Spikes Shutout For Second Night in a Row

Kingham struck out eight in five innings tonight.

The State College Spikes were shutout tonight 5-0, making it the second night in a row the offense was held without a run.  Also for the second night in a row, the Spikes were limited to three hits.  The difference between last night and tonight is that the State College starter gave the offense a chance to compete in the game.

Nick Kingham, the Pirates’ 4th round pick from the 2010 draft, made his second start of the 2011 season tonight, after allowing five runs on six hits in three innings in his debut last Friday.  Things looked bad for Kingham in the first inning.  He allowed a few hard hit balls, giving up a run on three hits in the inning.

The right hander from Las Vegas settled down after that.  He allowed a single to lead off the second, then retired the next ten batters he saw, before allowing a hard hit ground rule double with one out in the fifth.  Kingham responded with two strikeouts, both on curveballs, giving him eight total on the night.  He struck out three in the fifth, after striking out two in the fourth.  His last four strikeouts were on curveballs.  He got a swinging strike to end the fourth inning, then froze two batters for his first two strikeouts of the fifth.  He closed out the frame, and his outing, with a swinging strikeout on another curveball.

When asked what the difference was between his first inning and his next four, Kingham responded:

“Just ball placement, keeping the ball low.  It’s harder to hit when the ball is at your knees, rather than at your belt or at the letters.  So that was a big adjustment I had to make.”

Kingham was working in the 88-92 MPH range tonight, consistently hitting all areas of the range throughout the night.  He threw 70 pitches, with 52 for strikes, which was very efficient.  He constantly pounded the strike zone, keeping the ball low, and wasn’t afraid to pitch inside.  His curveball looked great tonight, getting a lot of guys looking, and getting a few swinging strikeouts.  His curve was previously described as needing work, although based on tonight, it didn’t look like much work was needed.  It comes out looking like a fastball, but has a late break, running in to the strike zone.  He was able to use it a lot tonight due to the large amount of two strike counts he found himself in.  Kingham also flashed a nice changeup two pitches in a row against a left handed batter early in the game, although didn’t get the batter to swing at either pitch

Kevin Kleis came on to pitch three innings, and didn’t have the same success Kingham had.  Kleis allowed four runs on four hits in three innings, with two walks and four strikeouts.  He was mostly working in the high-80s, and was getting hit hard.

The big struggles came from the offense.  The Spikes managed just three hits.  Chris Lashmet got one of those hits, making his pro debut tonight, a day after his signing was officially announced.  Samuel Gonzalez and Jorge Bishop had the other two hits.  Pirates minor league coordinator Frank Kremblas is currently serving as the acting manager for the Spikes, as Kimera Bartee is currently on leave, helping his college team with the College World Series.  When asked about the struggles at the plate, Kremblas responded:

“We’re trying to teach these guys how to pick out pitches to hit that are strikes,” Kremblas said. “Teaching them to be able to do that is what they’re going to have to be able to do in the big leagues.  It’s being able to hit a good fastball, 90-92, but not swing at the other stuff that’s close.  They did a good job of it tonight.  We hit some balls hard, not a lot.  But I think we made their pitchers work.”

“Once they learn, you’re going to see a night where we have eight hits, eight walks, and ten runs, because they’re going to learn how to take pitches, be selective at the plate, and then when they get their pitch, hit it, and hit it hard.”

The Spikes will go on a six game road trip.  Ryan Hafner takes the mound for State College tomorrow.  Tonight concludes my coverage of the Spikes for this trip.  I’ll have some interviews with some of the newly signed draft picks up on the site in the next few days.

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