SCOTTSDALE, Ariz — The Peoria Javelinas rode a 2-for-5, four RBI performance from Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player Ronald Acuna to edge the Mesa Solar Sox in the Championship Game, 8-2.
Acuna received the Joe Black MVP Award on field before the game and used Saturday afternoon’s efforts to capture the first Peoria title since 2012. Atlanta’s 19-year-old uber-prospect compiled an impressive campaign over 23 games out West, slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-high seven home runs and 16 runs batted in.
“The best thing that can happen to any player either in the big leagues or minor leagues is to win the championship, and that’s what we were looking for since the beginning and we competed and we won the championship,” Acuna said through a smile postgame.
Acuna is the Braves’ top-ranked prospect — and MLB.com’s fifth — and is evolving into the face of the Braves franchise.
“I always go looking for a fastball, and I was able to hit the ball hard [today] and get a base hit and bring the runs in.”
Peoria was tested early, as Mesa jumped out to a two-run lead in the first inning courtesy of runs batted in-leader Sheldon Neuse’s run-scoring single and a Kody Eaves sac fly. Before Javelina hitters even stepped to the plate, right-handed starter T.J. Zeuch put them in a hole.
“Zeuch is unbelievable. His stuff is unreal. The first inning, there were a couple pitches that he just left over the middle of the plate. He came in the dugout and said ‘Hey, we’re done. We’re gonna get right back at it,’ and that just shows how much of a competitor he is and how confident he is in our stuff,” said Jackson regarding his battery mate.
And so the best offense in the Arizona Fall League certainly picked up their guy.
They scored in three consecutive innings after a scoreless first, with Acuna and Braves teammate Alex Jackson leading the way. Luis Urias hit a sac fly in the second, Acuna tied the game in the third with a single, and Jackson followed suit with a two-run base hit to left field that held up as the game-winner.
Acuna validated his case as the league MVP in the fourth inning when his two-run single gave Peoria a comfortable 6-2 lead. Michael Chavis joined the party in the eighth inning, when he followed Jonathan Davis’s triple with one of his own. Acuna tallied his fourth run batted in of the game moments later, with a sac fly that allowed Chavis to trot home.
It was challenging to see this Fall League Championship playing out in any other fashion. Peoria boasted the best offense all fall and continued the trend in the finale.
The 2017 Peoria Javelinas, led by skipper Luis Salazar, cruised to the title in front of a crowd of 3,255 in Scottsdale as another Fall League season passes by, giving fans a glimpse of baseball’s next wave of young talent.