifinals.
"He's been doing it all year for us. We think he's really good and that's why he was out there in Game 1," Hudson Valley manager Tim Parenton said. "[Wednesday] was statistically one of his best starts. He had everything going."
Franco (1-0), who "had a big old smile on his face" when he found out he was starting the postseason opener, gave up five hits without issuing a walk. He never allowed the Spikes to get two baserunners in the same inning.
"He's had some moments like that where he would go four or five innings of no-hit ball, and every now and then he would give up a hit and it would get to his head," Parenton said. "Our catcher, Wilmer Dominguez, is very good at calling pitches and [Franco] just located the ball. And sometimes he throws too many strikes, but tonight he had it all working. He threw it in, which is what we've been working on all season."
The 21-year-old right-hander shared the league lead with seven wins during the regular season, reeling off five straight victories from July 14-Aug. 9.
"He's awesome," Parenton said. "We have a six-man rotation in the New York-Penn League and every sixth day he would take the ball and go five or six innings, went seven at one point, but pitch count gets in the way."
Edgar Gomez followed the Venezuela native and yielded one hit while striking out two over two innings to pick up the save.
The Renegades scored all of their runs in the fifth, with Grant Kay capping the inning with a two-run single off Spikes starter Daniel Poncedeleon (0-1).
The teams head to State College for Game 2 on Thursday.
"It's awesome. ... For us, it's a one-game shooting match. We want to go up there and win Game 2, but we also know we have another shot in Game 3," Parenton said. "We started the year playing well and we ended it playing well."
In other New York-Penn League action:
Tri-City 3, Connecticut 2, 11 innings