When pitcher Tim Shibuya
began his professional career in June, he didn't think about bright lights and big cities. So when he was assigned to the Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League, he figured that would be the right pace.
"That has been nice," he said of the small-town environment. "It keeps that reputation of Southern hospitality alive. It's a real slow-paced environment. It has been about what I'm used to. The way of life there is very familiar for me."
Shibuya, who became the league's first five-game winner this season and contributed to a no-hitter, is from Jackson, Wyo. He said it took time to adjust during his four-year career at UC San Diego.
Now, he's in his comfort zone again.
"Always going into a different environment, you have to get used to it," Shibuya said.
Appalachian League batters have had difficulty adjusting to Shibuya, a right-hander drafted in the 23rd round out of Division II UCSD following his senior season this spring. He had gone to the Division II College World Series as a sophomore and junior, and he has pitched with the type of poise that suggests he has been in varied situations.
"He has been our guy so far," Elizabethton manager Ray Smith said. "He's not an overpowering type of guy, but he can pitch. He knows how to pitch a little bit."
Shibuya was initially placed on the Twins' Gulf Coast League roster while in mini-camp in Fort Myers, Fla. Then he was shifted to the Elizabethton roster.
"[That was good] just being able to play a little more advanced level," he said.
His consistency has been most noticeable. He won't blow away batters with an 88 mph fastball.
"He can throw anything for a strike and on any count," Elizabethton catcher Matt Parker said. "He also has the ability to surprise hitters with a fastball inside. ... He has got good control, pitches well with runners on base."
Shibuya threw seven no-hit innings July 16 at Greeneville, and teammates Garrett Jewell and Steven Gruver each worked a hitless inning to complete the no-hitter. The gem included some sparkling defense, including right fielder Brandon Henderson's gallop and catch in right-center field to keep the no-hitter in tact.
"I probably realized it in the fifth inning that I had a no-hitter going," said Shibuya, whose pitch count closed in on the organization's 100-pitch limit and thus he was removed from the game. "I said, 'I understand.' "
Smith said, "We debated it for a long time -- like 30 seconds."
Smith, who's the winningest manager in Appalachian League history, said he can't remember a no-hitter for Elizabethton since the early 1990s.
Shibuya said he couldn't recall a time in college when he made it through four innings without yielding a hit, so it was different territory. He was in the clubhouse for post-pitching conditioning when his teammates completed the task.
So while his work ethic has been noted by Smith and teammates, his laid-back approach suits him well at other times.
"Not trying to do anything too special, not trying to overpower anybody," Shibuya said. "I just want to get innings. I don't really care what my role is."
Smith said Shibuya is another example that players can excel regardless of their backgrounds.
"He has been fine. He maximizes his ability. He's a pay-attention-to-detail guy," Smith said. "He got in a couple of jams out there, and he's a thinking pitcher and makes adjustments in the heat of battle."
Thirsty for success: Danville Braves catcher Nick DeSantiago overheated during a game in July, forcing the fifth-round draftee into the hospital for a couple of days. Upon returning to the lineup, he went on a seven-game hitting streak. "I don't think I was drinking enough water," DeSantiago said. "A little rest got my feet back under me."
Trapp play: Burlington Royals second baseman Justin Trapp has been on a run-producing mission, doing so at times from the leadoff position. He has 27 RBIs in 35 games, and it took fewer than 20 games for him to match his 21-RBI mark from 67 games last year for the Idaho Falls Chukars in the Pioneer League. "[I'm] getting in a lot of situations with runners in scoring position and just toughening up," Trapp said.
Stingy stuff: The Kingsport Mets pitching staff yielded just one run -- and an unearned run at that -- across four games (two of which were seven-inning contests as part of a doubleheader). Among the highlights, Akeel Morris pitched one-hit ball for six innings against Bristol, and right-hander Brett Mitchell fell one out shy of a seven-inning complete game in a blanking of Bristol.
Solved, but solid: Bristol Sox pitcher Ryan Bollinger was saddled with his first loss in five decisions July 26 when the Kingsport Mets defeated him. He remained the league leader with 43 strikeouts, however, reaching eight whiffs in three of his first six outings. He yielded his first home run in more than 35 innings this season when Kingsport's Dustin Lawley launched one.