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MiLB update: Solid start for Howard, Justus continues to shine

Former Cartersville High School and Georgia Southern University standout Sam Howard completed another solid start Saturday night for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes of the MiLB Pacific Coast League.

He picked up a win over the Iowa Cubs by tossing 5 and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball. Howard scattered three hits and four walks while fanning three. The Isotopes led 5-0 at the time Howard left the game and went on to win 8-1 in front of 11,913 fans at Isotopes Park.

With the Saturday night win, Albuquerque (55-52) moved into a tie for first place with the Salt Lake Bees (Los Angeles Angels affiliate) in the PCL Pacific Southern Division.

The 24 year-old southpaw improved to 4-2 this season with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts for the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. He was 1-4 with a 2.33 ERA in nine starts earlier in the season with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats.

Overall, Howard has started 18 games in 2017 and thrown just over 92 innings. Opponents have a .234 batting average against him and he carries a combined 3.41 ERA and a 5-6 mark.

Howard was a third round selection by the Rockies in the 2014 draft and is considered one of Colorado’s top pitching prospects.

Also Saturday night, Connor Justus singled, walked, and drove in a run with a second inning sacrifice fly to help lead the Advanced Class A Inland Empire 66ers past the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 6-4.

The former Cartersville High School and Georgia Tech 22-year-old shortstop has hit .250 over his last ten games (8-for-32) with nine runs scored, three RBIs, eight walks, and a pair of stolen bases.

His season batting average is now up to .210 through 88 games in his second professional season with an on-base percentage of .335. He has five homers, 25 RBIs, 25 extra base hits, 50 walks, and 10 stolen bases on the year.

Defensively, the Los Angeles Angels’ 2016 fifth round pick carries a .957 fielding percentage in 336 total chances and has been part of 45 double plays.

Inland Empire (20-16, second half) currently trails Rancho Cucamonga by three games in the California League’s South Division second half. The 66ers are 50-56 for the full season.

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