Blake Schriever looked in for the sign and liked what he saw.
With two runners on base and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Schriever had thrown two straight changeups to push the Salamanders to their final strike. As the left-handed batter stepped back into the batter's box, catcher Natale Monastra called for the same pitch that had been dominant all night long.
Schriever came set, took his grip and let the changeup fly, drawing another swing-and-miss and putting an exclamation point on his complete-game shutout. A couple of standout performances at the plate backed up his three-hit gem, which propelled the SwampDogs to a 6-0 victory over Holly Springs.
"I faced a lot of lefties today and my changeup was really on, and they kept swinging and missing," Schriever said after the game. "Nate [Monastra] is really good behind the plate. He knows the game really well and knows how to read hitters just like I do."
Schriever (Cal State Northridge) and Monastra (Xavier) were clearly on the same page Tuesday, as the battery worked together to thoroughly shut down the Salamanders' lineup. Schriever struck out 11 and allowed just six baserunners on the night.
"He was in the zone with all his pitches," said Head Coach Matt Hollod. "If you're throwing multiple pitches for strikes, you can put together an outing like that."
While Schriever twirled his masterpiece on the mound, his teammates worked to grind out quality plate appearances, continuing to build the lead as the game went on.
"Our at-bats keep getting better as a team," Hollod said. "Two guys in particular tonight, Nate Monastra and [Trevor] Hafner, had a couple key at-bats where they kept the inning going."
Monastra and Hafner (Ohio) certainly earned Hollod's recognition, as the two combined for seven of Fayetteville's 10 hits. Monastra finished 4-for-5 with three RBIs, while Hafner went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Both credited their success to improved approaches at the plate, as they fouled off tough pitches and took advantage of those they could hit.
By the time Schriever took the mound for the bottom of the ninth, the SwampDogs had given him a six-run lead. His dominance not only delivered the win Tuesday, but it will also have a positive impact on Fayetteville's pitching staff in the coming days.
"Any time you get a performance like that, it just really helps with the bullpen," Hollod said. "After this, we have everybody still fresh for tomorrow."
The SwampDogs will return to action Wednesday to kick off a home-and-home with the Wilmington Sharks. The two teams have a day game at Wilmington Wednesday before coming back to the Swamp for a Thursday night showdown.