Although David Goforth's pitch count was climbing into the mid-80s and Wisconsin led by a somewhat uneasy three-run margin, he returned to the mound for the seventh inning. And the eighth. And again for the ninth.
Was there any concern in the Timber Rattlers' dugout about a converted reliever throwing more than 100 pitches in the most crucial game of the season?
"Absolutely none," Goforth said.
The Brewers' No. 17 prospect went the distance Friday night, tossing a four-hitter as Wisconsin blanked Burlington, 3-0, to advance to the Midwest League semifinals.
The 23-year-old right-hander struck out nine and threw 113 pitches -- both career highs -- in his first Minor League complete game.
"I was just looking to get quick outs and go as deep into the ballgame as I could, and it just so happened that it turned into a complete-game shutout," Goforth said. "It's definitely a good feeling."
The University of Mississippi product is wrapping up his first season as a starter, having worked out of the bullpen for Rookie-level Helena last year -- his first in the Minors. He'd pitched into the seventh or eighth inning four times for Wisconsin but had never gone a full nine.
While he was in uncharted territory in the later innings, the pressure of the moment and the desire to close out the series actually improved his stuff as the game went along, Goforth said.
"By the eighth and ninth inning, adrenaline kind of took over," he added. "I felt great, honestly maybe even better than I felt earlier in the game. When I got to the seventh or eighth inning, I started to realize, this might happen. So you're just sitting in the dugout, anxious to get back out there and keep pitching."
That desire to finish what he started was shared by the Timber Rattlers coaching staff.
"There was no talk whatsoever [of me coming out]," Goforth said. "When I got to the eighth, our pitching coach [David Chavarria] just told me to keep going."
The outing was hardly flawless, with the Bees putting runners on base in each of the first five innings. It wasn't until the sixth, when his breaking ball began to materialize, that Goforth went into full shutdown mode.
He retired the final 13 batters, with six of his nine strikeouts coming in the sixth or later.
"I actually started striking more guys out toward the end of the ballgame," he noted. "That was due to [me] getting my curveball over for strikes. The first part of the game, my curveball wasn't there at all. I was basically just going off my two-seam fastball for the first five innings and luckily, they were beating balls into the ground and getting ground-ball outs."
After Wisconsin dropped a 4-0 decision in the series opener, Chad Pierce baffled the Bees in Game 2, pitching a three-hit shutout in a 4-0 victory.
"We lost the first game of the series, then Chad Pierce came out last night and did a heck of a job," Goforth said. "We won Game 2 and I came out [tonight], just trying to give our team a chance to win."
Wisconsin did not need much run support in the clincher, with back-to-back solo homers by Ben McMahan and Nick Ramirez in the fourth proving to be the difference.
In other Midwest League action:
Clinton 4, Beloit 1
Guillermo Pimentel homered in the top of the 10th inning to sent the LumberKings into the second round.
Mayckol Guaipe was stellar on the mound for Clinton, retiring 13 straight Snappers and allowing just one run over seven two-hit innings. Stephen Landazuri pitched three innings of scoreless relief to pick up the win.
An RBI double in the first by Twins' top prospect Miguel Sano was the only scoring for Beloit. Box score