As the only two left-handers on the Class A Advanced Buies Creek pitching staff, Brett Adcock and Kit Scheetz have a special bond. They may be, in Scheetz's words, "a little bit weirder" than the rest of the arms on the club, but they're also effective.
The tandem delivered another stellar performance on the mound Tuesday night.
Following the No. 28 Houston prospect's five dominant frames, Scheetz delivered four perfect innings with a career-high eight strikeouts to lead Buies Creek to a 2-0 victory over Carolina at Jim Perry Stadium. It marked the reliever's longest outing out of the bullpen since he tossed four frames for Class A Quad Cities last Aug. 31.
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After the way things went in warmups for Scheetz, he never expected to toss a gem on the mound when it counted.
"It's funny because in the bullpen I didn't really feel that great, and that first inning, I didn't really throw any warmup pitches for a strike," he laughed. "But then the first batter [Ronnie Gideon] stepped in, and I was able to get a first-pitch flyout. That right there kind of settled me in. It helped me relax a little bit getting that leadoff man out. And then just taking it one pitch at a time after that, I was able to attack the zone and get to two strikes pretty quickly and was putting away some hitters."
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech last season, Scheetz sported a 1.72 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP over 47 innings in 12 appearances (seven starts) across Class A Quad Cities, short-season Tri-City and the Gulf Coast League in 2017. Pitching exclusively as a reliever this year, Scheetz has produced even better results with a 1.37 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP and a .162 average against in 19 2/3 frames.
Not starting hasn't affected Scheetz's attitude as the southpaw relishes his role as a versatile arm in his first full season.
"I'm the kind of guy that's always excited for the opportunity to pitch," he said. "It doesn't really matter what role. I've had a bunch of experience starting last year and college. I've done relieving from summer ball and also some from college. This year has been all out of the bullpen. I really try not to think of it as any sort of role. I take it a pitch and a batter at a time. I'll take the ball when they call my name and then come out when the manager takes it from me.
"I try to take it one pitch at a time, try to stay out there as long as possible, have some fun and enjoy it because as soon as you get extended, you're not going to pitch for a few days."
Inheriting a 2-0 lead in the sixth, the 23-year-old delivered a clean stanza on nine pitches before fanning the side in order in the seventh. After whiffing Carlos Belonis on three pitches to begin the eighth, Scheetz fell behind 2-0 to both Tucker Neuhaus and Dallas Carroll. The Virginia native then induced Neuhaus to ground out to short and fanned Carroll on five pitches.
Back out for the ninth, Scheetz got Ronnie Gideon to pop out to third and punctuated his evening with consecutive strikeouts of Weston Wilson and Ryan Aguilar to earn his second save of the year.
In all, the hurler tossed 30 strikes on a season-high 45 pitches and kept the ball in the infield for 11 of the 12 batters he faced.
"Going back out for the ninth and it being a two-run lead, the biggest thing is a heavy emphasis on the leadoff guy," Scheetz said. "You get the leadoff guy there, it calms the entire dugout, fielders and yourself. If you can get that leadoff guy with nobody on, one out and a two-run lead, you feel like you have a little cushion there. So getting that was huge, and then just continuing to attack.
"I didn't want to start pitching around and getting too passive. Was staying aggressive, putting the foot down on the pedal and then I knew I had [left-hander Ryan Aguilar] coming up third in the inning, and I always feel confident in left-on-left matchups. Once it was two outs, I just told myself to go after him -- trust your stuff, it's your matchup. Do what you do best."
Before Scheetz entered the game, Adcock (3-0) stymied the the Mudcats lineup, yielding two hits and five walks with seven punchouts over five frames. The 22-year-old holds the eighth-best ERA (0.99) in the Minors and is ranked 10th in WHIP (0.95) at the Class A Advanced level. This comes off a season in which Adcock sported a 4-4 record with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP over 84 innings in the Carolina League.
"You can tell the way he's pitched in his previous outings that he's done an unbelievable job," Scheetz said of his teammate. "I've been just kind of picking his brain and kind of watching how he approaches hitters -- I really like the way he pitches. He can really establish his fastball and really get it up in the zone and over the middle of the plate. We'll try to bounce ideas off each other, and we've played catch a few times and it's like 'How do you throw this?'
"And he's a guy that's been here before. it just helps a lot even knowing the ballpark and what plays well with the wind blowing out. He's an experienced guy, veteran guy."
No. 29 Astros prospect Abraham Toro backed the Buies Creek lefties with his sixth homer of the season, a solo dinger in the sixth after Carlos Canelon scored on a wild pitch in the third.