There was no magic behind Cameron Selik's stunning performance Monday.
"I threw well, but I wasn't pitching incredibly or anything," Selik said. "It's the same things we've been working on all year -- throwing strikes, getting ahead in the count, throwing the ball down."
Whatever the tactics, he struck out 11 and made his third straight scoreless start for the Hagerstown Suns, who topped the Lakewood BlueClaws, 1-0, to claim a four-game series from the 'Claws. Selik allowed just one hit and one walk over five frames.
Selik, a 22nd-round choice of the Nationals in last year's Draft, emphasized that the key to his success this season is in sticking to fundamentals.
"I'm getting ahead in the count. I [have been] able to throw everything for strikes," he said, "so that helps."
After signing with Washington last season, the former Kansas University standout went 1-0 with a save, 32 strikeouts, 13 walks and a 2.54 ERA over 15 outings with Class A Short-Season Vermont.
Monday's game had a 10:35 start time, and if the early morning made things harder for tired hitters -- the two sides played a doubleheader Sunday -- Selik was all for it.
"It didn't bother me. I'm an early morning person, anyway. If we do have to do this kind of game," he said, "I'm glad I'm the one throwing it, because I'll be awake and ready to go no matter what."
He started the first at-bat of the game with a strikeout, but the Lakewood next batter -- Edgar Duran -- was the lucky one who managed a hit.
"That was a tough at-bat," said Selik. "He got it to a full count, and I kept throwing the fastball, trying to get him to roll over it. We were both battling -- we had a good battle, but he won that battle."
In the end, Duran lofted a bloop into shallow center field.
Still, he wasn't able to put good wood on the pitch.
"It was a fastball off the end of the bat, and it broke his bat."
With Duran on first base, Selik made a throw over, but Hagerstown first baseman Mills Rogers botched the reception, sending the runner to second. After that, Selik lost the hitter, Jeremy Barnes, on balls. From there on out, though, he was perfect. He struck out the next four hitters who stepped into the box against him, and he struck out six in a row spanning the fourth through the fifth inning.
As the innings wore on, Selik noticed that BlueClaws starter Ervis Manzanillo, who allowed a hit and a walk and struck out six over six frames, was throwing a good game, too.
"You can't really worry about what the score is," Selik said, but the tenor of the game did affect his mental approach.
"I had a college coach who gave a piece of advise: treat every inning like a boxing match. You want to stay with your opponent and match them punch-for-punch. That's what I was doing out there. It was a great pitching matchup all the way around."
After Selik struck out the side in his 15th scoreless inning of the 2011 season, he yielded to the Hagerstown relief corp.
"In the last at-bat, I went above the pitch count, so the last batter I faced would have been the last batter for me either way, whether he got a hit or whatever," he said. "I was right at [my pitch count] after the fifth in my first couple times out. I don't mind leaving, because our bullpen has been solid all year.
"It's just how everything worked out today. I try to pitch to contact, but they fouled off a lot of pitches -- there were a lot of strikeouts. It is what it is. Sometimes the pitch count could get me through five innings, sometimes it'll go six or seven."
The Suns pushed across a run in the ninth inning on s sacrifice fly.
"I'm glad I was able to keep the team in the game, and we pulled it out in the end," he said.
After a season-opening sweep of the Braves at Rome, Hagerstown split a four-game set with Lexington. Monday's win improved the team to 9-3. However well they've played, Selik said the media frenzy surrounding 18-year-old phenom Bryce Harper -- who was 0-for-2 Monday -- hasn't affected the Suns.
"It's Harper-mania. There was a lot of talk about this before the season, about how you're going to handle the media attention you've never been around before. My answer now is the same it was then: The media can say boo, or whatever they want before and after the games, but from that first pitch to that last out, it's still the same game that's played the same way.
"He's a great player and deserves everything that's coming his way right now. But every other player on this team can go out there and compete and play games, too, and that's what we're doing. He's got to deal with it a lot more than we do, of course, but we're all focused on playing the games."