In Eric Hurley's Triple-A pitching debut, his highlight came early and his lowlights came often — the lowlights a result of bad luck more than bad pitches. Hurley pitched the first five innings of the RedHawks' 7-1 loss to Omaha before 7,086 Monday afternoon at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. The Texas Rangers' top prospect struck out the first batter he faced, Mitch Maier, on three pitches. But the next Royal hitter, Richard Lewis, tripled to right-center and scored on a groundout. Hurley threw 97 pitches, 60 for strikes, in his five innings. He allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits, two walks and two hit batsmen. "Any time you give up five runs it's not very good,” Hurley said. "I was rushing a little bit. It definitely wasn't a good outing. I didn't win.” If not for two poor throws to first base, Hurley likely would have allowed only one run. Hurley should have gotten out of the second inning unscathed, but the Royals scored three runs after a "third out” grounder was turned into an infield single by shortstop Joaquin Arias' soft throw to first. Arias, recovering from shoulder problems, played in his first game this season. The grounder was his first chance in the field. In the Omaha fifth, minor league home run leader Craig Brazell led off with a double. He was bunted to third, then continued home on Hurley's low throw to first for an error. The next three batters were retired. "You've still got to pitch. Stuff happens. You've still got to stay in charge of the game and make quality pitches,” Hurley said. "Later on in the year he's going to pick me up and I'll try to go out and put up a zero and pick him up.” Hurley lost to one of the Kansas City Royals' top pitching prospects, Omaha right-hander Billy Buckner, who allowed only one run and four hits in six innings. Buckner had a one-hitter through five innings, but the RedHawks reached him for a run on three singles in the sixth. In Buckner's previous start, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. The 6-foot-4 Hurley, who is only 21, had been having a Texas League All-Star season at Frisco. He was 7-2 with a 3.25 ERA for the RoughRiders. "I've just got to pitch more, throw my fastball more next time out and see how that goes,” Hurley said. "But I wasn't nervous. I like to play too much to get nervous. I was anxious, but not nervous.”
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MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: Oklahoma RedHawks' Eric Hurley delivers a pitch during their game against the Omaha Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman