In his eighth Minor League appearance, Jake Zokan came off as a seasoned pro.
The Mariners' ninth pick from this year's Draft gave up two hits and a walk and hit two batters over seven innings in Class A Short-Season Everett's 6-0 shutout of Hillsboro on Monday.
"It felt really good. I feel like in the beginning I was trying to be too perfect, and I was a little wild," he said. "But I settled in in the later innings and I started to trust in my fastball."
The College of Charleston product made three June relief appearances in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, giving up a run over 4 1/3 innings, before debuting in the Northwest League on July 6. He'd previously only gone as many as five innings in a start for the AquaSox allowing a run on four hits and three walks over that span in his last outing.
Zokan required only 71 pitches to get through seven frames Monday, and he got 13 groundouts and two flyball outs.
"My curveball was off and on -- sometimes it was good, but sometimes I didn't have a good feel for it. My changeup was good too," the 22-year-old southpaw said. "But I was mostly throwing my two-seam fastball, which had a little sink on it, and they were hitting it into the ground. My defense made all the plays, so I couldn't ask for more than that."
The Hops' Brian Billigen singled on the first pitch Zokan threw, but 19 more Hillsboro batters came to the plate before another one got a hit.
"I go out there every time trying to get outs without giving up a hit," Zokan explained. After the first hit, he said to himself, "'Well, that ended quick.' You've got to move on."
He retired the next three hitters in order, but wildness got him into trouble in the second inning. He plunked Jordan Parr to start the frame and issued a one-out walk to Elvin Soto. But going to his two-seamer, he induced a dribbler off the bat of Ryan Gebhardt.
"It was a grounder to second base and they were able to turn two pretty easily," Zokan said. "It was definitely good for that second inning."
After a 1-2-3 third, he committed his last act of wildness, hitting George Roberts at the start of the fourth. But then he got Cesar Carrasco to bounce into another double play and struck out Parr. He was perfect from Roberts' at-bat through the sixth.
"I definitely noticed I hadn't given up a hit in a while," he admitted. "I was looking up at the scoreboard after every inning."
Facing Roberts at the start of the seventh, Zokan made a location mistake. Roberts lined a single into right, the fifth and final baserunner Zokan allowed in the outing.
"It was a pitch I wanted to throw, a curveball. I just hung it a little bit and I think the guy was sitting on it," he said. "But it was the pitch I shook to get to. I was starting to get a better feel for it, have more control with the curve. I just missed the spot that time."
Zokan got the next three hitters to ground out and was told he was done for the night when he got back to the dugout.
"Actually, my start before I think I was around 90 [pitches]. I was as efficient as I've ever been, pitch-wise compared to innings pitched," he said. "But after seven [innings], they said that was it. I felt good. I felt like I could have gone the next two and finished it off.
"I wasn't ready to come out. But if they want me to come out, well, I follow orders."
Zokan had no problem trusting in the AquaSox bullpen to finish his gem. After Monday's shutout, Everett has worked 19 consecutive scoreless innings. Nate Koneski pitched a perfect eighth, and Cameron Copping set the side down in order in the ninth.
"I think we're just relaxing out there, trusting in our pitches and trying not to do too much like I was early in the game tonight," Zokan said. "Everybody is confident in his pitches. Hitting is a hard thing to do, so we don't want to make it too complicated for us [as pitchers]. We're just kind of letting hitters get themselves out."
Austin Wilson, a second-rounder this year, doubled twice and plated three runs while Chantz Mack was 3-for-4 with a double and a couple of runs scored for the AquaSox.