Before Wednesday, Thomas Pannone had never made it out of the seventh inning. He checked that box in a dominant performance for Class A Lake County.
The Indians prospect allowed one hit -- a bunt single -- and struck out three while holding Bowling Green scoreless over a career-high seven innings in the Captains' 6-1 triumph at Classic Park.
After Pannone (4-4) got Jake Cronenworth to ground out to start the game, Michael Russell pushed a bunt down the third base line and beat Sam Haggerty's throw. It turned out to be the only hit the Hot Rods got off the left-hander, who retired the next 18 batters.
"Looking back on the final line of the game and thinking that was the only hit I gave up, I guess that's just the game of baseball and gotta take it for what it is," Pannone said. "The kid laid down a great bunt, it was in a great spot and was a tough play for Sam Haggerty to come in on and barehand it and make a throw."
When Pannone was tapped for the seventh inning, he knew he was getting the chance to do something he'd never done before. The 22-year-old had ventured beyond the sixth just once before, going 6 2/3 innings in a win against West Michigan last June 30.
"It was in the back of my mind that I was out there for the seventh inning and that it was only the second time I've ever done that, but I didn't treat it any different than any other inning," he said. "I just wanted to stay focused on what I was doing the whole game. I was doing a good job of getting ahead of hitters and using my off-speed stuff early in counts. I'm trying to be efficient with my pitches and get as deep into games as I can, and that comes with getting ahead of hitters and getting them out of the box within three to four pitches."
The 2013 ninth-round pick was efficient all night, inducing seven ground-ball outs and throwing 58 of 86 pitches for strikes. He said he relied on his secondary stuff and a successful game plan with his catcher, Indians No. 8 prospect Francisco Mejia, to keep an eager Bowling Green lineup off-balance.
"My changeup helped me a lot tonight," said Pannone, a Rhode Island native. "They were aggressive all night and I got a lot of early contact and ground-ball outs to help me get through the outing with a low pitch count. My curveball was working and I was mixing my pitches well early in the counts. I started a couple of kids off with curveballs down in the zone and my fastball was good on both sides of the plate. Every outing, I'm shooting to be down in the zone, but tonight it was really clicking for me and Mejia could tell that. He knew what I was thinking."
Christian Meister took over for Pannone in the eighth and gave up a run over 1 2/3 innings. Yoiber Marquina got the final out to record his fifth save.
Haggerty went 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs for the Captains, while Nathan Lukes doubled, singled, drove in two runs and scored twice.
Michael Leboff is a contributor to MiLB.com