Starter-turned-reliever Bradin Hagens appears to have made a wise career change.
Hagens established career highs with eight strikeouts over seven innings and helped produce South Bend's first shutout of the season Friday as the Silver Hawks beat the Great Lakes Loons, 4-0.
South Bend became the final Midwest League club to keep an opposing lineup down for all nine innings.
Hagens (3-2) was the most significant reason, allowing only two hits and issuing two free passes.
"The main thing was just getting into my rhythm," he said, "and having my off-speed pitches and secondary pitches for strikes. ... It was a fun night to pitch."
The 22-year-old right-hander gave up Leon Landry's leadoff single and Jesse Bosnik's third-inning double but nothing else. He retired the final 12 Loons he faced.
"South Bend got a good starting performance from Hagens," Loons manager John Shoemaker said. "We just didn't put enough pressure on South Bend today and we didn't get enough runners on base. It was a great job by their pitching staff."
In relief, Daniel Taylor walked a batter in the eighth and Christopher Odegaard allowed a leadoff double in the ninth, but both clamped down to finish the game the way Hagens started it.
"I went in the locker room to do a little bit of lifting, but I made sure I came back out there to catch the bottom of the eighth and the bottom of the ninth," Hagens said. "We have had a solid bullpen all year. We have a bullpen we trust."
Hagens (3-2) matched his win total for all of last season at South Bend, where he went 3-6 with a 6.56 ERA in 39 games, working exclusively out of the bullpen. In fact, all of the Denair, Calif., native's first 54 career outings were in relief.
"The organization wanted [the change]," said Hagens, Arizona's sixth-round Draft choice in 2009. "I came into Spring Training as a reliever and, about two weeks into it, they kind of just said, 'We're going to make you into a starter this year.' I was excited because that's what I have always done."
Through 39 innings over eight starts, he's compiled a 3.92 ERA.
"It's just kind of a mind-set, having more of a plan going into the game," said Hagens, who also started games at Merced College. "Just kind of knowing what I want to do for the whole game and not varying from that plan."
Zach Walters paced the Hawks' offense with a first-inning solo shot off Great Lakes starter Garrett Gould (4-1), who allowed two runs over five frames.