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Bryant, Solis boost Mesa to AFL final11/14/2013 2:53 PM ET
By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com
Mesa didn't pop any champagne Thursday, but if and when the Solar Sox do, a toast to the University of San Diego might be fitting.
A pair of former Toreros bolstered Mesa to a 9-3 victory over Glendale on Thursday, with No. 4 Cubs prospect Kris Bryant driving the offense with his plate discipline and No. 11 Nationals prospect Sammy Solis logging five one-run frames.
The win clinched the Arizona Fall League East title for Mesa, which will play Surprise at Scottsdale Stadium in the AFL Championship Game at 3:10 p.m. ET on Saturday. The trip to the finale is Surprise's second in three years, as the Scorpions won the AFL title in 2011. The trip is Mesa's first time in the final since losing to Phoenix in the 2008 championship game.
Mesa took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Bryant scored after drawing a leadoff walk and moving to second on a single by Detroit's No. 12 prospect Devon Travis. With two on, Washington prospect Adrian Nieto delivered a soft single to center field that plated Bryant.
Bryant added another walk later and finished 1-for-3 with three runs scored. The 21-year-old hit .364 with six home runs and a 1.184 OPS in 77 AFL at-bats. Baseball's No. 35 overall prospect was coming off a stellar debut in which he batted .336 with a 1.078 in 36 games between the Rookie-level Arizona League, the short-season Northwest League and the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
"I'm pretty comfortable," this year's third overall Draft pick said. "I'm getting a lot of walks. I'm not really getting a lot to hit. They're pitching me a little differently the second and third time through and I'm taking what they're giving me. I'm pretty confident right now."
The third baseman said his exposure to Triple-A and Double-A pitchers in the AFL has "opened [his] eyes." He said he's noticed the small differences between upper-level arms and those he saw in college or the lower Minor Leagues, adding he feels confident he can carry his success this fall into 2014.
Mesa blew the game open in the fifth with a four-run frame that included a three-run homer by Detroit's Tyler Collins. Bryant and No. 3 Cubs prospect Jorge Soler both scored on the shot.
Solis logged five one-run innings, limiting Glendale to six hits while striking out four. Solis wrapped up his AFL experience with a 2.17 ERA and a 5-2 record in seven starts. He struck out 29 and walked seven over 29 frames.
The hurler returned this summer from Tommy John surgery, making 14 appearances (13 starts), mostly for Class A Advanced Potomac. The left-hander posted a 3.43 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 19 walks over 57 2/3 frames.
"He was awesome," Bryant said about Solis. "He was throwing first-pitch strikes every time. He was really competing and making it real easy to play defense behind him."
Bryant said the team didn't celebrate the win, but instead was awaiting the outcome of Saturday's finale.
"We're focused on the championship," he said. "Win that one, I'm sure we'll have one. Our job's not done yet.
"Anytime you play baseball, you want to be the last one on the field. A lot of us are swinging the bats well and our pitchers are throwing strikes. We're pretty confident going into Saturday."