There's nothing Nick Pivetta likes better than going home with a win.
The Nationals prospect has gotten to enjoy the thrill of victory a lot this season -- more than any other pitcher in the South Atlantic League, as a matter of fact. After Class A Hagerstown wrapped up a 5-0 shutout at Lexington on Friday, he became the circuit's first 11-game winner.
"I like to throw up 'W's'," Pivetta said. "It's always been my favorite thing."
The 2013 fourth-round pick allowed three hits across six innings. He tied a season high with seven strikeouts and did not walk a batter for the fourth time this year. Friday also marked his fourth scoreless outing of the season.
"I felt really good," said Pivetta, who threw six hitless innings against Greensboro on June 20. "I've been working on some stuff with our pitching coach, Sam Narron, and it all just kind of came together tonight. It was lots of fun."
Through 16 games, including 15 starts, the British Columbia native has assembled an 11-5 record and 3.90 ERA. Over 85 1/3 innings, he owns a 66-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 1.30 WHIP and .259 opponents' average.
Those numbers took a hit in his previous start as Kannapolis roughed him up for eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings on July 6.
So, what was the difference between that appearance and this one?
"Honestly, just keeping the ball down and having a good mix of my pitches and throwing a lot of strikes," Pivetta said. "As soon as you get the ball up in this league, guys will hit the ball, no matter what. They're good hitters in this league. Tonight, I didn't give them a chance, I hit all my spots. And everything was going really, really well. I was nice and relaxed up there. I was just having fun."
Against Lexington, the 21-year-old right-hander yielded a one-out double to Kenny Diekroeger in the first inning before retiring 14 Legends in a row. Dexter Kjerstad and Fred Ford singled to start the sixth, but Pivetta preserved the shutout by getting Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado to fly out to right, fanning Diekroeger and inducing a groundout from Frank Schwindel.
"I really beared down after that and got out of the inning," said Pivetta, who insisted fatigue did not factor in the way he began the sixth. "It was good."
The New Mexico Junior College product induced seven groundouts and three flyouts.
Justin Thomas worked the final three frames for his third save. He surrendered three hits while fanning five.
Lexington starter Cody Reed fell to 2-7 after giving up five runs -- three earned -- on nine hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
Wilmer Difo, Carlos Lopez, Brennan Middleton and Narciso Mesa each drove in a run for the Suns. David Masters went 3-for-4 with a double and Middleton chipped in two hits and an RBI.