Robert Stephenson, Joe Ross duel in the minors

East Bay natives  Robert Stephenson and Joe Ross were reunited on Saturday in Fort Wayne, Indiana where the two former first-round draft picks staged a brilliant pitching duel.

For seven innings, Ross, a Bishop O’Dowd graduate, and Stephenson, a former Alhambra star, matched zeros for their respective single-A squads.

Stephenson, the Cincinnati Reds’ first-round pick in 2011, continued his recent stretch of dominance, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out eight in his seven shutout innings.

Ross, who went to the San Diego Padres two picks before Stephenson was drafted to the Reds, was just as good. He allowed just one hit and walked nobody, striking out five.

Ross’ Fort Wayne TinCaps eventually beat Stephenson’s Dayton Dragons in 12 innings.

Ross told Fort Wayne’s Journal Gazette that facing his former travel ball teammate was on his mind during the start.

“I didn’t really realize until yesterday, maybe a day before, that he was going to be pitching, also,” Ross told the Journal Gazette‘s Steve Warden. “It was kind of in the back of my head going into today, and that kind of gave me that extra push to try and show what I have. You’d hate to have him go seven shutout innings and then I have an OK outing and feel like crap afterwards.”

The start helped Ross lower his ERA to 3.02. It was the right-hander’s longest outing of the season and the second time in his last 10 starts that he hasn’t allowed a run. His record stands at 3-2.

Stephenson, also a right-hander, may not have much time left in Dayton thanks to his recent strong of success. In his last six starts, Stephenson has allowed a total of four earned runs with three of them coming in one outing.  Over his last six starts, he’s 4-0 with a 0.93 ERA. Overall this season, Stephenson is 5-2 with a 2.97 ERA.

Here’s a little more from the Cincinnati Enquirer on Stephenson’s progress since the 2011 draft. According to the article, he’s hitting 101 mph on the gun.

Stephanie Hammon