Washington Nationals' prospect Bryce Harper #34 and the Scottsdale Scorpions took the AFL Championship game over the Peoria Javelinas tonight in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
In a pregame interview aired on the MLB Network before the broadcast this afternoon of the Arizona Fall League Championship game between the Scottsdale Scorpions and the Peoria Javelinas, a slightly nervous 2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper was interviewed about the experience he'd had playing in what is generally regarded as a "finishing school" for the game's top prospects, and the 18-year-old Washington Nationals' outfielder of the future said all the right things:
Bryce Harper: "To be able to play in the championship game today, it's just a great experience. Here and playing against all the great guys that we're playing against, playing with all the great guys and just being able to start in this lineup is just spectacular."
The left-handed hitting power bat admitted that it was tough to get comfortable at the plate in the AFL when he only played twice a week against pitchers throwing mid-90's heat. "I hack a lot. I go up there and I'm hacking, playing two times a week, so if I get three at bats, four at bats a game it's great," Harper said before hacking away and going 1 for 4 with two swinging K's and an opposite field RBI single that put Scottsdale up 2-1 in the second in what ended up a 3-2 Scorpions' win. It was Harper's fellow Nats' prospect Stephen Lombardozzi who was responsible for the winning run for the Scorpions, however, when the 22-year-old '08 19th Round pick out of St. Petersburg College in Florida doubled in the go-ahead run off the Milwaukee Brewers' 26-year-old right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen.
Washington's 2010 2nd Round pick, left-hander Sammy Solis got the start for Scottsdale today, and he stayed on the mound long enough to earn the win. The 22-year-old University of San Diego-educated Solis, who was taken with the first pick the Nats had after selecting Harper in last June's Draft, threw 72 pitches, 43 of them strikes in 4.0 IP over which he allowed just 3 hits and 2 runs, 1 earned. Solis retired the side in order in his first inning of work, getting '09 no.2 overall pick Dustin Ackley looking for the third out, but a leadoff walk and a botched double play that could have ended the inning allowed a run to score in the second. Solis rebounded with a quick 9-pitch 1-2-3 third, but a leadoff single by Ackley and a two-out throwing error let in the unearned run that made it 2-2 in the top of the fourth before Lombardozzi's double put Scottsdale ahead for good.
Lombardozzi ended the game 1 for 4. The Nats' top catching prospect Derek Norris was behind the plate working with Solis to start the game. The 21-year-old '07 4th Round pick out of Goddard, Kansas, finished his AFL experience by going 1 for 3 at the plate, beating out an infield single to lead off the Scottsdale second and scoring the Scorpion's first run. Right-handed reliever Cole Kimball was called upon to close out the win in the top of the ninth inning, and the Nats' 25-year-old '06 12th Round pick retired the Javelinas in order, striking out the first batter and inducing two weak grounders for the save and the AFL Championship, which was celebrated with a so-called "dog pile" on the field that had Nationals fans everywhere holding their breath until they saw Harper emerge unharmed...
Final Score: Scorpions 3, Javelinas 2.