Two batters into his start on Tuesday night, Hickory's Jake Brigham thought it could be a long night. It was -- for the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
Brigham recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts and retired the final 26 batters en route to a two-hitter as the Crawdads blanked the Grasshoppers, 2-0, at NewBridge Bank Park.
A 2006 sixth-round pick by the Rangers, Brigham (3-3) notched the shutout of a five-year career interrupted by injury.
After giving up singles to the first two batters of the game, Brigham got Jeff Corsaletti to line into a double play. He did not allow another baserunner en route to his second complete game of the season.
"After the first two hitters, I knew that it was probably going to be a night that I would have to grind it out. That double play saved me," Brigham said. "I made a mental adjustment to get the ball down and set my sights lower. It was one of those nights, it was fun."
Brigham missed all of the 2008 season following Tommy John surgery. The 22-year-old right-hander spent last year with the Class A Crawdads, going 2-11 with a 5.52 ERA in 25 games, including 17 starts.
"I've come back stronger physically and I've matured a lot the past two years with life and with baseball," Brigham said. "It was a tough thing to go through, being away from the game that long, but it makes you appreciate it that much more."
Brigham began this season in the California League with Class A Advanced Bakersfield, where he was 1-5 with a 6.93 ERA in 11 games (10 starts). He's bounced back in the South Atlantic League, limiting opponents to a .212 average while posting a 3.10 ERA in nine games.
"The slider is a pitch I just started throwing since I've been back in Hickory," said Brigham, who also throws a fastball, changeup and curveball. "It was probably, besides my fastball, my most effective pitch tonight. I put a lot of guys away with it."
Brigham said he looks to go deep into every game he starts and was pleased to learn Tuesday's game was his to finish.
"I wasn't going to let them take me out, but when I saw the pitching coach (Brad Holman) come out and tell me I had it, I went back out there," said Brigham, who also went the distance in a three-hitter at Lexington on July 18.
Matt West slugged a solo homer in support of Brigham. Travis Adair, who's batting .354 in 42 games since the All-Star break, was 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored, while Jared Bolden singled twice and drove in the first run for the Crawdads (25-18).