Three weeks into his Minor League career, Hunter Martin already has noted some of the vast differences between college and professional baseball. Those lessons seem to be taking hold pretty quickly for the 22-year-old, who flashed promise in his first pro start.
Martin allowed two hits over four innings as Class A Short Season Tri-City blanked State College, 7-0, on Tuesday night at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.
The right-hander struck out two and walked two in his fourth and longest appearance for the ValleyCats.
Gameday box score
"It's been a whirlwind these last few weeks. It's different, to say the least, out there performing and doing something I dreamt about as a kid," Martin said. "There were some butterflies my first time out there, but it's still 60 feet, six inches. It's the same game.
"Tonight was about first-pitch strikes and getting ahead. The key is to keep attacking the zone, which will put the hitter at a disadvantage. I was establishing with my fastball and then the off-speed stuff works off of that, so tonight was a good step."
Martin retired the side in order in the first but didn't find the going as easy after that. Joshua Lopez reached on an infield single to begin the second and moved up on a wild pitch. A fielder's choice erased Lopez at third and Martin set down the last two batters to keep the game scoreless. A walk and an error by second baseman Kyle Davis forced the 6-foot-1 hurler to work around two more baserunners in the third.
Handed a 5-0 lead heading into the fourth, Martin surrendered a leadoff double to Lopez and walked Ricardo Bautista. A pair of flyouts and a popup ended the inning -- and his evening -- after he threw 38 of 56 pitches for strikes.
Drafted in the 20th round last month, Martin started 14 games and struck out 89 over 92 2/3 innings as a senior at the University of Tennessee. He posted a career-best 2.03 ERA in 2016.
"Things are a lot different here than in college," the Tennessee native said. "You're here trying to get better on a personal level and always working on something. In college, every game is a must-win and that's what you're there to do. Obviously, winning is important everywhere, but here you're learning how to develop and trust in your abilities. With things like scouting reports, there's a lot more to learn, but it's awesome.
"So far, I'm just taking it pitch by pitch. I want to win, but I'm here to learn. We're in the Minors and that's not where you want to be, ultimately, when your career is over with. My dream is to get to the Majors and in order to do that, I need to learn, take a step back and put aside my pride."
Parker Mushinski (1-0) went three innings for his first professional win. A seventh-round pick last month, the 21-year-old southpaw worked around three hits and a walk while establishing a personal best with six strikeouts.
Sixth-round pick Jake Adams hit a two-run homer, his fourth of the season, for the ValleyCats.
Lopez went 3-for-4 for the Spikes.