Whatever doubts Rookie-level Pulaski skipper Luis Dorante had about Dalton Lehnen's mindset before a decisive playoff game were wiped away once he caught a glimpse of him before the first pitch.
"He was a different kid," Dorante said. "You can tell in his face. It was that winning face of 'I want to beat these guys so badly.'"
The Yankees left-hander went on to allow two hits and strike out seven over six innings as Pulaski shut out Bluefield, 2-0, in Game 3 of the Appalachian League East Division Finals at Bowen Field on Monday.
"Lehnen was unbelievable," Dorante said. "All of his pitches were working. I knew it was going to be a close game, but it's unbelievable how the guys came out and pitched and played defense. I think that was the difference."
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The 21-year-old retired the first eight batters he faced before allowing an infield single to Jesus Navarro. The only man to reach base for Bluefield for the rest of game was Yorman Rodriguez, who singled to center with one out in the fourth inning.
"We got our gameplan of how to attack those hitters, but it wasn't easy," Dorante said. "[Lehnen] executed the plan really well and [Charles Vazquez] called a really good game and executed well with him."
Pulaski got all the offense it needed in the second when Ricky Surum delivered an RBI double and Jesus Bastidas drove him in with a single.
Lehnen made way for Garrett Whitlock after six innings, and the right-hander struck out four over three perfect innings to notch the save.
"Whitlock was overpowering," Dorante said. "He was pitching inside and the slider was good. Everything was working for us."
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To be able to rally to win two games on the road to take the series bodes well for the team ahead of the Appalachian League Championship Series against Greeneville or Elizabethton, according to Dorante.
"We've got a lot of confidence in everybody," said the skipper, who was named the circuit's Manager of the Year. "I think it's just a matter of who we are going to face and putting a plan together and go from there. Knowing that we beat the Blue Jays after they won 46 games and having the Pitcher of the Year [Randy Pondler] and the Player of the Year [Ryan Noda] and finished second in the league in batting, it really built the confidence for a lot for these guys."
Other playoff action:
Elizabethton 14, Greeneville 7
The Twins' bats broke out in Game 2 to even the series. Akil Baddoo, J.J. Robinson and Kolton Kendrick went yard, and the latter finished a triple shy of the cycle. Melvi Acosta struck out eight over four innings in relief to pick up the win. Box score