Matijevic has big night at the plate in AFL

September 21st, 2019

MESA, Ariz. -- If Astros prospect J.J. Matijevic looks comfortable playing under the bright lights and hot sun in Arizona, it’s because he is.

The former University of Arizona star is off to a strong start in Arizona Fall League play and on Friday, his hot bat led to a 5-1 victory for his Peoria Javelinas against the Mesa Solar Sox at Sloan Park.

“This is my home,” said Matijevic, who was drafted in 2017. “The best decision I ever made was coming to the University of Arizona. Being here is so much fun to me.”

Matijevic finished 2-for-4 with a solo home run and the decisive RBI in the win. He has six hits, including three extra-base hits, and six RBIs in 13 at-bats in three Arizona Fall League games.

“It feels amazing to be back [in Arizona],” Matijevic said. “I didn’t get a chance to come back here last year, but I’m back here playing, and this place is my favorite place on earth.”

For six innings on Friday, it was the pitching -- not Matijevic’s hitting -- that dominated the evening.

Mesa starter and Cubs pitching prospect Keegan Thompson set the tone early for the Solar Sox, retiring the first seven hitters he faced, four via strikeout, before walking Mariners prospect Joe Rizzo with one out in the third. He retired the next two batters to complete his outing. The right-hander struck out five.

Erich Uelman, Cubs’ No. 24 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, followed and didn’t give up a hit in the fourth. But Matijevic stung Mesa for the first time with an RBI double in the fifth to tie the game at 1. Marcus Wilson, Boston’s No. 17 prospect, was hit by a pitch and later stole second base to set up Matijevic’s base hit.

Matijevic’s home run, a line drive to right field off of Cubs prospect Jordan Minch in the seventh inning, put the Javelinas ahead, 2-1. Peoria tacked on three runs in the top of the eighth to put the game out of reach.

“A win is a win and it’s always nice,” Matijevic said. “To come out here and hit and rake the way we do, it’s very fun to watch. I’m excited to be on this team.”

It was a team effort. Peoria starter Cody Ponce (Pirates) also did his part, allowing only one run in four innings. Next up was Padres prospect Elliot Ashbeck, who did not allow a hit and struck out four in four scoreless innings. Nick Mears (Pirates) pitched a scoreless ninth for the Javelinas.

“This means the world to me,” said Matijevic, who was suspended for 50 games this season for violating baseball’s drug program. “I did have ups and downs, but my thing is overcoming adversity. It’s a big thing to me and I take a lot of pride in it. I just came out here to do my thing and hopefully have a good Fall League.”