On a warm, wet night at Roger Dean Stadium on Monday, Marlins left-hander Justin Nicolino first had to fight Mother Nature, then the opposition.
Both times, Miami's No. 3 prospect came out on top.
Battling through intermittent rain and against one of the most potent lineups in the Florida State League, Nicolino scattered three hits over 5 1/3 innings in the Class A Advanced Jupiter Hammerheads' 5-0 win over the visiting Charlotte Stone Crabs.
He issued two walks while striking out a season-high seven batters.
"I didn't know how my night was going to be. I started throwing, then I had to shut it down," Nicolino said. "I got out to 200 feet long tossing and then the grounds crew came out. It stopped raining for 20 minutes so I went and spoke with my family. I went back in the bullpen to get ready for the first pitch and it started raining again.
"It ran through my head ... that I might throw a bullpen tonight and then have the first game on Wednesday."
When the game did get underway, Nicolino was apparently ready for whatever the Stone Crabs threw at him. Charlotte ranks third in the Florida State League in batting average (.265) and stolen bases (88) and fourth in homers (50).
He carried a one-hitter into the sixth inning, having allowed just an infield single to Kes Carter, the second batter of the game.
The 21-year-old left-hander walked two batters in the fourth, and that was the only time the Stone Crabs had a runner in scoring position against Nicolino until the sixth when Ryan Brett and Carter recorded consecutive singles to lead off the inning.
"I was pretty happy from the get-go. Early on, I established the fastball away and that has helped me a lot," said Nicolino, who simulated throwing pitches without a ball -- known as "dry work" -- to stay loose.
"Then I mixed it up with the change-up and curveball, I even came in hard a lot. In the bullpen, it was wishy-washy, but once I got out there and got in the groove, it all felt right."
The outing helped Nicolino improve to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.23.
Ranked 63rd on MLB.com's Top 100 list, the Orlando native is 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA in his past 10 starts.
"I would say this is probably the best I have felt in my career," said Nicolino, originally selected by the Blue Jays in the second round of the 2010 Draft, but acquired by the Marlins in the deal that sent Jose Reyes to Toronto in November.
"I'm putting in the work between starts, and my pitching coach Joe Coleman is making everything seem so simple. He puts things in the easiest way and doesn't make things complicated. The biggest thing is being able to go to him and talk with him. Him being upfront and blunt is a big thing."
Greg Nappo retired both batters he faced in relief of Nicolino and Nick Wittgren worked around a hit in the seventh to seal the shutout.
Charlotte's Felipe Rivero (5-5) allowed five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits and a walk while striking out two batters over four innings in the loss.