After giving up five runs and taking the loss in his first professional complete game against Class A Kannapolis on June 12, Delmarva's Brenan Hanifee wanted another crack at the Intimidators.
The seventh-ranked Orioles prospect made the most of his latest opportunity Saturday and turned in the best outing of his professional career, allowing three hits while striking out four over eight innings in the Shorebirds' 4-0 victory at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.
Gameday box score
"They have good hitters and I wasn't sure how to attack them last time, so we worked off of that," he said. "I had a better plan today and I executed it."
The 20-year-old emerged the victor in his past two starts, allowing two runs on seven hits with a walk and seven punchouts over 15 innings to lower his ERA by more than a third of a run to 2.61.
"Brenan is very deliberate in his preparation," Shorebirds pitching coach Justin Lord said. "He doesn't just go out there and throw, he's very calculated in everything he does, and what he's working on and trying to do. So, I think that last start against them definitely helped him because he's spent a lot of time developing secondary pitches -- a slider and a changeup -- and he's made big strides with them and he was able to throw both tonight. He used them in good counts to get outs and was very efficient."
Hanifee (6-3) retired 16 of the first 17 batters he faced and yielded just one hit over the first 7 2/3 innings, throwing 77 pitches. He set down the side in order in the first, third, fourth and fifth.
"I finally was able to locate my fastball on both sides of the plate and that was huge for me," he said. "I was getting a lot of early outs with it and then mixing things up later in the game. But I was always working ahead and not giving guys much to hit later in counts, and I think you get into hitters' heads when you can do that.
"There's not many nights that you have everything and I felt tonight was one of those nights -- I had it all."
Video: Hanifee Ks Curbelo to end 8th
The first hit the 2016 fourth-round pick gave up came with one out in the sixth when Carlos Perez rolled an 0-1 off-speed pitch into center field for a single. Nolan Brown reached on an error by left fielder Max Hogan that moved Perez to third. But with runners on the corners, Hanifee induced a fly ball to shallow left from No. 23 White Sox prospect Luis Curbelo and a flyout by Craig Dedelow to escape unscathed.
"Brenan showed me that he can command his fastball, can pitch with it, work in his secondary stuff, keep hitters off-balance, pitch to contact and come up with a good game plan and then go out and execute it," Lord said. "He can take control of his emotions and the game, attack the zone and get strikeouts -- basically everything you want a starting pitcher to do he was able to execute tonight."
The Harrisonburg, Virginia, native got Tyler Frost to ground out to first base and caught 22nd-ranked Evan Skoug looking at a 2-2 fastball low in the zone to start the eighth. But back-to-back hits by Perez and Brown put both runners in scoring position. After a brief visit from Lord, Hanifee got Curbelo swinging on a 1-2 slider in the dirt to end the threat.
Hanifee said that he was working with some extra adrenaline in his first time pitching in the eighth and that the mound visit was an opporunity to collect himself while gameplanning his attack against Curbelo: pounding him inside with a fastball before buring a slider away.
"It might have been my best pitch of the night," Hanifee said.
"You know, the game had the potential to speed up there, so I just wanted to give him a moment to slow it down a little bit," Lord explained. "Guys can get anxious that late in the game so I gave him a second to catch his breath. But I really just let him do his thing after that and he executed."
Ryan Wilson completed the team's eighth shutout of the season by striking out one in a 1-2-3 ninth.
"This was a full team effort," Hanifee said. "It always helps to pitch with a lead and the defense was phenomenal tonight. I think that's the best the infield has played all year, and [No. 24 prospect Mason McCoy] made a few web gems and it allowed me to stay in the windup and that was huge for me. Also, hats off to [catcher Chris Shaw], we were on the same page all night and he did an awesome job calling the game."
The Shorebirds got to Kannapolis starter Yosmer Solorzano (1-4) for all four runs. The right-hander allowed eight hits while striking out three over 4 2/3 innings.
South Atlantic League All-Star Trevor Craport drove in a pair of runs for Delmarva.