A little over a year ago, Preston Gainey was faced with a serious life decision. How are things going for him since?
"It's been a blessing," he said.
The Brewers' 2012 11th-round Draft pick chose a career in professional baseball over continuing his education at the United States Naval Academy last summer. He did it hoping for nights like Wednesday, when he tossed a career-best seven innings and held Clinton to one hit in Class A Wisconsin's 9-1 victory.
Gainey (4-5) struck out one and walked three in the scoreless effort, using a well-spotted fastball to induce 10 groundouts while trusting his defense to do the job behind him.
It was his first scoreless effort since tossing two innings out of the bullpen for Rookie-level on July 7, 2012. Wednesday's effort reduced his ERA to 6.28 in 18 appearances, including 10 starts, this season. He's struck out 43 batters, walked 37 and given up seven homers over 67 1/3 innings.
The 22-year-old right-hander said the big difference Wednesday was better focus from the rubber.
"I've been focusing a lot on my mental approach to pitching, just kind of relaxing," he said. "A lot of times, I catch myself trying to do too much. I overpitch, almost, and try to be too perfect. Tonight, I was relaxed and throwing the ball over the plate."
Gainey's tense tendencies aren't shocking, considering his history. While the grind of traveling and playing ball every day can wear on some new professionals, he's found the Minor League pace easy to adapt to after two years at Annapolis.
The Florida native was excellent as a Midshipman, earning a spot on the All-Patriot League Tournament Team as a freshman in 2011 before being named second-team all-conference as a sophomore. He went 3-3 with a 3.25 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 55 1/3 innings in 2012, attracting Milwaukee's attention.
When the Brewers drafted Gainey, he faced a stark choice. If he signed to play pro ball, there was no going back to the Naval Academy. Gainey's family has a history of military service, and while the chance to serve in the Navy was one of his goals, the chance to chase Major League dreams was too strong.
About 13 months after making the decision, the right-hander has no regrets.
"Absolutely," he said when asked if it was the right choice. "I kind of went back and forth on the decision of whether to leave. I prayed about it a lot.
"It really has been a blast. ... [The Naval Academy] was a tough lifestyle; this is just fun, playing baseball. It's awesome. It's a blessing and a fun ride. I've learned a lot along the way and I look forward to the rest of my career."
Among the hitters Gainey shut down Wednesday was 12th overall pick D.J. Peterson, who was making his Midwest League debut. The Mariners prospect went 0-for-4 with one strikeout.
For Wisconsin, shortstop Orlando Arcia was 2-for-4 with a triple, a stolen base, an RBI and two runs scored and made a nifty, leaping grab to rob Gabriel Guerrero of a base hit in the second inning.