Steven Brault knew the hitters would be tougher in the Carolina League, but he was also aware his defense would be better behind him.
The left-handed Orioles prospect utilized the latter to help him with the former while making his own sparkling first impression in his Class A Advanced debut Thursday. Brault picked up the win after tossing six one-hit innings in Frederick's 5-0 victory at Carolina.
"They put in some great work and I was getting weak contact, so it was a good synthesis between us," he said of his teammates.
Of course, the 2013 11th-round pick also made a major contribution in the win. He threw 48 of his 74 pitches for strikes, inducing eight groundouts and five flyouts against 20 batters. He struck out one and walked one.
"This year's been all about developing a sinker, and so that's what I've been throwing a lot," Brault said. "It's geared toward getting weak contact, and so, less swings and misses, but it's OK. [I was] getting ground balls. ... I got some fly balls to the outfield. Nothing really hit significantly hard."
The only Mudcats to reach base against him were James Roberts, who hit a ground ball through the right side of the infield in the third inning, and Logan Vick, who drew a walk in the sixth.
"I wanted to come up and show that I'm ready for this level, that I'm not afraid and that I can come in and dominate," the 22-year-old said. "That's what I was trying to show."
Brault pitched in 22 games (21 starts) for Class A Delmarva, where he compiled a 9-8 record and a 3.05 ERA with 115 strikeouts and 28 walks over 130 innings. He sported a 1.04 WHIP and .227 average against as a member of the Shorebirds.
Last year, he went 1-2 with a 2.09 ERA across 12 starts for short-season Aberdeen.
He was not expecting to finish this season in Frederick.
"My parents got to come out here and watch, so it was nice having them here," Brault said. "Getting the callup, getting the promotion, it's just unbelievable, it's a great feeling. Being able to do well in the first start up here, it feels great. It does."
Brault's parents drove from Lexington, Kentucky -- where the Shorebirds were playing the Legends -- to Zebulon, North Carolina, to see their son in his debut.
"They come out for a little while every year," the southpaw said. "I'm from San Diego, so they come out for a few weeks and follow us around."
And what were their reactions to his performance?
"Normal," Brault said. "Mom loving everything, Dad questioning the one pitch I gave up the hit on."
Frederick got on the board via a solo homer by Branden Webb in the second inning and a run-scoring groundout by Lucas Herbst in the third. The Keys added three runs in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Jason Esposito and bases-loaded walks drawn by Wynston Sawyer and Joel Hutter.
Reliever Lex Rutledge pitched the final three innings, allowing one hit -- a single to Alex Monsalve in the seventh -- while walking two and fanning one.
Carolina starter Adam Plutko (3-9) was charged with two runs on six hits and a walk over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out four.