Aaron Pribanic is Class A Advanced Bradenton's best playoff pitcher ever. Really.
Pribanic threw scattered six hits over seven innings and the Marauders scored four runs in the seventh frame to win their first franchise playoff game, 5-0, over the Charlotte Stone Crabs on Tuesday night.
"There's a lot of great pitchers on this staff, so I'm extremely honored to have started," the former third-round pick said. "Absolutely."
Pribanic, who had allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine of his previous 10 starts, was even better in his Florida State League postseason debut. The right-handed Pittsburgh prospect struck out four and issued one walk intentionally.
Bradenton, which joined the Florida State League this spring, got on the board on Greg Picart's RBI single in the seventh. Shelby Ford followed with a two-run double and came around to score on Starling Marte's double to left.
Jordan Newton added a two-out RBI single in the eighth.
Pribanic, though, was the difference, outdueling Stone Crabs starter Matt Moore, who struck out 10 and took a one-hitter into the sixth inning. Moore was charged with two runs on one hit and six hits over 6 1/3 innings for the loss.
"Any time you face a guy as talented as he is, you know the runs will be hard to come by," Pribanic said. "But you can't control that stuff, I just go out and pitch my game, hope for the best."
The Plano, Texas native said his recent trend of dominance has been a result of efforts to become more consistent, both mentally and on the mound.
"It's definitely better of late, I have a lot of stuff to work on, so that hasn't changed," Pribanic said. "But my approach is better mentally, it's not as much of a hassle, not as much work to be consistent mentally. And physically, I've still got some things to do."
The Stone Crabs, in their second season in the league as a Rays affiliate, had their chances. Former No. 1 overall Draft pick Tim Beckham reached on a fielder's choice in the first inning, but was picked off by Pribanic. Charlotte put two runners on with one out in the second but came up empty, and Beckham bounced into a deflating inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fifth.
"I really just stuck with what I've been doing," said Pribanic. "Going after hitters, backing them off the strike zone, letting them put the ball in play."
Pribanic said he wasn't told about a pitch count and felt like he was in control of his evening. "I threw a lot of fastballs," he said. "And some sinkers, some sliders."
Kyle McPherson came on in relief in the eighth for Bradenton and struck out the first two batters he faced. He worked around Michael Sheridan's two-out single in the ninth, popping up Tyler Bortnick to right to seal the win.
Charlotte reliever Marquis Fleming was reached for three runs on five hits over the final 1 2/3 frames.
The Marauders, formerly the Lynchburg Hillcats in the Carolina League, took a patient approach to breaking down Moore's effectiveness.
"Our guys had been battling all game," Pribanic said. "They got his pitch count up in the first three, they finally did the job and got into their bullpen."
The teams will meet for Game 2 of the best-of-3 series Wednesday in Charlotte. The series' winner will face the victor of the Tampa Yankees-Dunedin Blue Jays matchup.
"We just need to do what we did tonight," said Pribanic. "Pitch it, catch it. We had a good offense, we're getting the runs. We'll have a good approach offensively and do the same we did tonight."
In other Florida State League action:
Tampa Yankees 3, Dunedin Blue Jays 0
Former 25th-round pick Shaeffer Hall allowed three hits over five innings and Brad Suttle homered as the defending FSL champions blanked Dunedin in their series opener. Ryan Flannery, Chase Whitley and Jonathan Ortiz combined to strike out seven over the final four frames to seal the win. Box score