Austin Hyatt knew he needed a good outing.
Facing Major League veteran Andrew Miller, who tossed six no-hit innings in his last start, Hyatt struck out a career-high 14 batters and allowed one hit over eight innings Tuesday as the Clearwater Threshers blanked the Jupiter Hammerheads, 4-0.
"It's in the back of your mind a little bit," Hyatt said of opposing Miller. "Our guys did a great job of scoring runs off a really good pitcher. I've got to give them credit."
Hyatt deserves a good share of credit himself.
The Hammerheads didn't have a baserunner until the third inning, when Jose Ceballos reached on an error. Even when Hyatt walked Daniel Pertusati to open the fourth, the right-hander promptly picked him off.
Of the first seven Jupiter hitters, six went down on strikes.
"I was throwing mostly fastball-changeup, and both felt really good," Hyatt said. "I felt like I had good velocity [on the fastball] and good movement on the changeup.
"I just try to get ahead with a first-pitch strike. If I have two strikes, I'll try to bury a pitch now and then. When you make quality pitches, strikeouts tend to happen."
Tuesday's start was Hyatt's fifth of the season after two appearances out of the bullpen.
"I really like both [roles]," he explained. "I've told all the instructors that I liked doing both. I like going out there and competing. It's a different feeling coming out of the 'pen, it's a different mind-set, but I like it."
Hyatt, selected by the Phillies in the 15th round of the 2009 Draft, is adding a third pitch to his repertoire, which he says could determine whether he has a future as a starter or reliever.
"I'm working on a slider," he said. "It's my third pitch and it's going to be a key for me."
Hyatt (6-1) has won all five starts and leads the Florida State League in victories and strikeouts (53) while ranking fifth with a 1.90 ERA. He also was named Pitcher of the Week for the period of April 19-25.
Hyatt's previous high was 11 strikeouts in his last start for short-season Williamsport last summer. The 23-year-old Georgia native was 3-0 with an 0.66 ERA in the New York-Penn League, where he held New York-Penn League foes to a .141 average.
Hyatt made one start for Class A Lakewood after an August callup and allowed four earned runs over 4 2/3 innings.
He may not have been a high Draft pick, but Hyatt has a track record of proving himself at every level at which he's pitched. He wasn't even offered a full scholarship by the University of Alabama but pitched well enough in college to change that.
"[Alabama] only has 11.7 scholarships and I had less than a third [as a freshman]," Hyatt said. "I did like a lot of guys do and worked my way up to a full scholarship. I proved myself as the years went on."
By the time Hyatt finished his career with the Crimson Tide, he held the school record for fewest walks in a season (nine).
"You start off where you're at, but you have to make yourself better in every start and every outing," he said.
The only Jupiter player to get a hit Tuesday was Kevin Mattison, who doubled in the sixth. Hyatt gave way to Justin De Fratus, who fanned two in a perfect ninth to seal Clearwater's 10th win in 12 games.
The first-place Threshers (21-10) scored all of their runs in the fourth. Jim Murphy and Cody Overbeck came home on an error before Troy Hanzawa delivered a two-run single.