Charlotte Knights catcher Josh Phegley has a lot of connections with baseball in Indiana.
On Thursday night, he put on a show in front of his family and friends and pushed the hometown Indians closer to a playoff exit.
Selected in the first round of the 2009 Draft, Phegley went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer, a walk and two runs scored as the Knights outlasted the Indians, 14-13, in Game 2 of the best-of-5 International League semifinal Thursday.
The victory moved the Chicago White Sox's Triple-A affiliate a win away from playing for the Governors' Cup.
Chicago's No. 11 prospect grew up in Terre Haute, Ind., about a 90-minute drive on I-70 west of downtown Indianapolis.
He was an all-conference and all-state selection in his senior season at the high school of the same name, he took the MVP award as a member of the Indiana North/South All-Star Team, and he was named Mr. Baseball by the state's High School Baseball Coaches Association.
Phegley then went on to major in sports broadcasting at Indiana University, where he was shortlisted as a semifinalist for both the Johnny Bench Award and the Golden Spikes Award in his junior year in 2009.
His parents, John and Joan, still live in the region, and his siblings, John and Jennifer, played collegiate baseball and softball at Indiana's Purdue and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Colleges respectively.
"It's always nice to play in front of people you know," Phegley said. "You travel around the country all year long and you might have some people turn up to watch you now and then. Tonight, I had 30 to 50 people I know turn up to cheer me on and support me."
The catcher, who also homered as part of a 2-for-4 effort in Game 1 on Wednesday night, blasted a shot to left field off Gerrit Cole in the first inning, setting the tone for a big offensive show that saw each side collect 15 hits.
"We knew what we were up against when we came into the game," Phegley said. "[Cole] has a hard fastball. He threw 97 [mph] past me on the first pitch, so I had to shorten up and use my hands.
"He came in with another fastball and I squared it up. You can't try to do too much. I barreled it up well and it snuck inside the foul pole. I put a good swing on it. It's not the biggest of left-field lines and I was able to get it over the wall."
Phegley batted .266 with six homers and 48 RBIs in 102 Triple-A games with the Knights this season. After homering once in the first four months of the year -- in the eighth game of the year against Norfolk -- the 24-year-old then went deep five times in the final 13 games of the regular season.
He has carried that momentum over in the playoffs, where he is batting .500 with five RBIs in eight at-bats.
"I hit most of the [home runs] in August and coming into the playoffs, so everything is really coming through at the right time," he added. "All the hard work we put in to make it to the championship, we belong there and we deserve to be there."
The Knights led 9-0 and 11-3, but the Indians made it a one-run game with a five-run eighth inning before going down in order in the ninth.
Indianapolis shortstop Chase d'Arnaud went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer, a double, five RBIs and three runs scored, and designated hitter Yamaico Navarro collected three hits, also missing hitting for the cycle by a triple.
In other International League action:
Pawtucket 3, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 2
For the second night in a row, the Pawtucket Red Sox fell behind the Scranton/Wilkes- Barre Yankees early before finding a way to rally. Now the PawSox are one win away from the International League Finals.
The Baby Bombers led, 2-0, after two innings, but the hosts scored one in the fifth and two more in the seventh. Bryce Brentz plated Nate Spears from second base with a line drive to right field to knot the game, 2-2, and following batter Jonathan Hee gave the Sox a lead with an RBI single.
Luke Murton was 2-for-3 with a run scored while Cole Garner and Ramiro Pena each collected two hits in the losing effort. Gameday box score