While four-strikeout innings are impressive, five-strikeout frames are nearly unheard of. But that’s exactly what reliever Malcolm Van Buren recorded in the seventh inning of Rookie Advanced Burlington’s 7-6 win over Elizabethton on Wednesday night at Burlington Athletic Stadium.
The right-hander began the inning simply enough, when Seth Gray swung and missed on a 3-2 pitch. Parker Phillips whiffed at a 1-2 pitch in the dirt for what should’ve been the second out, but he reached on a throwing error by catcher Jesus Atencio. Twins No. 15 prospect Matt Wallner fanned on a 3-2 foul tip that Atencio held on to for Van Buren’s third strikeout of the frame.
Trevor Jensen swung at the sixth offering from the 21-year-old for strike three, but the pitch got away from Atencio. Jensen reached first and Phillips advanced to second, so the inning continued, despite Van Buren’s fourth strikeout. After Anthony Prato walked to load the bases, the South Carolina native struck out Will Holland on three pitches to complete one of baseball’s rarest feats.
The last five-strikeout inning by one pitcher was thrown by Andrew Kittredge of now-defunct Class A Advanced High Desert, also in the seventh on July 1, 2014 against Rancho Cucamonga. Coincidentally, he started Wednesday’s game for the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. James Reeves and Andrew Schwaab combined on the feat for Class A Charleston in the 10th inning against Augusta on April 21, 2016.
Van Buren, a 2016 31st-round Draft pick, worked four scoreless innings and allowed two hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. The 6-foot-4 hurler lowered his ERA to 6.31 in nine games, including five starts, between the Appalachian League and Rookie Advanced Idaho Falls.
Burle Dixon lined an RBI single to right field with one out in the eighth that snapped a 6-6 tie. He and leadoff man Maikel Garcia had three hits apiece for the Royals, who overcame an early six-run deficit.
Shlomo Sprung is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @sprungonsportsThis story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.