Nick Maronde pitched the best game of his young career on Friday night. When all was said and done, however, he was still without his first win of the season.
The Angels' No. 7 prospect struck out a career-high 12 over seven shutout innings, recording his third consecutive quality start. But it wasn't enough for Class A Advanced Inland Empire as the 66ers fell to the High Desert Mavericks, 5-3.
Maronde (0-1) allowed three hits and two walks while going seven innings for the third straight start. His previous high for strikeouts was eight, set over four innings for Rookie-level Orem last Aug. 17.
"I was just throwing strikes with all three of my pitches," Maronde said. "I think that kept the hitters off-balance. I was able to put them away with fastballs and sliders."
The 22-year-old left-hander allowed two baserunners in an inning only twice. Brad Miller drew a one-out walk in the first and Steven Proscia followed with a two-out single, but Maronde worked out of trouble by getting John Hicks to ground out.
In the fifth, Maronde issued a two-out walk to Patrick Brady and an infield single to Mike McGee before fanning Miller.
"I don't really change a whole lot [with men on]," he said. "I just try to throw strikes and don't want to give in to the hitter; make them hit my pitch. I'm pretty confident in the defense, I know they're going to make plays behind me. I try to get a double-play ball or fly ball, so that they can't advance."
After failing to fan any of the first seven batters he faced, Maronde recorded 12 of his next 16 outs via the strikeout. Twice, he retired seven batters in a row -- one starting in the first and the other ending when he exited.
Drafted in the third round last June, Maronde went 5-0 with a 2.14 ERA and 50 strikeouts over 46 1/3 innings in the Pioneer League. This season, the University of Florida product has a 3.10 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 29 frames.
"I just came in with the same mind-set as in college -- attack hitters, throw strikes," Maronde said. "As long as I keep doing that, I think I'll be successful. The main focus for me is to throw strikes and get ahead."
After Maronde came out, the Mavericks exploded for a five-run eighth. Stefen Romero led the way with a three-run double, while Proscia and Hicks had the other RBIs.
Relievers Bryant George and Tyler Kehrer (1-2) combined to allow five runs on five hits, all without recording an out.
"[Maronde] was just keeping us off-balance all night, getting ahead in the count," Romero told the Inland Empire radio broadcast. "He got ahead of us probably nine out of 10 times. Once he came out, we changed our approach."
Carson Smith (1-0) fanned one in a perfect seventh for the win. Jonathan Arias pitched the final two frames, allowing a run on two hits en route to his third save of the season.