BUIES CREEK, N.C.—Zack Collins began the 2017 season in the same fashion he ended 2016–raking.
Collins went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk and two runs scored in the season opener for high Class A Winston-Salem on Thursday night, as the White Sox affiliate fell 5-3 to Buies Creek (Astros) at Campbell University.
Collins, the White Sox No. 4 prospect, opened with a single up the middle in the first inning. He drew a walk in the fourth and launched an opposite field double that one-hopped the wall in left-center in the sixth, eventually coming around to score the Dash’s first run.
Collins drilled another long double, a one-hopper to the wall in center, to lead off the eighth.
“You put the ball in play you got a good chance of getting a hit,” Collins said. “There’s a lot of gaps out there. Honestly it was just swinging hard and staying through the ball and swinging at good pitches.”
Collins made history as well. Buies Creek was playing its first game in franchise history after becoming an expansion franchise to replace Bakersfield in the California League, which contracted at the end of last season. As such, Collins’ first-pitch single up the middle off righthander Akeem Bostick in top of the first was the first hit in the history of affiliated professional baseball in Buies Creek.
“It was fun. Definitely wanted to get things going,” Collins said. “We had a lot of practices these last couple months and wanted to get it going in a game.”
Overall it was another performance in kind for Collins. The White Sox drafted the catcher 10th overall out of Miami last summer after he hit .363 with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs for the Hurricanes.
He ascended quickly and was in Winston-Salem to finish last season, posting an .885 OPS in 36 games for the Dash to wrap up his first taste of pro ball.
It didn’t take him long to flash his hitting excellence again this season.
“We put the center fielder in the right spot,” Buies Creek manager Omar Lopez said. “but he hits the ball in a spot where nobody can catch it.”
Collins’ efforts weren’t quite enough to lead Winston-Salem to victory. Buies Creek broke a 1-1 tie with a four-run seventh. Christian Correa’s third hit of the night was an RBI single that gave the Astros the lead, Myles Straw followed with a two-run single and Kyle Tucker added an RBI single that gave Buies Creek enough cushion to record the win in its first game in franchise history.
Still, it was Collins who stole the show at the plate, as he so often does.
“I’m very excited,” Collins said. “This is my dream to play professional baseball and I get to do it every day. There’s nothing better.”
NEWS AND NOTES
There were a number of historic firsts on the night in addition to Collins’ first-inning single. Bostick recorded Buies Creek’s first strikeout in franchise history when he got White Sox No. 22 prospect Aaron Schnurbusch swinging through a high inside fastball to end the first. Correa notched the franchise’s first hit when he grounded a double down the left-field line in the third inning. Two batters later, Straw lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to score Pat Porter for the first run.
Tucker, the Astros No. 2 prospect, went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. His double was a shot to the opposite field off the wall in left-center field, just to the left of the 368-foot mark, and he hit a hard line drive through the right side for an RBI single in the seventh.
Bostick pitched five scoreless innings, allowed two hits, walked two and struck out three for Buies Creek. The 21-year-old righthander sat 92-93 mph with his fastball and got multiple swings and misses with his slider.
White Sox lefthander Tanner Banks pitched six innings, gave up five hits and one run, walked none and struck out five. The 2014 18th-rounder out of Utah worked quickly and sat 88-89 mph with his fastball while using a big-breaking curveball as his out pitch.
Astros righthander Riley Ferrell struck out Luis Alexander Basabe, Alex Call and Collins–all White Sox Top 30 prospects–in order in the ninth for the save. The 2015 third-rounder from Texas Christian was making his first appearance since he had surgery to repair an aneurysm in his right shoulder last May. He sat 92-93 mph with his fastball and struck out Collins to end the game.