CLINTON -- Oliver Zapata and Byron Buxton. Should either hitter accomplish nothing more this season for Kane County or Cedar Rapids, at least they'll carry one distinction:
They are the only hitters to draw walks from Clinton's Dylan Unsworth in the first half of the Low-A minor league baseball season.
If you oppose the LumberKings' right-handed starter, you're going to earn your way to first. You're 90 feet removed from four wins and one loss (Wednesday night against Peoria); 53 consecutive innings without a walk; 11 runs allowed and an ERA of 1.90 over the past eight weeks; a head-spinning 22:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
You're staring down a 20-year-old ace amid an explosion.
With a 6-inch, sandy-blonde mullet, the 6-foot-1 Unsworth models himself after the best in the big leagues — Jered Weaver and Tim Lincecum. His goal is to take their styles a step further, and even his idols can respect the kind of stats Unsworth has amassed in the first half of the season.
Buxton was the last batter Unsworth walked, two months ago on April 14. That memory is lost in Unsworth, who said he doesn't like to think about his current tear — only the next batter up.
"I'm just working my way up and trying to be the best I can every day," he said. "I'm moving up the ranks slowly, but it's getting there."
The LumberKings feed into the Seattle Mariners organization, a franchise hailed nationally in baseball for its current farm system. An April 22 Sports Illustrated article labeled Seattle "The Next Nats" — a reference to the burgeoning, long-maligned Washington Nationals who broke out to make the 2012 postseason with mostly homegrown talent. The article mentioned former Clinton standout Nick Franklin (now starting for Seattle at second base), but delved only as low as the Double-A ranks.