Attendees at the Arizona Fall League’s annual Military Appreciation Game were treated to a bonafide slugfest on Saturday evening, culminating in the Peoria Javelinas’ last-minute 11-10 win over the Surprise Saguaros.
Boasting prospects from the Braves, Red Sox, Padres, Mariners and Blue Jays’ systems, the Javelinas were the first to strike. Braves’ top prospect Ronald Acuna led off the second inning with a home run that came steaming off the bat at 103 MPH, per MLB.com’s William Boor. Luis Urias tacked on a two-RBI single, and Michael Chavis capped Peoria’s four-run spread with a sac fly.
Rangers’ right-hander Tyler Davis finally settled down for the third out, but that brought trouble of a different kind when LaMonte Wade and Oscar Mercado were roughed up in a full-speed collision in right field. Wade was carted off the field in a stretcher and taken to a local hospital, where he was treated for a concussion before later returning to the stadium.
In the third inning, 19-year-old Acuna returned for a two-run shot off of Royals’ lefty Matt Tenuta, marking the first multi-homer performance of his brief pro ball career. It didn’t take long for the Saguaros (comprised of players from the Royals, Twins, Cardinals, Rays and Rangers’ organizations) to start chipping away at the Javelinas’ lead, however. Padres’ hurler Jerry Keel looked shaky off the mound in the fourth inning, promptly serving up an RBI single to Chris Paul before Corbin Clouse walked in a run with four straight balls to Nick Dini.
Nicky Lopez delivered the biggest blow of the inning, striking a grand slam to take the Saguaros’ first lead over the Javelinas, 6-7. They padded that lead with another three-run spread in the fifth, banking on Paul’s two-run triple and a run-scoring passed ball to keep their rivals at arm’s length.
Down 10-6 in the eighth inning, Blue Jays’ outfielder Jonathan Davis caught another break from the Saguaros, taking Jacob Bodner deep with his first home run of the AFL. The Javelinas wouldn’t get another run-scoring hit all night, but they had plenty of help overturning the score after Josh Naylor’s bases-loaded walk, Alex Jackson’s RBI hit by pitch and a go-ahead fielder’s choice to score Urias in the ninth. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that Mariners’ righty Art Warren shut down the Saguaros with two innings of one-hit, five-strikeout ball, either.)
There are still 12 games remaining before the AFL concludes with its Championship Game on Saturday, November 18 at 3:08 PM ET. The Mesa Solar Sox currently head the AFL East division with a 15-10 record, while the Javelinas have the West on lockdown with a 15-11 record.