Since his promotion to the Carolina League on Aug. 1, David Hensley has been stringing hits together. On Tuesday, he helped Fayetteville jump out to an early lead in the Mills Cup Finals.
The Astros infield prospect went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer as the Woodpeckers edged Wilmington, 2-1, at Frawley Stadium in the opening game of the best-of-5 Carolina League Championship Series.
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The Blue Rocks took a 1-0 lead in the third inning after executing a double steal. Royals No. 15 prospect Brewer Hicklen nabbed second, which allowed eighth-ranked Kyle Isbel to swipe home.
Hensley took over in the fourth. After Chandler Taylor worked a six-pitch walk against starter Daniel Lynch, the 23-year-old third baseman clocked a 2-2 offering from Kansas City's third-ranked prospect over the left-field wall for his first Carolina League homer.
"[Lynch] was throwing 96-97 mph from the left side," Hensley said. "Obviously, I was sitting on the fastball. I got four straight sliders in my first at-bat and struck out. I said to myself, 'He struck me out on the slider, so I'm going to sit on it.' I knew he liked to pitch in, so I was looking in.
"I fouled off a couple pitches and got it to a 3-2 count. The catcher paid him a visit on the mound. I thought they were going fastball-in. Instead, he went backfoot slider in and it didn't go where he wanted over the plate. I got the barrel on it and had some success, for sure."
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Hensley added a pair of singles for his second three-hit performance of the playoffs.
"It's been a long road for all of us to get where we are in our development," said the 26th-round pick in last year's Draft. "But they've [the Astros] done a great job to prepare us for this."
Royals No. 9 prospect MJ Melendez drew a four-pitch walk in the seventh and moved into scoring position on an errant pickoff attempt by right-hander Cody Deason. He took third when Kyle Kasser flied to center but was thrown at the plate by Scott Schreiber after the first baseman fielded Michael Gigliotti's bunt.
"That may have been the biggest play for us this year," Hensley said. "We got Scott Schreiber playing first base. He's a big guy with some athleticsim. They tried to bunt the pitch before, but [Gigliotti] took the first pitch for a strike. When he squared around again, I started creeping down the third base line, expecting the squeeze.
"He bunted it down the first base line and I see big Schreiber charging down the line to make a barehanded catch and throw him out by a good six or seven feet. I said, 'Oh, my gosh.' I was amazed. He made the biggest play of the game to keep our lead intact."
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Astros No. 9 prospect Jeremy Pena led off the ninth with his second double of the game and scored an insurance run for Fayetteville on a base hit by Marty Costes.
Southpaw Parker Mushinski started for the Woodpeckers and gave up a run on three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts over five innings. Cody Deason limited the Blue Rocks to one hit over the next 2 2/3 frames and Humberto Castellanos fanned four over the final 1 1/3 innings for his second postseason save.
Game 2 is Wednesday in Wilmington.