Salem's bats had no answer for Wilmington's Jackson Kowar on Sunday.Making his Class A Advanced debut, the Royals' seventh-ranked prospect didn't allow a hit over five innings, striking out six while walking only two batters, as the Blue Rocks defeated the Red Sox, 2-1, at Frawley Stadium.
Salem's bats had no answer for Wilmington's Jackson Kowar on Sunday.
Making his Class A Advanced debut, the Royals' seventh-ranked prospect didn't allow a hit over five innings, striking out six while walking only two batters, as the Blue Rocks defeated the Red Sox, 2-1, at Frawley Stadium.
Kowar was eager to get his first start out of the way and pleased it went as well as it did.
"I was a little anxious having to go on the fourth day," he said. "I just wanted to get out there and get one under my belt. As far as the first (start) goes, I don't think I could ask for much more. Just happy to have the first one done, put it away and ready to move on."
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The 22-year-old right-hander was perfect into the fourth inning, retiring the first 10 batters he faced before issuing a one-out walk to Salem's Jagger Rusconi. Kowar also walked Jerry Downs to lead off the fifth, but he stranded both potential threats. He finished after throwing 83 pitches, 52 for strikes.
Even though Red Sox lefty Enmanuel De Jesus kept pace with Kowar through five frames, the 2018 first-rounder stayed focused keeping Salem off the scoreboard.
"In a game like that with the pace moving fast, you just try to put up zeros and get the boys in the dugout to start swinging," Kowar said.
The University of Florida product appeared in nine games in relief for Class A Lexington last season. Kowar went 0-1 with a 3.42 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. He allowed 10 earned runs on 19 hits while holding opponents to a .200 average against.
Part of the righty's comfortability entering this season comes from the fact that he played with the South Atlantic League champions last year.
"Being able to start my career in Lexington with a championship was huge," he said. "Just going out and trying to compete with a lot of the guys I'm here in Wilmington with definitely gave me a lot more confidence. You feel a lot more secure knowing that you have already been to battle with these guys."
In particular, Kowar bonded with Kansas City's No. 27 prospect Sebastian Rivero, who was behind the plate for him Sunday.
"We had a really good rapport building up to the season which I think is a key component, especially being familiar with your catcher," the North Carolina native said.
Kowar's quite familiar with making a championship run. He was on the mound at the end of the 2017 College World Series for the Gators, pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings to help clinch the program's first national title.
With the game scoreless through 5 1/2 innings Sunday, the Rocks broke through on a double by fifth-ranked Royals prospect Nick Pratto that plated Marten Gasparini and No. 17 prospect Brewer Hicklen.
Righty Collin Snider followed Kowar, allowing two hits in two scoreless frames to pick up the victory. Righty Tyler Zuber gave up a run on two hits and struck out two in the final two frames for the save.
"The bullpen did a great job of slamming the door and getting us the win," Kowar said.
With this first outing in the rearview mirror, Kowar will be focused on keeping the momentum going forward early in the season.
"Eating up innings, trying to help our team win games and stringing together a bunch of quality starts," he listed as his objectives.
Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz.