Marauders' Kingham finds his form

Pirates prospect allows two hits, pitches six shutout innings

By Jonathan Raymond / Special to | April 17, 2013 8:29 PM ET

Moving up a level and finding oneself matched up against more advanced hitters can be tricky business for a pitcher.

Do you try to step things up and tailor your approach to the older, smarter foes you're now facing? Or do you just keep doing what you've always done?

Nick Kingham, the Pirates' No. 13 prospect, began the year trying the former but returned to the latter Wednesday night and turned in his best start of the young season.

Kingham yielded two hits and a walk while striking out seven over six scoreless frames in the Bradenton Marauders' 6-5 loss to the Jupiter Hammerheads.

"I felt like I'm trying to trick the hitters too much, maybe giving them too much credit, not sticking to my strengths," he said. "I was trying to pitch toward the hitters' weaknesses rather than doing what I do best, so I think I'm learning that. I know what I can do."

The 21-year-old right-hander was 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA over 9 2/3 innings, attributing that start to the fact he was overthinking things after going from the Class A South Atlantic League to the Class A Advanced Florida State League.

On Wednesday, however, Kingham -- who said he typically throws between 93-95 mph and works in a changeup and curveball -- got back to pitching his game.

"Just seemed to be able to command [the fastball] tonight, was able to put it where I wanted to and use the off-speed stuff when I needed to. It felt really good," he said. "It's always nice to go out and go six innings, last five-plus, and leave the game with the lead and give your team a chance to win the ballgame. You get [that kind of outing] in at the beginning of the season and try to build off it.

"Sometimes you get out of your comfort zone and you try to do too much when most of the time you just have to do what you do best instead of trying to trick the hitter."

Now the 21-year-old right-hander, a 2010 fourth-round Draft pick, has a 4.02 ERA with 14 strikeouts against four walks in 15 2/3 frames.

Those numbers reflect the kind of success he had last year, when he was 6-8 with a 4.39 ERA for West Virginia while flashing superior peripheral numbers -- a 117-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 127 innings.

Kingham was better in the second half, notching a 3.69 ERA following the All-Star break, a form he said he expected to carry into this season.

"I finished pretty decent last year at [Class A] and wanted to build off that year, kind of pick up where I left off and keep growing, so that was my mentality coming into this year," the Las Vegas native said.

Pirates No. 4 prospect Gregory Polanco went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks and a stolen base for Bradenton, while Carlos Mesa doubled and drove in two runs.

Austin Nola socked a three-run homer to spark a six-run seventh that put the Hammerheads in front for good.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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