Holding a two-run lead going into the ninth inning Monday, Peoria manager Jim Pankovits turned the game over to closer Dominic Leone. It is a role the right-hander has embraced since the Mariners made him their 16th-round selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
Without drama, Leone got the game's final three outs to preserve Peoria's 5-3 victory against Salt River at Surprise Stadium. The victory snapped the Javelinas four-game losing streak in the Arizona Fall League.
"We dropped a couple in a row, so it was good to see everyone come out swinging the bats well," Leone said. "It's a good start to the week."
For Leone, the ninth inning has become a comfortable place. He split his time at Clemson between starting and relieving, but the Mariners have moved him to the bullpen full-time. It has proven to be a fruitful decision so far.
Leone pitched at three levels this season, beginning at Class A Clinton and working his way up to Double-A Jackson. Along the way, he posted a 64-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64 innings and saved 16 games. Now, in the AFL, he has two saves in four scoreless appearances.
Leone said he enjoys closing.
"It definitely brings some more pressure, but it's fun," Leone said. "You know that team has its back up against the wall when you come in for the ninth, and it's your job to hold up the win. It's a fun aspect of the game and I wouldn't have it any other way."
The Javelinas were able to turn to Leone on Monday thanks to a late rally. They were trailing the Rafters, 3-1, before scoring two runs in the sixth to tie the game and two more in the seventh to take the lead.
First baseman Japhet Amador delivered the game-winning runs with a two-run home run to center field off left-hander Tyler Matzek, the Rockies' No. 14 prospect, in the seventh.
Center fielder Delino DeShields, the Astros' No. 7 prospect, had a game-high three hits. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a run.
DeShields also made a crucial error in the sixth inning, allowing Salt River to take the lead. With a runner on second base and two outs, he wasn't able to come up with a catch that would have ended the inning. The Rafters scored two runs after the error.
Led by starter Jason Adam, Peoria's pitching staff gave up just five hits. Adam, the Royals' No. 18 prospect, allowed one run on two hits in four innings. The right-hander struck out four batters.
Left fielder James Ramsey, the Cardinals' No. 10 prospect, went 1-for-4 with an RBI double, the Rafters' lone extra-base hit.
Ramsey was also the last batter Leone faced Monday as he worked his way through the heart of the Salt River order in the ninth inning. The four batters Leone faced are all ranked among the top 10 prospects in their organization.
Leone said facing lineups like that is just part of the fun of the AFL.
"You look at the names on the rosters and you notice a bunch of guys who are big-name guys and can all play the game well," Leone said. "You know it's going to be a challenge [with] each batter each day. Everyone's a top prospect in their own right."