SEE ALSO: 2017 Draft Coverage
SEE ALSO: Top 100 Draft Prospects
WINTERVILLE, N.C.—Whiteville (N.C.) High lefthander MacKenzie Gore is shooting up 2017 draft boards, and he is arguably the top prep lefty of the class.
And while Gore didn't have his best stuff on Monday night against New Bern (N.C.) High—in front of a group of around 30 scouts and front office officials—he still managed to strike out nine batters over six shutout innings, while allowing just two hits.
Gore—the No. 13 prospect on our Top 100 Draft Prospects list—came out of the gate with a 90-91 mph fastball in the first inning, and showed an upper 70s/lower 80s slider to go along with his hammer curve. The East Carolina commit struggled to find his landing on South Central High School's mound throughout the outing.
"I felt all right," Gore said after the game, a 3-2 New Bern win on a walk-off double. "I didn't have my best stuff, obviously. Some trouble with the mound. Went out here, competed, put zeroes up . . . (Have to) keep getting better and learn how to win these games."
Gore said he was thrown off by the mound's landing area, and his plant foot regularly pivoted around in the dirt after landing rather than remaining strong and steady. His fastball command was inconsistent although his control remained solid—he walked just one batter—and he made the in-game adjustment after missing up with his fastball in the fourth inning by keeping the pitch down in his final two frames.
He looked the most sharp in the middle of his outing, striking out a pair of hitters to end the second inning, and then four consecutive hitters after allowing a leadoff double in the third. His most impressive sequence came after he allowed the third-inning double, and entered the stretch for the first time.
Gore attacked up and in with a 92 mph fastball that was fouled off. He followed with a sharp, 77 mph curve that dove into the dirt but drew a check swing. His third pitch of the at-bat was the fastest that Baseball America's gun had all night, a 93 mph fastball up that was fouled away. Gore then perfectly spotted a 91 mph fastball to get a looking strikeout.
Gore set up the next two batters in similar fashion, starting with inside fastballs and showing the ability to command to his glove and arm side during the inning. He kept his fastball low in the strike zone, where batters did little damage, and generated several swings and misses.
Asked about the inning after the game, Gore was unfazed.
"They were strikes, but I wasn't spotting them up like I wanted them to be," he said. " . . . (My curveball wasn't) bad. I got around it more than I usually do tonight . . . everything just wasn't really good tonight."
Even on an off night for Gore, New Bern didn't touch home plate until the seventh inning after he was removed from the game with his pitch count in the upper 90s.
After Whiteville put up its first two runs of the game in the top of the seventh, New Bern responded in the bottom of the frame, with back-to-back singles and a sacrifice bunt that was thrown away and cut Whiteville's lead, 2-1. A ground out to shortstop evened the game at 2 before the Bears walked off with a double to right center.