Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Former number-one pick Mark Appel pitched the game of his life Monday night for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

If you got to see the IronPigs 5-0 win over Pawtucket on Monday night, you got to see the pitcher that Mark Appel was always expected to be. The right-hander shutdown the PawSox offense for 8 1/3 innings.

Being the first overall pick in the 2013 Draft, a lot was expected from Mark Appel.. Unfortunately, he didn't deliver as a member of the Houston Astros organization and he hasn't delivered since being acquired in the Ken Giles trade in December of 2015. Last night though, he showed the kind of pitcher that scouts have always thought that he would be as he threw a career-high 8 1/3 innings in Lehigh Valley's 5-0 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Appel allowed just five hits and three walks, while striking out eight batters. Appel gave up a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth before striking out Sam Travis. Allen Craig then singled to right to put runners on first and third and manager Dusty Wathan had seen enough, pulling Appel in favor of Ricardo Pinto. Pinto came on and got a strikeout of Blake Swihart and got Mike Miller to ground out to end the game and keep Appel's shutout intact.

On the season now, Appel's ERA stands at 5.05 and his record is at 5-3 through 14 starts.

Offensively, the night belonged primarily to Rhys Hoskins, who homered twice for Lehigh Valley to take over the International League lead with 17 home runs on the season. Hoskins homered to leadoff the top of the second and seventh innings for Lehigh Valley, and Cam Perkins homered to leadoff the game and give the IronPigs a quick 1-0 lead. Perkins has now homered six times this season.

In all of minor league baseball, Hoskins is tied for second in home runs, just one behind three hitters who have crushed 18 home runs this season. One of the leaders is Reading's Scott Kingery.

Lehigh Valley got sacrifice RBI from both Angelo Mora and Perkins in the seventh to score their other two runs.

Clearwater 3, Bradenton 1

Franklyn Kilome gave Clearwater five innings, allowing just one run on five hits and two walks as the Threshers won the opener of a three-game series against the Marauders. Ranfi Casimiro threw three shutout innings, striking out six, and Jeff Singer recorded his 13th save with a scoreless ninth inning.

The win keeps the Threshers tied at the top of the North Division with the Tampa Yankees, with just two games remaining in the first half of the Florida State League season. Tampa downed Florida last night to keep pace with the Threshers. The loss eliminated Bradenton from a first half title in the South Division, with the Palm Beach Cardinals clinching the first half crown. If Clearwater and Tampa remain tied at the end of Wednesday's games, Clearwater would be the division winner by virtue of a 5-1 first half record against the Yankees.

Mark Laird, Damek Tomscha and Emmanuel Marrero all had two hits and each drove in a run for the Threshers. Herlis Rodriguez reached base three times with a single and two walks.

Williamsport 9, State College 2

A pair of home runs from Cole Stobbe and Greg Pickett paced a strong offensive performance by the Crosscutters offense on opening night in State College.

Kyle Young gave the Crosscutters a solid start, going five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out six batters in his Crosscutters debut. Greg Pickett and Juan Luis each had a team-high two hits for the Cutters, while Pickett paced the Cutters offense with three RBI. As a club, Williamsport finished the night with nine hits.

Andrew Brown and Luis Ramirez finished the final four innings out of the Crosscutters bullpen. Brown allowed two runs on three hits while striking out four Spikes batters. Ramirez tossed the final two innings, allowing just a base hit.

The Crosscutters improve to 8-2 against the State College Spikes in Opening Day games. 

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