After making the all-star team in low-Class A in the first half of the season, Frederick Keys left-hander Jake Pettit is pitching even more like an ace since his promotion to high-Class A.
Pettit, the Baltimore Orioles’ 42nd-round pick last year out of Division II Western Oregon, won Games 1 and 5 in a Carolina League division series. His team lost last night’s opener of the Mills Cup championship series against Kinston, 3-1, but he’s scheduled to start the finale if the Keys and Indians play a fifth game. Game 2 is set for tonight in Frederick.
On July 13, the same day infield prospects Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop returned from Phoenix after playing in the Futures Game, Pettit was promoted from Delmarva to Frederick. He then went 7-0 with a 1.62 ERA in 55 2/3 innings before beating the Potomac Nationals with a pair of six-inning, one-run postseason starts. The first one was a rain-shortened complete game, and the second one was possible because a Game 2 rainout pushed back the rest of the series.
“I feel like I’m progressively going up,” said the 24-year-old Pettit, whose fastball normally tops out at 88-89 miles per hour. “My velocity’s going up. I’m not really an older guy now, but I was at Delmarva. I’m just more mature and confident in all my pitches.”
The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Pettit grew up in Orting, Wash., about 40 miles south of Seattle and next to Mount Rainier National Park. He likes to hunt and fish, and he’s making the most of his chance in professional baseball. Undrafted out of high school, as well as in two years at Green River (Wash.) Community College and after his first season at Western Oregon, he finally received an opportunity last year.
With Bluefield last summer, he was sixth in the Rookie-level Appalachian League with a 2.68 ERA and first with just 0.63 walks per nine innings. He also pitched in one game at short-season Class A Aberdeen. This year, he was 5-4 with a 4.42 ERA in 93 2/3 innings at Delmarva before dominating in the Carolina League, where he had 41 strikeouts and 15 walks in the regular season.
“He’s aggressive. He’s poised. He doesn’t panic,” Frederick Manager Orlando Gomez said. “He uses his fastball well — pitching in to the hitters, and that way he can use his change-up. He has been impressive, the way he goes about his business.”
Pettit, who has a slider to go with his fastball and change, also said he has been helped by Keys catchers Brian Ward and Justin Dalles.
“Catching has been huge for me,” Pettit said. “With Ward and Dalles, I’ve just been on the same page as those guys. I feel like I’m down in the zone better and making pitches when I need to make pitches.”
Gomez has Pettit scheduled to pitch a Game 5 on Saturday night in Kinston, N.C., but he said, “I hope we can finish it before then.” The Keys would have to win three in a row for that to happen. After tonight’s Game 2 at Harry Grove Stadium, the Indians will host the rest of the best-of-five series.
Here’s how the other championship series stand after last night’s games:
International League: Lehigh Valley (Phillies) leads Columbus (Indians), 1-0.
Pacific Coast League: Omaha (Royals) leads Sacramento (A’s), 1-0.
Eastern League: Richmond (Giants) leads New Hampshire (Blue Jays), 1-0.
Southern League: Tennessee (Cubs) visits Mobile (Diamondbacks) for Game 1 tonight.
Texas League: San Antonio (Padres) leads Arkansas (Angels), 1-0.
California League: Stockton (A’s) visits Lake Elsinore (Padres) for Game 1 tomorrow night.
Florida State League: Daytona (Cubs) won the title with a three-game sweep of St. Lucie (Mets) First baseman Justin Bour, who played at Westfield High and George Mason University, went 2 for 5 with an RBI double in the clincher. He went 3 for 4 in Game 1 and hit a three-run homer in Game 2.
Midwest League: Quad Cities (Cardinals) visits Lansing (Blue Jays) for Game 1 tonight.
South Atlantic League: Greensboro (Marlins) and Savannah (Mets) are tied, 1-1.
Short-season Class A
New York-Penn: Staten Island (Yankees) won the title with a two-game sweep of Auburn (Nationals).
Northwest: Vancouver (Blue Jays) beat Tri-City (Rockies) in the finals, two games to one.
Pioneer League: Great Falls (White Sox) leads Ogden (Dodgers), 1-0.
Champions: Appalachian League — Johnson City (Cardinals); Arizona League Dodgers; Gulf Coast League Yankees; Dominican Summer League Angels; Venezuelan Summer League Rays.