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Vernia flirts with perfection for Rawhide

D-backs prospect retires first 18 batters in playoff opener
Justin Vernia has given up three runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts, dating to the regular season. (Shelly Valenzuela/San Jose Giants)
September 5, 2019

Justin Vernia was nearly unhittable for Visalia on Wednesday night. In fact, he was nearly perfect.Making his Minor League postseason debut, the D-backs prospect carried a perfect game into the seventh inning as the Rawhide shut down San Jose, 3-1, in Game 1 of the best-of-5 California League North Division

Justin Vernia was nearly unhittable for Visalia on Wednesday night. In fact, he was nearly perfect.
Making his Minor League postseason debut, the D-backs prospect carried a perfect game into the seventh inning as the Rawhide shut down San Jose, 3-1, in Game 1 of the best-of-5 California League North Division finals at Excite Ballpark. He struck out eight, matching his career high.

Gameday box score
Vernia (1-0) racked up five strikeouts over the first three innings, including back-to-back whiffs of Hamlet Marte and Kyle McPherson to end the third. He cruised through the fourth on eight pitches and finished the frame by punching out David Villar.
Six pitches got the right-hander through the fifth, and he picked up his seventh strikeout by catching Dalton Combs looking at a payoff pitch to open the sixth. After Marte flied out and McPherson popped out, the Vernia rolled into the seventh with the perfect game intact.
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Shane Matheny broke it up with a leadoff double to left field and scored one out later when Villar singled to left. The Gonzaga product walked Courtney Hawkins but froze Heath Quinn on a called strike three on his 90th and final pitch. 
Vernia pitched at three levels during the regular season, making two starts for Class A Kane County and one for Triple-A Reno before spending the final three-plus months with Visalia. He ranked fourth in the Cal League with a 3.65 ERA, going 8-3 with one save in 22 games, including 18 starts.
Mack Lemieux and Breckin Williams recorded the final seven outs, with Williams giving up a hit in the ninth before notching the save.

Visalia jumped on starter Aaron Phillips for two runs in the first as Luis Alejandro Basabe singled home D-backs No. 7 prospectGeraldo Perdomo and Eduardo Diaz grounded out to plate top-ranked Alek Thomas. Perdomo went 4-for-5, while Jancarlos Cintron contributed two hits and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Phillips (0-1) took the loss after allowing three runs on six hits with two strikeouts over six innings. The Giants avoided the shutout in the seventh on Villar's RBI single.
Game 2 is Thursday in San Jose.
In other California League playoff action  
Storm 2, Quakes 0
Rehabbing Padres right-hander Garrett Richards struck out five over four innings to set the tone as Lake Elsinore took Game 1 of the best-of-5 South Division series. Relievers Osvaldo Hernandez, Henry Henry and Mason Fox combined to yield one hit and three walks while striking out nine over the final five frames. Eighth-ranked Padres prospectLuis Campusano snapped a scoreless tie with an RBI double in the sixth and Eguy Rosario tacked on an insurance run with a sacrifice fly. Padres No. 5 prospect Xavier Edwards singled twice, walked, stole two bases and scored a run for the Storm, who host Game 2 on Thursday. Gameday box score

Katie Woo is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiejwoo.