TAMPA — Alonso’s Jose Fernandez knew right away he had his good stuff Friday night at Plant.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to become discerning critics either.
The big senior righty was too much for Plant. He hit 97 mph on the many scouts’ radar guns and struck out 14 batters, giving up only a run on three hits in a complete-game 8-1 victory. The win gives Fernandez a 9-0 career record against Plant (19-8).
“I knew I was around 96 tonight,” Fernandez said. “I could just feel it, I felt strong. I was trusting all of my pitches tonight, throwing them in all counts.”
While Plant batters were struggling with Fernandez, the Panthers’ pitching staff was having just as big of a problem with No. 7 hitter Ryan Valdes.
The junior centerfielder had a breakout game, going 3-for-4 with two homers and a double.
After seeing Plant pitcher Tanner Anderson a few times this year and having a good chart of pitches, he seemed to know his every move.
“I was looking dead red on the first at-bat and I got a pitch I could handle,” Valdes said. “The coaches did a great job of getting us ready to face him tonight. After that, I just felt like I could see his stuff really well.”
The Ravens (20-5) gave Fernandez all the runs he would need in the third inning when they led off with Valdes’ first homer and plated three more. Up 4-0, Fernandez seemed to pound the strike zone even more and force Plant batters to swing the bats.
“I felt confident but I knew it wasn’t over,” Fernandez said. “I just kept showing them everything I had and was trying to get outs.”