Baseball's evolution has brought about the emergence of what has become known as the "bullpen game." Usually an "opener" starts on the hill before giving way to another short-inning arm, and the pattern continues as nine innings are essentially pieced together. It's proven to be effective at the Major League
Baseball's evolution has brought about the emergence of what has become known as the "bullpen game." Usually an "opener" starts on the hill before giving way to another short-inning arm, and the pattern continues as nine innings are essentially pieced together. It's proven to be effective at the Major League level, but rarely has it produced extraordinary results.
That pattern changed on Wednesday at SEGRA Stadium as six pitchers -- Bryant Salgado, Brett Gillis, Ronny Garcia, A.J. Blubaugh, Zack Matthews and Austin Temple -- combined to toss Single-A Fayetteville's second no-hitter, 3-0, against Lynchburg.
"It's pretty special, every single pitcher that toed the rubber tonight had to be on their A-game and they definitely were," Woodpeckers pitching coach John Kovalik said. "Just a crazy scenario that transpired out there, and I'm very happy and proud of these kids."
Six pitchers, 130 pitches -- Garcia, Matthews and Temple tossed fewer than 10 each -- 82 strikes, 14 strikeouts, four walks and most important of all: zero hits.
"They did a phenomenal job at controlling their emotions and realizing we all still had a mission to accomplish which was to get the win," Kovalik said.
Salgado took the ball for Fayetteville in his first appearance since Aug. 18. After a groundout and a strikeout to start the game, the 22-year-old hit Isaiah Greene with a 3-2 pitch. After a successful swipe by Greene to get into scoring position, Salgado got Jorge Burgos swinging to end the frame.
"It was great to see Salgado, coming off that injury, get this one last start this season," Kovalik said. "I know it meant a lot to him to be back out there and I know it's a day he's never going to forget."
Gillis took the ball in the second and worked around a pair of walks -- including a leadoff free pass to Will Bartlett -- by whiffing two and coaxing Jordan Brown to fly out to end the inning. The ninth-round selection in this year's Draft quickly recorded the first two outs of the third through the air, before exiting after tossing 36 pitches -- 22 for strikes.
Garcia entered and yielded a five-pitch walk to Greene before closing out the frame on a ground ball to short.
Blubaugh took the bump in the fourth and did most of the heavy lifting from there. The 2022 Draft pick yielded one walk and punched out eight over five frames. The right-hander recovered from a shaky start -- walking the first batter he faced before plunking the next -- to retire the last 14 Hillcats, escaping the fourth on a double play ball before whiffing the side in order in the sixth.
"Gillis and Blubaugh are fairly new here, just got drafted, you know, so it was pretty cool that they got to be a part of this and got to showcase what they can do," Kovalik said.
Matthews came on in the ninth looking to lock down the save and after a strikeout of Greene and a soft ground ball to first from Burgos it appeared he was well on his way. But, the 23-year-old Oklahoma product covered first on the play and began limping after stepping on the bag. He was removed for Temple with two outs in the frame.
"Zack tweaked his knee on the play," Kovalik explained. "He's a guy with big-time stuff, a fiery competitor, someone we trust in any situation, but he's had some bad luck here. So it was a shame to see him go down."
The game only lasted five more pitches as Temple froze Bartlett on a 2-2 breaking ball up in the zone for a called strike three.
"Temple did a great job coming into a tough situation right there," Kovalik said. "I haven't had the chance to talk to him yet, but I'm sure he knew what was happening when he came in tonight, but he really showed a lot -- came out firing and threw some really nice breaking balls in the zone to not only nail down the win but also seal the deal for us with the no-hitter.
"It's definitely a cool moment for everybody in there, but I'm just extremely happy for the guys that contributed to make history tonight, that's something they're not going to forget for the rest of their lives."
The Woodpeckers' first no-no came on May 14, 2021 in a 5-0 victory over Kannapolis.
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.