Over his first three starts of the season, Salem's Alex Wilson was mediocre. On Wednesday afternoon, he was spectacular.
Wilson, Boston's second-round pick in the 2009 Draft, allowed just one hit over five shutout innings while striking out six. Although he did not factor into the decision, the 23-year-old's stellar effort played a key role in Salem's eventual 2-1 win over the visiting Wilmington Blue Rocks.
"This was definitely the best I've felt all season. I struck out the side in the first inning, getting guys to swing at pitches out of the zone," said Wilson, who entered the game with a 6.08 ERA over 13 1/3 innings. "But it was after getting three quick groundouts in the second that I was able to really feel comfortable. That's when I knew I had my best stuff."
Wilson faced just 17 batters on the afternoon, with a second-inning walk and fifth-inning infield single representing the only blemishes on his otherwise spotless record. Just one Blue Rock batter managed to lift the ball out of the infield, and none were able to advance past first base. All of this resulted in a pitch count of just 66 over five innings.
"I was hoping to get another inning, but, since it was an early game and a cold day, they pulled me after five," explained Wilson, who in 17 professional starts has yet to pitch more than five innings. "That's okay -- that's what they've been doing so far."
The dominant outing marked a return to form for Wilson, who compiled a minuscule 0.50 ERA over 13 starts in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League last season.
"Last year, it was fun to get ahead of guys, like 'Here's a fastball out of the zone, and I know you're going to swing at it,'" said Wilson. "[In the Carolina League], hitters are more disciplined. There aren't as many swing and misses, and I have to stay around the plate a lot more."
And, as Wilson continues to acclimate himself to his new and more challenging surroundings, the results will likely keep improving.
"My first start was rough all the way around. The next two were pretty good but I had some bad luck, gave up a couple runs," he said. "But with this one, I was really able to tie it all together. Each time I go out there I feel better than I did before."