After Matt Heidenreich polished off his first career nine-inning complete game Monday, he was most happy about who was there to see him do it.
The Class A Advanced Winston-Salem right-hander needed just 98 pitches to go the distance in an 8-0 blanking of Salem, scattering four hits while striking out three and not issuing any walks. It was his second complete game of the season, the other an eight-inning loss to Myrtle Beach on April 16.
But what mattered most to the 21-year-old was that his grandparents had made the trip from Palm Springs, Calif., to North Carolina to see him.
"The most satisfying part [of the game] was that my grandparents were here today and saw me pitch for the first time," he said. "That was motivation enough and the shutout was the cherry on top. I was just excited to share that with them."
Heidenreich (7-5) said he gave his grandfather the game ball after the final out. A native of Southern California, he's only pitched along the East Coast since being drafted in the fourth round in 2009 by the White Sox. His grandparents had never been able to see him pitch in person as a pro.
"They were almost in tears [after the game]," he said. "They just wanted to tell me that they loved me."
It also was arguably the best start of his career, coming roughly three weeks after he'd allowed seven runs in back-to-back starts. His ERA shot up to 4.55 from 3.32 after those outings, which came May 29 against Frederick and June 3 against Carolina.
After Monday, though, it was back down to 3.75 after three straight starts of at least six innings and two or fewer earned runs. Heidenreich said he had to have confidence that the balls would start bouncing his way again and worked with Dash pitching coach J.R. Perdew helped put him back on the right track.
"That's the beauty of baseball, everything balances out," he noted. "My pitching coach and I, we spoke about the things I was doing wrong and corrected them. But it's easy to pitch when you have a defense behind you make every play, I give a lot of credit to them."
One other thing Heidenreich has succeeded at is eliminating walks. He hasn't issued a single free pass in June, a stretch of 24 innings that dates back to the May 29 start. With 10 walks in 86 1/3 frames overall this year, he boasts has allowed just 1.04 free passes over nine innings while striking out 58. His 1.10 WHIP is good for sixth in the Carolina League. His seven wins have him tied with two other pitchers for third in the circuit.
"I've just used my two-seam fastball a lot, getting groundballs and trusting that great defense behind me," he said.
On Monday, Brady Shoemaker paced the Dash, going 3-for-5 with a home run, a double and four RBIs. No. 3 White Sox prospect Trayce Thompson smacked a three-run homer and Dan Black went 3-for-5 with two doubles.