Riley Pint was noticeably cheerful after picking up his first South Atlantic League win. However, the focus of the 19-year-old's joy was not on the milestone but the work that brought him to this point.
"I feel pretty good," Pint said with a laugh. "We worked down in the zone today and got a lot of ground balls, so I feel pretty good about what happened."
The Rockies' No. 3 prospect scattered four hits and three walks over five innings while matching his season high with four strikeouts on Friday as Class A Asheville defeated Kannapolis, 5-1, at Intimidators Stadium.
"The plan of attack was pretty much to just stay within myself and throw strikes. We didn't really deviate much from that," he said. "We kind of went out there and executed that plan, and it worked out well for us."
Although he did not allow a run in his South Atlantic League debut on April 9, Pint pitched only four innings, one short of the minimum to get a win. He lost his next three starts and was 0-3 heading into Friday's tilt.
MLB.com's 45th overall prospect made a name for himself with a fastball that's been clocked in the triple digits and a power curve that scouts project to be above-average. Pint said he sees the next stage in his development as gaining a better feel for his changeup, a pitch that helped him get six groundouts against the Intimidators.
"The changeup has been a really big pitch for me this season so far," he said. "We've been trying to develop that more and not have to rely on the curveball, which has been my best pitch for years. We're just trying to mix in all pitches and throw them all for strikes."
The Kansas native dealt with runners on base in each of his five frames. The closest he came to a clean inning was when he faced three batters in the second and fifth, benefiting from a double play each time. The only inning in which he did not allow a hit or walk was the third, when Pint made an errant throw wide after fielding a comebacker off the bat of Joel Booker.
"I think that just as the season progresses and as I progress as a pitcher that it's progressing pretty well out of the stretch, so I think that it's just kind of a learning process," Pint said. "I'll keep getting better at that, but obviously, I don't want to be in those situations too often, so I'm going to have to work on just getting ahead of hitters out of the windup and putting them away."
After walking four against Kannapolis, Pint has issued 15 free passes over 19 2/3 innings. The No. 4 overall pick in last year's Draft already is working under a strict team-imposed limit every time he takes the mound.
"It's either 75 pitches or five innings, whichever comes first, and I'm done," Pint said.
With one out in the fifth, Booker singled to set up an unusual turn of events. He broke for second on an 0-1 pitch to Mitch Roman, who rolled a changeup over to third. Third baseman and Rockies No. 15 prospect Colton Welker threw Roman out at first and Booker tried to take third before being thrown out by first baseman Luis Castro. The double play was made that much more exciting for Pint, knowing he'd gotten through five innings for the first time this season.
"It was a pretty good play all the way around, so that got me pretty pumped up," he said.
Pint's effort was matched by Kannapoalis starter Alec Hansen, who did not allow a hit until Robbie Perkins singled with one out in the fifth. The No. 9 White Sox prospect surrendered three extra-base hits, including a two-run double to Castro, in a three-run sixth that put Pint in position for the win.
Vince Fernandez, who started the sixth-inning rally with a double, added an RBI single in the seventh to cap a 3-for-5 performance.