All Jon Niese needed to do was get through the first inning. From there, he was lights-out.
Niese (1-0) gave up one hit over six innings as St. Lucie blanked visiting Brevard County, 8-0, in Game 1 of the Florida State League first-round series Tuesday.
The 20-year-old left-hander, who faced the Manatees (0-1) for the first time this season, walked Darren Ford and Lorenzo Cain to start the game.
"I thought I had the first guy, but I lost my focus on the second guy," said Niese, who went 11-7 with a 4.29 ERA in 27 starts this season. "I was getting kind of nervous after those [walks]."
Niese settled down, striking out Mat Gamel, getting Michael Bell on a groundout to first base and fanning Cole Gillespie to end the threat. Niese, who allowed four runs on 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings against Daytona in his last start, said he had to regroup mentally to get out of trouble.
"I told myself, 'Listen, you need to make an adjustment or you're not going to last long in this game,'" Niese said. "It was a really big battle to get out of the first. After that, I was lights-out."
Niese allowed just one more baserunner -- Gillespie's two-out triple in the fourth -- and left after throwing 90 pitches. He struck out nine, matching the season high he set against Lakeland on Aug. 7.
"When my curveball is working like [Tuesday], I'm going to have a bunch of strikeouts," he said. "No matter if they know it's coming or not, they're not going to hit it if it's on."
Niese was particularly pleased about bringing his good stuff to a game he considers to be one of the biggest of his career.
"It's a big statement," he said. "I'm the kind of guy who doesn't like to be held back. I like to be challenged. [With this performance], I'm telling [the Mets organization] that I really want to move up."
Hector Pellot's two-out RBI single broke a scoreless tie in the third and Ambiorix Concepcion smacked a run-scoring base hit in the fourth for the Mets (1-0). Victor Mendez drove in two runs with a sacrifice fly in the sixth and an RBI single in the seventh.
Carlos Gomez lifted a sacrifice fly and Nick Evans stroked a run-scoring double in the seventh for St. Lucie, which went 37-32 to win the second-half title in the league's East Division.
Manatees starter David Welch (0-1) yielded five runs -- two earned -- on eight hits while striking out two without a walk in five innings.
Gillespie had two of the four hits for Brevard County (0-1).