11 players who stood out in the AFL title game

November 13th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fall League's 30th season came to a close with the longest championship game in its history. The Surprise Saguaros rallied from five separate deficits and scored two runs in the bottom of the 11th inning to prevail 7-6 over the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Here are 11 prospects who stood out in Saturday's finale, one for each inning.

1. Luisangel Acuña, SS, Rangers
Acuña saved the game twice for the Saguaros in the late innings. In the top of the ninth with the infield in, he made a leaping snag of an Austin Martin (Twins) chopper, a quick transfer and a strong throw to the plate to nail Matt McLain (Reds) and prevent what would have been the winning run. In the bottom of the 10th with Surprise down by a run, he doubled to right field to tie the game.

2. Nick Gonzales, DH, Pirates
Gonzales put on a clinic of opposite-field hitting in his first three at-bats for Surprise, with a pair of singles and a home run into the right-field bullpen. His third-inning blast was the only real mistake made by Glendale starter Ryan Middendorf (Brewers).

3. Colton Gordon, LHP, Astros
Gordon gave the Saguaros a strong 4 1/3-inning start, striking out five (three looking) while permitting one run on two hits and two walks. He did a nice job of mixing low-90s fastballs up in the zone with his breaking pitches and threw 38 of 60 pitches for strikes.

4. Matt McLain, SS, Reds
Cristian Hernandez (Phillies) yielded just one earned run in the AFL regular season but McLain greeted him in the top of the fifth by hammering a hanging slider for a home run. He was shaky on a couple of plays at shortstop, including a wild throw that resulted in a run, but he also singled in the ninth and would have scored the winning run for Glendale if Acuña hadn't cut him down at the plate.

5. Ryan Middendorf, RHP, Brewers
He had pitched solely in relief since the Brewers signed him out of the independent Frontier League in June, but Middendorf acquitted himself well as an opener for the Desert Dogs. The sidearmer recorded six of his seven outs on strikeouts, thanks to a lively low-90s fastball and a tight slider, and pounded the zone with 32 strikes in 45 pitches.

6. Francisco Morales, RHP, Phillies
Morales entered the game in the seventh and immediately blew away McLain with three straight upper-80s sliders, a prelude to striking out the side for Surprise. He notched two more whiffs in the eighth, both on sliders, and topped out at 96 mph with his fastball. He left with the bases loaded and two out, but center fielder Carlos De La Cruz (Phillies) rescued the Saguaros with a running catch of a Noelvi Marte (Reds) liner.

7. Andy Pages, RF, Dodgers
Glendale's Pages smashed a sixth-inning double off the very top of the center-field wall 425 feet from home plate, missing a home run by inches. He also executed a nifty piece of situational hitting with a hit-and-run single in the eighth.

8. Jose Ramos, CF, Dodgers
Ramos was the only Desert Dog to get to Gordon, pouncing on a flat fastball and delivering a long opposite-field homer to right-center in the second inning. But his failure to call off second baseman Edouard Julien (Twins) on a sixth-inning popup by Jayce Easley (Rangers) turned it into a crucial two-run double.

9. Lane Ramsey, RHP, White Sox
The 6-foot-9 Ramsey needed just 22 pitches to work a scoreless eighth and ninth inning for Glendale, notching four strikeouts with mid-80s sliders while also pumping mid-90s fastballs. He sat Gonzales down with three consecutive sliders.

10. Scott Schreiber, 1B, Astros
Schreiber became the third player in the Fall League's 30 years to win a championship with a walk-off hit, joining Mike Hessman (2001) and Braxton Davidson (2018). He capped the two-run rally in the bottom of the 11th with a single into the left-center gap off Tanner Dodson (Dodgers) and reached base four times (two singles, two walks) in six plate appearances.

11. Zavier Warren, 3B/1B, Brewers
Warren went 3-for-5 with two RBI for Glendale, spraying singles to left, center and right field. He could have been the hero after driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th, but Acuña denied him by providing an equalizer in the bottom half.