When a Billings hurler is done for the night, pitching coach Derrin Ebert meets the starter in the dugout after he comes off the mound for the final time. But Sunday was different for Mustangs hurler Tyler Mahle.
Inning after inning, the coach kept his distance. Mahle hadn't reached his pitch limit of 80, so he just kept pitching.
"It was awesome, I didn't talk to him the whole game," the Reds right-handed prospect said.
After 80 pitches, the 19-year-old was done for the night, but so was the game. Mahle hurled a three-hit shutout as Rookie-level Billings blanked Ogden, 12-0.
"I felt great. I came off a rough last outing so I had stuff to work on, not simple things, but just keeping the fastball down. I've been getting hurt with not keeping the fastball down," he said. "Tonight I got lucky with a few guys. Guys were swinging early, I didn't really have to throw too many breaking balls."
The 2013 seventh-round pick yielded a leadoff single to Devin Ahart in the first inning, but after Mahle picked the runner off, he sat down the next 15 Raptors he faced.
Mahle worked efficiently, with his longest inning lasting 13 pitches -- the ninth was also the only frame in which he recorded two strikeouts -- and his quickest one (third) requiring just five pitches. The right-hander did not issue a free pass for the third time this season while striking out six.
"It's a relief. Every game I've pitched in front of the Billings fans, I've had a rough start. So it feels good to pitch well in front of the home fans and a relief to get a really good start under my belt," the right-hander said. "I just want to be consistent because I haven't been consistent this season."
The 6-foot-2 hurler yielded 17 runs over his first five starts and didn't make it past the fifth frame once.
"I just looked at video. At the time I thought those were good pitches and I didn't understand why they were hitting the ball, but then I saw I was leaving the pitches up," Mahle said. "Batters won't be swinging early each start, but hopefully next time, I'll be getting ahead of batters and can mix in my slider or my curveball and hopefully get more strikeouts."
With his longest career outing -- and first complete game since the playoffs his senior year of high school -- the California native lowered his ERA to 5.34 and evened his record to 2-2.
It was the first nine-inning shutout in the Pioneer League since Missoula's Felipe Perez on June 26, 2013. The Osprey hurler also allowed just three hits.
Left fielder Jimmy Pickens led the Mustangs offense by going 4-for-5 with four RBIs and falling a home run shy of the cycle.