Granier gives Vermont win in opener

Righty fans nine, combines with three pitchers on three-hitter

Drew Granier was 6-2 across two levels this year. (Vermont Lake Monsters)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com | September 6, 2011 8:00 PM

Oakland A's farmhand Drew Granier had the jitters before his first postseason start Tuesday, but he took a deep breath and embraced the pressure.

Granier allowed one run on two hits and three walks while striking out nine batters over five innings as short-season Vermont defeated Auburn, 7-1, in Game 1 of the New York-Penn League semifinals.

"I was a little excited and nervous because it's the first time we've been in the playoffs for like 15 years," he said. "I've not been here too long, but I felt good going into the game. It was good to get the nod to be the first guy in the playoffs."

"The crowd was in it the whole game and they were all supportive. It means a lot, it was fun. This has probably got to be my biggest game so far."

Selected in the 32nd round of this year's Draft, Granier combined with three other pitchers to fan 16 Doubledays and complete a three-hitter.

The right-hander struck out the side in the first inning, before working into and out of trouble in each of the next four frames in front of 2,296 people at Centennial Field. Granier worked around a leadoff walk in the second, and he kept Auburn off the board in the third despite hitting first batter Billy Burns and then throwing a wild pitch that moved Burns into scoring position.

In the fourth, Granier issued a free pass to Matthew Skole and an infield single to Justin Miller before recording an out, but he was not able to extinguish the threat this time. Russell Moldenhauer advanced both runners with a ground ball to first base, and Angelberth Montilla plated a run when he grounded out to second.

"I put them on base. I've been doing that pretty much all season," said Granier, selected as a senior out of University of Louisiana-Monroe. "There is something about that first batter, but I'm trying not to worry about it too much. We had a four-run lead and I just wanted to keep it as big as I could."

Granier hit Burns for the second time in the fifth, and the Doubledays' No. 8 hitter stole second base and moved to third on Caleb Ramsey's base hit to left field. After striking out Bryce Ortega, Granier -- who went 1-1 with a 1.91 ERA in seven starts for Vermont in the regular season -- walked Skole to load the bases before whiffing Miller with his final pitch of the night.

"I felt pretty confident because I knew what I wanted to do," said Granier, who finished one short of his career-high 10 strikeouts.

"The catcher [Nick Rickles] was calling a good game and I was hitting my spots. I wanted to [pitch in the sixth], but I was up to about 98 pitches, so I knew there was no chance. I'm usually around 80 or 85, but they let me go longer because it's the playoffs."

Drew Bailey struck out four batters over two perfect innings and Jeff Urlaub worked around a one-out walk in the eighth. In the ninth, Tanner Peters yielded a leadoff triple to Montilla, but he struck out the next three batters to wrap up the victory.

It gave the Lake Monsters -- who won the Stedler Division with a 39-35 record -- a 1-0 lead in the series as they head to Auburn for Game 2 and potentially Game 3 in the best-of-3 series.

"The bullpen has been really good. Bailey has been pitching great all year, and Urlaub and Peters have been putting up big numbers in the eighth and ninth," Granier said. "They attack the zone and if we can get it to them, the game is pretty much over.

"I've been enjoying it here so far and hopefully we can keep playing good baseball and take it all. It would be nice to get a little ring and a league title in my first season."

Vermont's Chad Lewis went 3-for-4 with a homer and a three-run triple, and Chad Oberacker reached base safely three times.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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