Best Players of the 2022 AFL Championship Game
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Arizona’s 30th Fall League season ended with the longest league game in league history. The surprise saguaros recovered from five separate deficits and scored two runs late in the 11th inning to win 7-6 over the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Here are 11 prospects who stood out in Saturday’s final, one for each set.
1. Luisangel Acuña, SS, Rangers
Acuña saved the game twice for the Saguaros late in the set. In the top of the ninth with the infield, he made a leaping snag from an Austin Martin (Twins) chopper, a quick pass and a strong pitch to the plate to nail Matt McLain (Reds) and prevent what would have been the win. Course. In the bottom of the 10th with Surprise by a run, he doubled to right field to tie the game.
2. Nick Gonzales, DH, Pirates
Gonzales put together a backhand clinic on his first three at bats for Surprise, with a pair of singles and a home run to the right-field bullpen. His outburst in the third set was the only real mistake made by Glendale starter Ryan Middendorf (Brewers).
3. Colton Gordon, LHP, Astros
Gordon gave the Saguaros a strong start in 4 1/3 innings, striking out five (three hits) while allowing one run on two hits and two walks. He did a good job mixing 90s fastballs into the zone with his breaking pitches and threw 38 of 60 pitches for strikes.
4. Matt McLain, SS, Reds
Cristian Hernandez (Phillies) allowed just one earned run in the AFL regular season, but McLain welcomed him in the top of the fifth by hammering a suspended slider for a home run. He was faltering on a few plays at shortstop, including a wild pitch that resulted in a run, but he also singled in the ninth and would have scored the game-winning run for Glendale if Acuña hadn’t. not shot to the marble.
5. Ryan Middendorf, RHP, Brewers
He had thrown only in relief since the Brewers pulled him from 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 bustling ’90s fastball and tight slider, and beat the zone with 32 strikes on 45 pitches.
6. Francisco Morales, RHP, Phillies
Morales entered the game in the seventh and immediately blew McLain away with three consecutive top 80s sliders, a prelude to the team being dropped for Surprise. He scored two more puffs in the eighth, both on sliders, and hit 96 mph with his fastball. He went with the bases loaded and two outs, but center fielder Carlos De La Cruz (Phillies) saved the Saguaros with a running catch from a Noelvi Marte (Reds) understudy.
7. Andy Pages, RF, Dodgers
The Glendale Pages scored a brace in the sixth inning from atop 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 reach Gordon, bounding on a flat fastball and delivering a long homer from opposite field to right center in the second inning. But his failure to nullify second baseman Edouard Julien (Twins) on a sixth-inning popup from Jayce Easley (Rangers) turned it into a crucial two-run brace.
9. Lane Ramsey, RHP, White Sox
The 6-foot-9 Ramsey needed just 22 pitches to work a scoreless eighth and ninth innings for Glendale, scoring four strikeouts with mid-80s sliders while pumping in midfield fastballs of the 90s. He sat Gonzales with three consecutive sliders.
10. Scott Schreiber, 1B, Astros
Schreiber became the third Fall League 30-year-old to win a championship with a hit, joining Mike Hessman (2001) and Braxton Davidson (2018). He capped the rally by two runs in the bottom of the 11th with a single into the spread to left center from 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 RBIs for Glendale, spraying singles to left, center and right fields. He could have been the hero after driving into the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th, but Acuña denied it by providing an equalizer in the bottom half.