Highland native Geoff Hartlieb recorded five scoreless relief outings in a row — a span of 9 1/3 innings — including nailing down his first win while lowering his ERA from 10.80 to 1.86 for the Bradenton (Florida) Marauders, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, which competes in the Florida State League.
In his first outing on une 25, Hartieb gave up two earned runs on three hits and two walks with one strikeout in 1 2/3 innings.
But since then, the 2012 Highland High School graduate recorded five scoreless stints in a row, including scoring his first win last Thursday. In his six most recent relief appearances that span a total of 11
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innings, Hartlieb has yielded only one earned run, eight hits and and two walks while striking out 12.
Overall, he has gone 1-1 and lowered his ERA from 10.80 to 2.08 in 13 innings at Bradenton.
“It was nice to get my first win for sure, just not under the greatest circumstances,” Hartlieb said. “Our starter was throwing really well and pulled an oblique and I came in mid-inning for an injury and warmed up on the field. I had never done that before so it threw me off but I was just thinking to myself I can’t let this runner score, I’ve got to keep it 1-0. Thankfully, I did and was fortunate enough to be in the spot for the win. It was really weird warming up on the field for the first time but I got into a groove when I went out for the second inning. It was fun to get the first one, looking for a couple more.”
Hartlieb said he struggled in his first outing because it was very different for him as it took place in the middle of the day with no fans present, so the ballpark was very quiet and he was really nervous.
“I went out and got away from what I have been doing the whole year,” he admitted. “I overcompensated and didn’t stick to what has brought me success, and it cost me. I ended up hanging a slider to a good hitter, and he made me pay. Since then, I’ve found the same confidence as before and have been able to let myself fit comfortably here and get outs. My stuff is good enough to succeed here, and now I’m trusting it.”
Hartlieb said the biggest difference he has noticed from the West Virginia Power, the Low-A affiliate, to what he is facing now at the High-A level is the quality of the order all the way through the lineup.
“The 5-6-7 hitters here were probably 3-4 hole in Low-A, and you just have to attack every pitch with the same intensity,” he said. “Taking no pitches off and really focusing on your game plan to get guys out is huge.”
For West Viriginia, Hartlieb converted all six save opportunities and recorded a stellar ERA of 0.83 in 32 2/3 innings.
Hartlieb said he will be successful more times than not if he keeps the ball down and lets his sinker get ground balls. He also combines that sinker with his slider and fastball, which hits 93-96 mph regularly on the radar gun and touches 98 on occasion.
“That being said, the higher I go, the better the hitters are, and sometimes a well-executed pitch still gets hit a long way,” he admitted. “It’s just the game of baseball.”
Hartlieb said he really loves playing for the Marauders, including the competition level and his teammates that he gets to compete with, but he ultimately wants to keep ascending through the Pirates’ minor-league affiliates.
“Everything is just really a step up,” he said. “When I take the mound, I’ve got a couple future big leaguers behind me every time now, and it’s exciting. My main goal is to secure my role as a late-inning guy who comes in when the game is on the line, which will hopefully set me up for a shot to win a spot on the AA squad next year. I’ve got a long time until then and a lot of work to do, but that will 100 percent be my goal going forward.”
Hartlieb was also excited that his dad, Chris, got to come to LECOM Park in Bradenton, recently and spend some time with him and watch him pitch.
“It was pretty cool my dad got to make the trip down,” Hartlieb said. “Since he retired from coaching (girls) basketball (at Highland High School), he will be able to, hopefully, come see me play every year at every spot.”