When he goes out on the mound, Sean Nolin said his focus is to be cool, calm and collected and throw strikes.
And boy has he been doing that.
Nolin threw six scoreless innings Friday night, scattering four hits with four strikeouts.
He was locked in a classic pitchers’ duel with Charlotte Knights starter Erik Johnson. Both were impressive on the mound, albeit aided by a generous strike zone established by the home plate umpire.
The relievers got in the act, too, as the scoreless game in front of about 4,000 at Coca-Cola Field stretched into the 11th inning.
That’s when Ryan Goins singled up the middle to give the Buffalo Bisons a 1-0 win over the Knights.
Nolin made the pitches he needed when he needed to, three times stranding Charlotte runners at third base – in the first, second and fifth innings. He now has a streak of 19∏ scoreless innings stretching over his last three starts. Nolin gave up four hits with four strikeouts against no walks.
“He’s pitched well the whole season,” manager Gary Allenson said. “But for me, it’s easily the best he’s looked out there. … He stayed in a rhythm with all his pitches and what I liked about it was, he was in a couple of jams with guys on base. He didn’t get flustered or frustrated. He just stayed in his rhythm there and made his pitches.”
“I was trying to get a ground ball or a swing and miss,” Nolan said of the times he held runners in scoring position off the board. “I guess the three times it happened it worked out, so that was good. … It’s been trying to do the same thing going out, just being cool, calm and collected.”
Before Goins had the game-winning hit, he had a game-saving defensive play.
In the second inning with one out and Dan Black on first, Denis Phipps blasted a shot off the left center-field wall. Outfielder Darin Mastroianni got the ball to Goins at short and he fired a perfect throw home to Mike Nickeas, who applied the tag at the plate.
Mastroianni “just made a good throw, got it in quick and it gave us a chance to get the guy at the plate,” Goins said. “Yeah, it was big for the team.”
Big, too, was Goins at the plate in the 11th.
Kevin Pillar extended his hitting streak to 14 games when he had a leadoff single and advanced to second on another single from Dan Johnson. A fielder’s choice from Matt Tuiasosopo put runners on the corners with one out, then Brett Carroll, pinch-hitting for designated hitter Ryan Schimpf, struck out.
With two outs, Goins drove a 1-1 pitch through the infield to score Pillar and give the Herd the win.
“Two outs, runners first and third,” Goins said. “Just trying to hit something hard and hopefully it will be a hit.”
Autin Bibens-Dirkz picked up his first win, pitching two scoreless innings, including striking out the side in the 11th.
Gregory Infante, John Stilson and Neal Wagner all pitched scoreless innings as the Herd pitching staff did not issue a walk in the game.
The Herd concludes its homestand this weekend with 1:05 games today and Sunday. Ricky Romero (0-0, 3.60) is scheduled to start for the Bisons against Charlotte’s Eric Surkamp today.