EAST MANATEE -- As long as Brooks Norton finishes what he starts, he will always trade punchouts for precision.
"I want to go seven innings," he said, "every time I pitch."
The Braden River righty did so Tuesday when he limited Manatee to six singles and pitched the Pirates to a 1-0 victory.
He needed only 82 pitches to do it, striking out just six while keeping the Hurricanes off balance with a tricky change-up. Norton continually pitched to contact and of the 21 outs he recorded, four left the infield.
"I like to work backward with everything," said Norton, now 1-4 despite a 2.07 ERA. "The change-up was effective (Tuesday) more than usual, but that's (how) I like to work: Just keep taking the strain off my arm, be efficient, get outs."
Norton's only semblance of a rocky inning came in the sixth, when Khalyd Cox led off with a single and Wesley Woodward bunted him to second. But centerfielder Derrick Cozzette made a sliding catch of Tyler Souris' shot in the gap. And after intentionally walking Cord Sandberg, Norton got Danny Kerwin on a check-swing roller back to the box.
"It's almost unhittable," Pirates coach Mike Verrill said of Norton's change-up. "It's a fastball motion, and when it comes out, it's like a yo-yo -- it just backs right up from the plate."
Tuesday marked the second time in as many seasons Norton has thrown a complete game at the Hurricanes, who are now 2-8 overall and 2-5 in Class 7A-District 11 play.
"If you're thinking change-up, his fastball is quick enough to get by you," said Sandberg, who popped out in the first inning and flied out to the warning track in right in the fourth. "You can't be sitting change-up. I tried to make an adjustment, (move) up in the box. And the second AB, I just missed that one."
The Canes squandered a solid outing from Souris, who allowed two hits and retired 11 of the last 13 hitters he faced.
A bit of wildness betrayed him in the first, when the Pirates (3-8, 2-5) scored on the strength of two walks, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout by Myles Straw.
"We need to take a better approach. We just continued to try and pull that ball," Canes coach Dwayne Strong said.
Manatee appeared to mount a rally in the second, when Kerwin led off with a single and his courtesy runner, Kevin Acevedo, stole second.
One out later, Montana Stockford's swinging bunt was fielded in front of home plate by Norton. With no chance to get Stockford at first, Norton held on to the ball and fired to third to nail Acevedo, who took too wide of a turn and wasn't able to make it back.
"We just have to keep battling," Strong said. "We've been getting some good pitching performances lately and playing better defense. Hopefully, someone will step and do something offensively to help us out."