The Ems gave right-hander Matt Jackson his first ever professional start, and he didn’t disappoint. Jackson pitched a perfect game for five innings, facing 15 batters and striking out six.
“I wasn’t paying attention to what the scoreboard was, I was just trying to throw strikes,” Jackson said. “I was pretty excited and pretty nervous; I just got in a rhythm and stayed with it.”
Despite his stellar performance through six innings, Jackson was relieved by Miles Mikolas after he nearly reached his 60 pitch-count limit.
“[The] future means way more than now,” said manager Greg Riddoch, explaining why Jackson was removed with his perfect game still intact. “I would never sacrifice a kid’s arm for anything.”
“I wanted to go back out there, I felt good, but I also started to feel tired,” Jackson said. “Skip [Riddoch] has a reason for doing things; he’s pretty good about taking care of our pitchers.”
“It’s an organizational policy,” Riddoch said. “We follow the pitch counts.”
But Jackson’s dominating performance was hindered by the lack of offensive output, as the Ems went hitless for six innings.
“Hitters will bail us out one day, and we’ll bail them out one day,” Jackson said. “Tonight was just an off night.”
Aquasox’ starter, Luke Burnett also had an impressive outing, striking out seven batters and not allowing a single hit in 5 2/3 innings. Burnett struggled with his control, though, and gave the Ems multiple opportunities to score as he walked five batters and hit three more, but he was able to escape the pressure filled situations unharmed.
“[It was a] good pitching performance,” Riddoch said. “Tip your hat to that guy.”
In the first inning, Burnett walked Ems’ second baseman Joey Railey to lead off the inning and then hit Ems’ centerfielder Bo Davis with a pitch. Designated hitter Jason Hagerty advanced Railey to third on a sacrifice fly ball to centerfield, and Burnett then walked Vincent Belnome to load the bases with just one out. With the bases loaded, Burnett shut the door on the Ems, striking out first baseman Kurt Wideman and getting Griffin Benedict - playing his third game in left field – to ground out.
In the second, Burnett began the inning in similar fashion. He walked Kyle Loretelli and Emmanuel Quiles, whom both advanced after Chris Tremblay grounded out to Aquasox’ third baseman, Mario Martinez. Burnett then got Railey to ground out to first baseman, Gerardo Avila, and struck out Davis to end the inning.
“We had them on the ropes,” Riddoch said. “That guy was struggling like the devil.”
“Early on we had a lot of runners on base,” said Davis, who struggled at the plate, going 0-for-3 on the night with two strikeouts, after batting 4-for-4 with a triple, a double and two singles in Wednesday night’s game. “We just couldn’t get them across and you know it just built up and by the end of the game, it was all on top of us.”
With Mikolas on the mound, the Aquasox recorded their first hit of the game when right fielder Wellington Dotel singled to center field to lead off the sixth inning. In the seventh inning, Aquasox’ left fielder Ryan Royster put them ahead, 1-0, when he scored on Mikolas’ wild pitch, with two outs in the inning. Avila, who reached on a single to center field, scored after catcher Juan Fuentes smacked a two-out RBI double to right field. The Aquasox tacked on one more run in the eighth inning when Jeff Ibarra gave up a two-out home run to Phillips that made the score 3-0.
“It was definitely a pitchers duel tonight, so you got to give all the credit to both those guys,” Davis said. “They just battled a little harder and came up with some bigger hits than we did.”
The series finale begins Friday at 6:35 p.m. at Civic Stadium.