Sparkling start

Indians prospect near perfect in MV debut

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Charles Marsh Mahoning Valley’s Michael Cooper, bottom, slides safely into first base while Batavia’s Evan Edwards catches a throw on Monday during the Scrappers 3-1 victory.

NILES — The sixth overall prospect in the Cleveland Indians pipeline, Ethan Hankins, shined in his debut on the mound for the Scrappers.

The hard-throwing right-hander was nearly perfect, shutting down Batavia and helping Mahoning Valley to a 3-1 victory Monday at Eastwood Field.

“I went out there with a clear mind and just tried to dominate with my fastball, establish it early in the counts and early in the game,” Hankins said. “I knew I was going out there, and I had a four-inning limit, so I wanted to establish my fastball early in the game and make adjustments where there needed to be.”

Hankins didn’t allow a hit in his four innings and threw four strikeouts. His approach was to keep it simple, and it worked well for him.

“I didn’t throw that many awesome pitches,” Hankins said. “There were a few change-ups, a few curve balls, but they were very selective. I felt like when I threw them I was reading the batters whether they were on my fastball or they were late. I just made adjustments throughout the game.”

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Charles Marsh Ethan Hankins fires a pitch during the Scrappers’ 3-1 victory over the Muckdogs. Hankins didn’t allow a hit in four innings.

The Scrappers’ Eric Rodriguez knocked the first runner home in the second inning, scoring Michael Cooper on a fly ball to left field.

That was the only run scored until the top of the eighth.

The pitching and defense dueled back and forth the entire game. Hankins was done for the day after the fourth inning due to a team-imposed inning count.

Even though he was doing so well, Hankins wasn’t frustrated that his day was over. He trusts his teammates and the organization and is excited to see how this year progresses for him.

“We had Cam Hill coming in and then Brian (Eichhorn) came in and there was one little mishap, but I had confidence in them to keep the shutout going,” Hankins said. “It’s definitely going to be an exciting year to watch this pitching staff. It wasn’t hard (to leave the game). I had faith in them. Obviously you want to pitch more, but you have to have faith in the Indians. They know what they’re doing with pitch counts and stuff like that.”

The game was a pitching battle to the very end, and Batavia tied the game up in the top of the eighth inning. The Scrappers broke that tie in the bottom of the eighth.

After two consecutive batters were walked to load the bases, Felix Fernandez stepped up to the plate and hit a single. With the help of some fielding issues, Jonathan Rodriguez and Michael Cooper scored.

Hankins, a Georgia native, was greeted after the game by some of his family, who made the trek to see his debut.

“I had my aunt, uncle, my nana and two cousins here,” Hankins said. “They were visiting some family in Kentucky, and it’s about four hours from here, so they decided to come up last minute and surprise me.”

The Scrappers (3-1) head back down to West Virginia for a three-game series against the Black Bears. They return home Friday to take on the Auburn Doubledays in a weekend slate. First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.