By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Paul Sewald was understandably nervous.
Making his professional debut before a crowd of 6,051 at Coney Island's MCU Park on Monday night, the 22-year-old Cyclones right-hander was summoned from the bullpen by manager Rich Donnelly in the seventh inning to protect a 1-0 lead against visiting Hudson Valley.
After watching Brooklyn starter Luis Mateo (2-0) dominate the Renegades over the first six frames, yielding just two hits while striking out seven and walking one en route to his second win in as many outings, Sewald knew it was his responsibility to get the ball into the capable hands of side-winding closer Tyler Vanderheiden in the ninth.
After four solid years at the University of San Diego, the Las Vegas native was finally ready to roll the dice, so to speak, on the big stage.
"It was my professional debut, so obviously my adrenaline was going more than usual," Sewald admitted. "[Pitching coach Marc Valdes and Donnelly] both tried to calm me down because they both knew my nerves were going."
Judging from his performance, Sewald should embrace the idea of experiencing pre-game jitters as a ritual.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound hurler made good on his status as the Mets' 10th-round pick earlier this month, retiring all six batters he faced as Brooklyn blanked Hudson Valley, 3-0, to improve to a McNamara Division-leading 6-2 on the young season.
Sewald struck out Joel Caminero in his first pro matchup and fanned two more in the eighth before Vanderheiden recorded his second save in as many opportunities by overcoming an error and a walk with two strikeouts of his own in the ninth.
For Sewald, getting appearance No. 1 under his belt in impressive fashion bodes well for what will undoubtedly be a long, hot, challenging summer on Coney Island.
"It was a good first outing to build off," he said. "Once a hitter got in there, it was just like it's always been. It's the same game, even though it's professional (baseball)."
Despite his initial success out of the bullpen, Sewald, who went 8-4 with a 3.09 ERA as a starter during his senior campaign in San Diego, knows he has plenty to work on with Valdes as the season progresses.
"I just have to have command of all three pitches," noted the 2012 All-West Coast Conference selection. "Whether that's in short-season or the Major Leagues. I did that well tonight, but it needs to be every time out."
* * *
Though we're only eight games into the 76-game grind of a NY-Penn season, the Cyclones' pitching staff continues to put up startlingly good numbers, especially when considering the pressure of pitching under the bright lights before near-capacity crowds at MCU Park.
With Monday night's combined two-hit shutout of Hudson Valley, Brooklyn lowered its league-leading ERA to 2.66 while dropping its WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) to a circuit-leading 0.96.
Cyclones hurlers have walked only 20 batters — tied for second-best in the league — while fanning a NY-Penn high-tying 75 over 71 innings.
"If you throw strikes, you don't have to throw 100 miles per hour," Donnelly noted when addressing his young staff's early season penchant for good control.
Opening Night starter Gabriel Ynoa (1-0, 1.50 ERA) and fellow Dominican right-hander Mateo (2-0, 0.77) are spearheading a Brooklyn staff that has allowed one run or fewer in half of the Cyclones' first eight games.
Vanderheiden is anchoring the bullpen thus far, yielding just one hit over 4 1/3 scoreless innings in his first four pro appearances after working 29 2/3 frames as a reliever at Samford College in Alabama earlier this year.
* * *
This, That and the Other Thing: While Cyclones hurlers have deservedly received a lion's share of the attention thus far this season, Brooklyn bats are also heating up after a slow start. The Baby Bums outscored Aberdeen, 17-6, during the final two games of their first true road series of the season over the weekend. ... During Sunday night's 10-5 victory over the IronBirds, DH Alex Sanchez went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored to pace a 13-hit attack. Sanchez, who hit .254 in 13 games at rookie-level Kingsport of the Appalachian League last year, is currently batting .394 with two RBIs and four runs scored in his first eight games, bolstering the middle of Brooklyn's lineup. ... C Kevin Plawecki, the Mets' supplemental first-round pick out of Purdue University in this month's draft, belted his first professional homer in Saturday's 7-1 win at Aberdeen, helping Brooklyn snap a two-game skid. ... SS Phillip Evans also went deep in that game for his second of the season. ... Despite a paltry .185 batting average, CF Brandon Nimmo, the Mets' first-round pick in 2011, continues to be productive at the plate for the Cyclones. The 19-year-old has drawn 10 walks in his first eight games with two doubles, three RBIs and four runs scored for a .421 on-base percentage. ... OF Eudy Pina is showing an uncanny ability to come through with big hits, hitting just .233 but driving in a team-high nine runs. ... INF Richie Rodriguez has struggled in the early going, managing just one hit in his first 19 at-bats for an .053 average. Making the adjustment from Eastern Kentucky University, where he played in 217 games during his four-year career while establishing virtually every major record in the program's history, figures to get easier for Rodriguez as the summer progresses.