Hagerstown report: Niese, Martinez on display

The first-half All-Stars were on display for the Hagerstown Suns Wednesday at Lexington, as left-hander Jonathon Niese threw a complete game shutout and 17-year-old prospect Fernando Martinez went 3-for-4, including a three-run home run.

The 19-year-old Niese fired his first professional complete game, highlighting what has already been a sterling season for the former high school standout, a seventh round selection from Defiance (Ohio) High School in last year's draft.

Niese struck out nine Lexington batters and walked just two, scattering three hits in the Suns' lopsided 9-0 victory. Niese faced just four batters over the minimum over the course of nine innings, picking up his ninth victory of the year and lowering his ERA to 3.51.

Niese initially struggled to pitch beyond the fifth inning in a number of his starts this season for Hagerstown, but as his change-up and curveball have developed, his starts have gained endurance.

Niese has pitched into the sixth inning or deeper in three of his last four starts including Wednesday's effort, having thrown 6 1/3 innings at Lake County on July 3 and six innings vs. Hickory on July 14.

In 97 1/3 innings, Niese (9-6) has limited opponents to a .249 batting average (93-374). He has allowed 46 runs (38 earned), striking out a team-high 106 while walking 50.

Martinez returned from a six-week stint on the disabled list to smack his third home run, a three-run shot off Lexington starter Sean Walker in the third inning.

A highly-touted international signing last year from the Dominican Republic, Martinez has lived up to billing despite missing time with hand and leg injuries, carrying a .333 (45-135) batting average into Thursday's play.

State of the Suns: Despite Wednesday's uplifting victory, the Suns have been struggling to begin the second half of the South Atlantic League season.

Hagerstown enters play Thursday with a record of 9-17 (.346), which ties them with Delmarva for last place in the eight-club Northern Division. The Suns are 9 ½ games behind division-leading Lakewood (19-8).

Hagerstown leaderboard, offense: Suns first baseman Nick Evans' 15 home runs and 55 RBI lead all Mets minor leaguers … Jonel Pacheco has stolen 14 bases, which ranks him fourth in the system … As a club, Hagerstown is batting .238, which ties them with Binghamton for fourth in the organization … The Suns lead the system in at-bats (3,137), home runs (66) and caught stealings (43).

Hagerstown leaderboard, pitching: Jonathon Niese's nine victories tie him with St. Lucie's Jose Sanchez and Binghamton's Mike Devaney for second in the organization, trailing only Norfolk's Evan MacLaneKevin Tomasiewicz has recorded nine saves for Hagerstown, which ties him with Norfolk's Royce Ring for third-most in the system … Niese's 106 strikeouts have surpassed Mike Pelfrey for the organization lead … As a team, Hagerstown has a 4.30 staff ERA, fifth-best among the seven Mets farm clubs. The Suns have allowed more walks (366) and struck out more batters (698) than any other club in the system.

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