Royals

Royals’ draft pick Jackson Kowar helps Lexington draw even in league title series

MJ Melendez rounds the bases after his solo homer.
MJ Melendez rounds the bases after his solo homer.

If this is the end of right-hander Jackson Kowar’s first professional season, it was a heck of a start to his career in the Royals’ organization.

Kowar tossed five scoreless innings Tuesday night as Class A Lexington beat the Lakewood Blue Claws 5-2 in Game 2 of the South Atlantic League championship series. The Legends tied the best-of-five series 1-1 after blowing a five-run lead in the ninth inning of the opener and losing 6-5 in 11 innings.

“Man, it feels amazing. Yesterday just didn’t go our way after getting an early lead, so getting back even today feels really good,” designated hitter MJ Melendez told MiLB.com. “We’ve been working so hard the whole entire year to be here, and it’s just a big relief off our shoulders to get this one. We came out ready to play.”

Kowar allowed just one single in the first three innings as the Legends jumped ahead 2-0 in Lexington. Overall, he gave up two hits and a walk while striking out five in his outing.

In two playoff starts, Kowar allowed one earned run in 10 innings with 10 strikeouts and one walk. Kowar, who was taken with the 33rd overall pick in this year’s draft out of Florida, struck out 28 in his last 27 innings over his last seven appearances, including the postseason. In the regular season, he had a 3.42 ERA.

Melendez got the Legends off to a fast start Tuesday night with an opposite-field solo homer in the first inning.

Left fielder Brewer Hicklen’s RBI ground out scored center fielder Kyle Isbel in the third inning, making it 2-0. In the seventh, right fielder Cal Jones singled and he scored two outs later on consecutive hits by Isbel and Melendez. A wild pitch brought home Isbel, and first baseman Nick Pratto’s single scored Melendez, increasing the lead to 5-0.

Relief pitcher Marcelo Martinez struck out four in two innings of relief for the Legends.

Hicklen also made ESPN’s “SportsCenter” with a diving catch in the game.

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