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66ers' Sappington almost unhittable07/20/2013 2:56 AM ET
By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com
Mark Sappington had been looking forward to Friday's matchup with Lancaster for quite some time.
"I owed these guys," he said. "They touched me up in the first half. I had this page kind of turned in in my calendar."
When the big night arrived, Sappington seized his chance at revenge against the team that scored six runs against him over 5 2/3 innings on May 26.
The Angels' No. 9 prospect made his first scoreless appearance of the year, fanning six and allowing two hits over six innings in Class A Advanced Inland Empire's 6-3 win over the visiting JetHawks.
Sappington (10-4) walked seven but repeatedly tight-roped his way out of danger.
"I don't know if I was effectively wild or what," he said. "I gave up a few walks -- that's something I don't like, something I've got to fix. But I had good life to my fastball and I got a lot of swings and misses on it. My slider was good. I got a lot of big outs in big situations with that."
The 22-year-old right-hander started the game by fanning Astros No. 5 prospect Delino DeShields.
"Anytime you do that, get a couple little fastballs in there to strike a guy out, that's great start to any game," Sappington said. "You establish the zone. Anytime you get that, it ups your confidence for the evening. It's a lot of fun."
As a team, the JetHawks lead the California League in batting average, runs scored, on-base percentage and walks. Their cleanup hitter, M.P. Cokinos, leads the circuit with a .338 average, despite going 0-for-4 on Friday. Sappington was aware of the challenges he faced in getting redemption.
"I knew a couple of the guys," he said. "Cokinos is a really good hitter. I tried to pound the inside and jam him. I got a couple of ground balls. I guess the general approach was, I was just being aggressive as [heck]. I didn't care if they hit the ball, I didn't care if they made contact or not, it was just me and the mitt. I was trying to throw through my catcher. I was being extremely aggressive and living down [in the zone]. When I didn't, I walked guys."
Chris Epps drew a leadoff walk in the third and DeShields popped up a bunt attempt to Sappington, who threw the ball away trying to double Epps off first. In his first full season as a pro, the Rockhurst College product walked Astros No. 11 prospect Nolan Fontana but struck out Andrew Alpin and got Cokinos to pop up to end the inning.
"The No. 1 thing was just moving on, forgetting about what happened and focusing on the batter. Commit to every single pitch," Sappington said. "Even when I was walking guys, I never felt one time tonight that I couldn't get a guy out. Obviously, you're going to give up hits, but I was really confident -- even with the walks -- that if I attacked the zone, guys were going to pound the ball into the ground or strike out."
After working a perfect fourth and retiring the first two hitters in the fifth, Sappington gave up a double to DeShields.
"Honestly, it was a little bit up from where I would have liked it," he said. "I was trying to get it at the knees. It was probably mid-thigh. I left it up a little too much and DeShields did what he does. If I kept it down, it probably would have been a groundout, but you've got to tip your hat to the guy."
The 2012 fifth-round Draft pick again retired the first two batters in the sixth before issuing consecutive walks. But he fanned Epps to end the inning and his night.
"Obviously, I was a bit [ticked] off after the walks, after putting a couple guys on after getting two quick outs," he said. "I knew if I snuck a slider in on the inner third, it would go under his barrel. He fouled it off and I threw him a fastball, and he fouled that off. Then I went back to the slider and executed the pitch and got the strikeout."
Sappington's 10th win, which ties him for second in the league, was supported by an impressive home run from Zach Borenstein.
"It was gargantuan," Sappington said. "The ball flies in the Cal League -- it flies at Lancaster and it flies at High Desert and up north in Stockton. Here in Inland, the ball might fly a bit more than normal but not much. That ball was hit 460 feet -- 450, at least. It was the longest home run I've seen this year."
The round-tripper was Borenstein's 17th of the season and gave the 66ers a 5-0 lead in the third. Brian Hernandez doubled, singled and drove in three runs for Inland Empire, which halted a four-game slide.
Lancaster rallied for three runs in the ninth, but Brandon Efferson struck out Matt Duffy with two men on base to record his first save of the season.