When Taylor Hill took to the bullpen for his pregame throwing session on Saturday, he knew something was off from the outset.
"My bullpen wasn't really that great because everything I was throwing was up," he said. "I knew I needed to get my stuff down, and [catcher Adrian Nieto] was doing a great job of helping me try to do that."
Once they worked that out, the pair came together on a gem.
Hill pitched a one-hitter and struck out seven for his second career shutout as Class A Advanced Potomac beat Frederick, 6-0, in the first game of a doubleheader.
Despite the 24-year-old right-hander's pregame struggles, he fanned Glynn Davis swinging for the game's first out and went on to retire the first 14 Keys, proving it didn't take him long to overcome his slight control issues.
"I would say it was really the first inning that everything was going well," Hill said. "All I wanted to do was get ahead of that first batter and then I had the first couple down, so you could feel the momentum starting to really get going. I was fortunate to fix that stuff."
Hill's bid for a perfect game ended in the fifth when Connor Narron found a hole through the right side of the infield for a two-out single. It turned out to be the Keys' only hit of the afternoon. Although it kept him from making Carolina League history, the Vanderbilt University product said he wasn't disappointed.
"Yeah, I did know what was going on," Hill said. "But I wasn't really thinking about it at all, to be honest. I got behind the guy, 3-1, and all I was thinking was that I wasn't going to walk him. I'd rather give up a hit, actually, than walk a guy. So I challenged him and he got the hit."
After Narron's single, Hill retired the next seven batters to wrap up the complete game. The last out came when second baseman Adrian Sanchez snagged a difficult grounder off the bat of Zane Chavez and bounced his throw to first.
Hill needed only 80 pitches to complete the feat, throwing 59 for strikes. It marked the third time he's gone seven innings and the first since June 22, 2012 for Class A Hagerstown. He was credited with a rain-shortened five-inning shutout last Sept. 3 for the P-Nats.
Following his latest gem, Hill is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA and 16 strikeouts in four games (three starts). He leads the Carolina League with 19 innings pitched, ranks second with a 0.79 WHIP and fifth in ERA.
As successful as he's been this season, Saturday likely was the best start of his professional career.
"It's kind of hard to say no to that," the 2011 sixth-round Draft pick said. "I was fortunate to get some good outs and I had some great guys behind me. ... One thing I like about our team and this organization is that no matter if you're down 10-1 or something, there are guys diving in the hole all over the place to make a play. It's something they really harp on us, and you can see it pay off, especially on nights like tonight."
P-Nats third baseman Justin Miller went 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored.
Frederick took the nightcap, 8-2, thanks to two-RBI efforts from Davis, Sammie Starr and Jason Esposito.