Surprise deals Mesa first loss in back-and-forth contest
Bryant launches two homers for Solar Sox, but it's not enough
For much of the first two weeks of the Arizona Fall League season, the Solar Sox had proven unbeatable. After an Opening Day tie against Glendale, Mesa rattled off a seven-game winning streak and was the last undefeated team in the league.
That streak ended Friday at Hohokam Stadium. Surprise scored two runs in the ninth inning to beat Mesa, 11-9.
Center fielder Tyler Naquin, the Indians No. 5 prospect, said he didn't know the Solar Sox had been undefeated entering the game.
"Obviously, they're good in order to beat the best of the best teams out here," he said. "Their lineup is good. [Kris] Bryant, [C.J.] Cron, those guys can really hit. But everybody out here is a dang good ballplayer. You can't take anything away from anyone."
Bryant, the Cubs' No. 4 prospect, led Mesa's offense. He went 3-for-5 with two home runs, a double and three runs. Second baseman Taylor Lindsey, the Angels' No. 3 prospect, went 2-for-5 with two runs and a triple.
While Mesa showed why it leads the AFL in runs, Surprise also showed how good its offense can be. The Saguaros jumped on starter Dallas Beeler for three runs in the first inning and exploded for six runs in the fourth against Kenny Faulk and Cam Bedrosian, led by first baseman Travis Shaw's three-run home run.
All nine of Surprise's starters scored at least one run and five players -- Naquin, third baseman Garin Cecchini, designated hitter Henry Urrutia, catcher Jorge Alfaro and second baseman Joe Wendle -- had three-hit games.
Still, Mesa looked like it might find a way to continue its winning streak despite twice falling behind early in the game. With one out in the eighth inning and the tying run on second base, Bryant stepped to the plate to face right-hander David Goforth.
Bryant swung through a high 3-2 fastball, striking out. But the ball got away from Alfaro and after a passed ball and a throwing error on Alfaro, the tying run had crossed the plate and Bryant was standing on second base.
Unfazed, Goforth retired the next two hitters, ending the threat and setting up Surprise's ninth-inning rally.
"We just kept the same approach," Naquin said. "It wasn't like they had hammered a pitch to tie the game up. So we still had the momentum."
Alfaro started the inning with a single and a stolen base, advancing to third on a fly out. He scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly by Joe Wendle. The Saguaros added an insurance run on Naquin's RBI single and right-hander Keith Couch threw a perfect ninth inning to end the game.
Naquin went 3-for-5 with a run, a walk and a stolen base. He is hitting .355 in seven games in the AFL.
"I'm not trying to do too much up there," Naquin said. "My job is to get on base, hit doubles and let other guys drive me in."
Naquin was the Indians' first-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He said he is hoping to use this fall as a chance to get stronger and improve in all facets of the game.
"I really just want to get better," Naquin said. "I think, in baseball, you never have anything figured out. So I just want to keep everything simple, don't over-think things and get stronger."