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Yankees Prospect Austin Wells Propels Surprise Into AFL Championship Game



SURPRISE, Ariz.—Time and again, Austin Wells has come up big at the plate for Surprise this fall.

With the Saguaros’ season hanging in the balance, the Yankees No. 5 prospect delivered with his biggest hit yet.

Wells hit a titanic two-run home run to start a late rally and push Surprise to a 5-3 win over Glendale in a winner-take-all contest for a spot in the Arizona Fall League championship game. Surprise will face Mesa in the title game Saturday at Salt River Fields.

Wells finished 3-for-3 with two runs scored, including his game-changing two-run shot off of Angels prospect Coleman Crow. The Yankees No. 5 prospect is now batting .344 with a 1.034 OPS in the AFL.

“Everyone comes here to develop, but all of our guys on the team are winners,” Wells said. “We came here to win … Being able to get in the championship game, it means a lot.”

Surprise trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the fourth and had managed just two hits to that point. With the game only scheduled for seven innings, time was short for the Saguaros to get something going.

Royals outfielder Nathan Eaton led off the fourth with a single, but after Yankees outfielder Elijah Dunham popped out, Wells stepped to the plate with Surprise in need of an offensive jolt.

The 22-year-old catcher delivered it, launching a first-pitch changeup deep over the 400-foot marker in right-center field and halfway up the grassy knoll beyond the outfield fence. It was Wells’ second home run of the AFL.

“I had two coaches telling me I was going to get a first-pitch changeup and I did,” Wells said. “I put a good swing on it, it was in the zone, so it was kind of full circle perfect there.”

The massive blast rejuvenated Surprise’s offense and got the comeback started. After Nationals catcher Drew Millas and Rangers infielder Ezequiel Duran led off the sixth with a walk and single, respectively, Nationals infielder Jackson Cluff lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the score. Eaton followed with another sacrifice fly to give Surprise its first lead.

Wells led off the seventh with a single up the middle and came around to score on a two-out RBI single by Millas for an insurance run. Nationals righthander Todd Peterson retired the side in order in the top of the seventh to close it out, punctuating the save with a strikeout of Cardinals first baseman Juan Yepez for the final out.

“We came back a lot during this short 30-game season, so nobody was out, nobody was down,” Wells said. “We were poised and ready to make an attack. We just had to get it going.”

Wells helped Surprise overcome an uncharacteristically poor start from Rangers righthander Owen White. White came out fast with a 93-96 mph fastball,  82-85 mph slider, 77-80 mph curveball and 86-89 mph changeup that all got swings and misses in the first inning. He had little trouble his first time through Glendale’s order, but he started missing his spots and allowing hard contact the second time through the order. Glendale pounced to score three runs in the third after White walked in a run with the bases loaded and allowed a two-run single to Astros prospect Grae Kessinger, but he recovered to escape further damage. Overall White pitched five innings, gave up nine hits and three runs, walked two and struck out six. He improved to 5-0, 1.91 in six starts after Wells and the offense rallied.

“We were here to win,” Wells said. “We came out and White pitched great and the offense picked it up at the end. We got the job done.”

Kessinger went 2-for-3 with two RBIs to lead Glendale. Catcher Korey Lee, the Astros No. 1 prospect, went 2-for-3 with a run scored and threw out a runner at second base with a pristine 1.89-second throw right on the bag.

Triston Casas AFL Billmitchell

Arizona Fall League Prospect Report — November 17, 2021

Triston Casas and Austin Wells headline our Wednesday prospect report.

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