Since Alec Hansen made the jump to the Class A Advanced Carolina League, he's flirted with a no-hitter and struck out 12 batters in a game -- only to lose. It's been quite a six-week stretch for the 22-year-old, who added to his impressive ledger with another dominating performance on Saturday night.
Hansen recorded 12 strikeouts over six innings for the second straight start as Winston-Salem blanked Potomac, 6-0, at BB&T Ballpark.
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The 6-foot-7, 235-pound right-hander worked around a pair of doubles and two walks to win for the second time in eight starts with the Dash.
He punched out 12 batters against Lynchburg on July 30 but was saddled with the loss after allowing three runs -- one earned. Hansen has a 1.14 ERA and 39 strikeouts over 23 2/3 innings in his last four starts
"Honestly, I feel like I've been pitching pretty well the entire season," the Colorado native said. "But over these last few outings, I've had great command of my fastball and my changeup, which has been the difference-maker. My fastball is my primary pitch, followed by my change, especially lately. My breaking balls had been shaky earlier in the season, but I've been able to throw some really good ones the last two outings, which has obviously helped."
Video: Winston-Salem's Hansen collects 12th strikeout
Hansen (2-4) got off to a fast start, striking out the side in the first inning and fanning five of the first eight batters he faced. The No. 9 White Sox prospect allowed a one-out double to Ian Sagdal and walked David Masters in the second but escaped unscathed. Given a 4-0 lead heading to the third, he got in a little trouble by issuing a leadoff walk to Matthew Page. A wild pitch moved the runner to second, but Hansen retired the next three to keep the Nationals off the board.
"I felt great in the first inning. I had great confidence and the results showed that," he said. "I still felt good in the second, but I was a little shaky in the third before I really hit my groove. Just getting ahead with first-pitch strikes makes all the difference in the world."
Hansen cruised from there, allowing Page's two-out double in the fifth but nothing more. He fanned two in the fourth and ended his 89-pitch outing with four consecutive punchouts. It was the fourth time the 2016 second-round pick has whiffed at least 12 batters in a game. He struck out a career-high 15 for Class A Kannapolis on May 28.
"I've been a strikeout pitcher virtually my entire life, so I definitely try and get the batters out myself," Hansen said. "It can work against me because it drives up my pitch count. I had  pitches by the third inning tonight, which obviously isn't ideal as a starter. But I still try and take care of the hitters with the strikeout or get weak contact."
Hansen compiled a 2.48 ERA and 92 strikeouts with the Intimidators before his promotion. He's continued to rack up the punchouts with the Dash, fanning 58 over 41 2/3 innings for a rate of 12.5 per nine innings. He's second in the Minor Leagues with 150 strikeouts, four behind Triple-A Oklahoma City's Wilmer Font.
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"Every level I've been at requires improvement," the University of Oklahoma product said. "The hitters [in the Carolina League] are smarter, more mature and they know what they're looking for. Probably the biggest difference I notice is that they won't swing at a breaking ball if it's out of the zone. That and making a mistake over the plate when you're ahead in the count. The hitters here will knock it pretty hard and pretty far if you do that."
Andre Wheeler and Louie Lechich combined to allow a hit and a walk with one strikeout over the final three innings to complete the Dash's ninth shutout of the season.
Brady Conlan hit a three-run homer and Sam Dexter added a solo shot for Winston-Salem, which has won six straight.