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Saguaros needed a win on Wednesday to draw even with first-place Peoria in the AFL West Division race. The Desert Dogs were having none of it.
Braves shortstop prospect Nick Ahmed tripled twice and the Phoenix pitching staff yielded just two singles as the Desert Dogs blanked the Saguaros, 7-0.
"I was thinking about it after I hit the second one -- the last time I had two triples in a game was the first game of my junior season [at the University of Connecticut] in 2011," Ahmed said. "That's not something that happens too often."
The 22-year-old Ahmed, a second-round pick in 2011, hit .269 with six homers, 49 RBIs and 40 stolen bases for Class A Advanced Carolina League champion Lynchburg this summer. His 40 steals led the league and ranked second in the Braves organization.
After going 2-for-4 on Wednesday, Ahmed wrapped up his AFL campaign with a .288 mark in 19 games. He is not in the lineup for the Desert Dogs' finale against Mesa on Thursday afternoon.
"The level of play is a little bit better here -- we've got some Triple-A guys, some players with big league experience -- but at the end of the day it's the same game," Ahmed said.
"Working with the coaches out here, particularly [hitting coach] Darnell Coles, has been a lot of help. They've helped me stay consistent and take my batting cage work into the game."
The cage work paid off early for Ahmed on Wednesday as he drove a two-out line drive into the right-center gap for a three-bagger in the first inning. Though stranded there when Brewers prospect Hunter Morris struck out, Ahmed was back at it in the third, sending a line shot over Surprise center fielder Cesar Puello's head for his second triple of the game and third of the AFL season. Morris brought him home this time with a sacrifice fly to right.
Though Phoenix added two runs in the sixth and three more in the eighth to put the game out of reach, the Saguaros never really threatened. Surprise right fielder Colin Walsh (Cubs) singled with one out in the first and first baseman Chris McGuiness (Rangers) contributed a two-out knock in the sixth to complete the Saguaros' offensive output. Every hitter in the Surprise lineup struck out at least once.
The Desert Dogs piled up 13 hits, catcher Cory Brownsten (Braves) doubling once, singling twice and scoring two runs. Brewers prospects Morris and Josh Prince drove in two runs apiece. The latter's 2-for-5 outing gave him an AFL-leading 36 hits and a .404 batting average that ranks second in the league.
Phoenix starter Brian Flynn, a 6-foot-8 left-hander in the Marlins organization, tossed 3 1/3 innings to improve to 1-3. He struck out five and walked three. Fellow Miami hurler Scott McGough allowed one hit over 2 2/3 frames and Gary Daley (A's), Chris Rearick (Rays) and Brett Hunter (A's) fired one hitless inning apiece. The five Desert Dogs pitchers combined for 11 strikeouts.
Royals southpaw prospect Justin Marks suffered his first loss in seven AFL starts, falling to 5-1 after giving up two runs on five hits while fanning six over four innings.
The defeat left Surprise one game behind first-place Peoria with one game left to play. The Saguaros host the AFL East-leading Salt River Rafters while Peoria takes on Scottsdale at 12:35 p.m. MT on Thursday. The AFL Championship Game, which will be broadcast live from Scottsdale Stadium on the MLB Network, takes place Saturday at 1:10 p.m. MT (3:10 p.m. ET).