For David Hess, the Carolina League All-Star break was exactly that. Since taking a pause from baseball, the 21-year-old right-hander has returned a rejuvenated pitcher.
The Orioles’ No. 13 prospect spun seven one-hit frames while tying a career high with seven strikeouts in Class A Advanced Frederick’s 4-3 win against Wilmington on Tuesday at Judy Johnson Field at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium.
“I think the All-Star break really helped me out, because I was able to get away from baseball a little bit and reset my mind and get back on track with what got me to this point to begin with,” Hess said. “So the All-Star break really was nice, because I … came back ready to go. So far, it’s been a really good second half and I’m ready to continue it.”
Hess was 2-4 with a 5.83 ERA in 14 games when he went to West Virginia to spend time with his girlfriend, Devin, and some friends. The Tennessee native said he enjoyed being able to do the “normal, everyday stuff” that baseball players don’t get to do during the season.
“I think before the All-Star break, it was one of those things where slowly things have started to get better and I think a lot of it was a mentality difference,” he said. “Coming in from the second half, I’ve felt a lot more relaxed and a lot more confident in what I’m capable of doing. In the first half, that kind of was a battle to have.”
Since the break, Hess has held Carolina League foes to two runs on nine hits over 19 innings in his last three starts.
“It feels great,” he said of the turnaround. “This is where I was hoping [to be] from the get-go and so I’m just looking to keep moving forward with it and see where it takes it for the rest of the year.”
Facing the Blue Rocks, Hess faced two above the minimum. He gave up a single to Dexter Kjerstad in the third and plunked Robert Pehl in the fourth. Tuesday marked the second start this season in which the Tennessee Tech product did not issue a walk.
“I was able to throw my slider and curveball for strikes and located it where I wanted to at any point in the count. And just having a good feel for my pitches [helped],” Hess said. “It kind of clicked and the results were good. There was a lot of really good defense behind me that helped me out a lot.”
After he exited the game and went to the clubhouse to ice and stretch, Wilmington scored three runs off reliever Jimmy Yacabonis to take lead. Nik Nowottnick (3-2) then registered the final two outs of the eighth to bring Frederick back to plate.
Pinch-hitter Tanner Witt slapped a two-run triple to put the Keys back on top for good and Cody Wheeler pitched 1-2-3 home half of the ninth to notch his 13th save of the season.
“I hear a bunch of cheering every now and then and I had no idea what was going on. I asked one of the clubbies and I was like, ‘Oh, OK, well, we’ll come back and we’ll win.’ And we ended up doing that,” Hess said. “Everybody was happy; it was a big win. We had a long bus ride last night, so coming off of that and picking up the win was really good for the team.”