Brent Honeywell's first Opening Day start went well, but his second was downright historic.
Tampa Bay's second-ranked prospect fanned a career-high 12 batters while allowing a pair of runs on three hits over six innings on Thursday as Double-A Montgomery fell to Biloxi, 6-2, at Montgomery Riverwalk Stadium.
Honeywell surrendered a run on four hits and fanned five over six frames on Opening Day for Class A Advanced Charlotte a season ago. The right-hander needed just three innings Thursday to surpass that strikeout total, ringing up seven of the first 11 batters he faced.
Video: Biscuits' Honeywell notches 12th K
"They were swinging," Honeywell said. "I had a pretty good fastball tonight and I was letting it eat. I was just throwing the fastball over the plate and mixing stuff up."
The 22-year-old ran into trouble in the fourth inning when he walked Michael Reed and plunked Victor Roache. Honeywell fanned Dustin DeMuth, but hit Jacob Nottingham to load the bases. After striking out Clint Coulter, he served up a two-run single to Angel Ortega that gave the Shuckers the lead.
"We were going [inside] by design, and if I'm going to miss, I'm going to miss in," he said. "I lost one up and in on Roache and I was going in on Nottingham and got him. I'm going to pitch in, I'm not worried about that. I was more upset with the walk."
Biscuits catcher Justin O'Conner helped his pitcher escape the jam without further damage. The 25-year-old backstop blocked a screwball to Javier Betancourt, then caught Nottingham leaning off third after a pump fake toward second.
"There's not many guys who can throw like that," Honeywell said. "That's the thing with him, though, he can do that any given moment. He can change a game like no other. That was a big play. I'd say that was a run saver."
The 2014 competitive balance pick retired the last six batters he faced before departing in the seventh. Though he was tagged with the loss, he also set a Montgomery record for strikeouts by a pitcher on Opening Day.
Honeywell left with mixed emotions about the outing.
"There were some good things and there were some really bad things that went on," the Georgia native said. "My fastball command was absolutely terrible. It was still effective, so I didn't try to change anything. My off-speed stuff was probably the best it's ever been in my whole career, though. That was a big jump in my development."
Fastball command will become a point of emphasis for Honeywell as he enters his second Southern League stint.
"It's always going to be a focus, even when I make it to the big leagues," he said. "Fastball command is what makes good pitchers really good."
Tampa Bay's 10th-ranked prospect Justin Williams led the Biscuits' offense with a double, a single and a run scored. Cade Gotta finished 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
Biloxi starter Aaron Wilkerson (1-0) held Montgomery to a run on five hits while fanning eight over 5 2/3 frames to take the win. Matt Ramsey recorded the final out of the ninth for his first save.
Nottingham, the Brewers' No. 14 prospect, stroked a pair of singles and plated a run.