A little over two weeks ago, Austin Voth made his Carolina League debut with Bryce Harper patrolling the outfield.
"I had no clue who he was," Harper said of the young right-hander.
Since then, Voth has become the Nationals' worst-kept secret. He owns a 0.35 ERA and 28 strikeouts over 26 innings since being promoted, with Friday proving to be his latest gem. The Nationals' No. 16 prospect took a no-hitter into the sixth inning en route to his second Carolina League win as Class A Advanced Potomac blanked Frederick, 4-0, at Harry Grove Stadium.
"I was a little awestruck," said Voth, who pitched that memorable night to rehabbing catcher Wilson Ramos. "Having them in the dugout is just surreal."
Voth's statistics have been hard to believe lately. He recorded a season-high eight strikeouts while limiting the Orioles affiliate to a pair of singles and a walk in his fourth start for the P-Nats. He faced two batters over the minimum, allowing only four fly balls, and was unhittable until Wynston Sawyer led off the sixth with a single to center field. Voth (2-0) erased him with a double play, then pitched around Michael Burgess' two-out single in the seventh, retiring Jason Esposito to finish off his night.
"I felt like I was in the zone for the most part," the 22-year-old right-hander said. "Toward the end, I was a little fatigued and overthrowing a little, but I felt good about my performance."
Potomac gave its starter the only run he'd need in the second when Oscar Tejeda drew a leadoff walk and scored on an single to left by Khayyan Norfolk. Tejeda added a sacrifice fly in the sixth before Eury Perez capped the scoring with a two-run single in the seventh off Keys starter Branden Kline.
"That run was clutch for me, mentally, just to know my team is putting up runs for me," Voth said. "I can go out there with more confidence and approach batters differently."
Richie Mirowski relieved Voth in the eighth and pitched around a pair of singles before Jake Walsh finished off the shutout with two strikeouts in the ninth.
Voth has allowed just one run in four starts Potomac since moving up from Class A Hagerstown on June 24. He held Salem to a pair of hits for his first win, struck out seven against Frederick while allowing a run over seven innings on June 29 and fanned seven more over six scoreless frames against Myrtle Beach on July 5. It was the no-decision he took against the Keys last month, though, that helped give him an edge on Friday.
"I knew going in what the weaknesses of their batters were and how I wanted to approach them," he said. "It was just a matter of me locating pitches and trusting [catcher Pedro Severino] in his pitch selections. So, yeah, seeing them a second time was a big deal for me."
The 2013 fifth-round pick said he was aware of his hitless start but remained focus on his game plan.
"It's something that goes through your mind as a pitcher, but I knew I had to stay focused and keep throwing strikes and letting my 'D' work," he said. "In the seventh, I knew that the fatigue was setting in, I had to make some quality pitches here and there and get myself out of the inning."
Voth speaks like a veteran, despite his age. He had only 15 full-season starts under his belt before making his Potomac debut.
"I mean, I've come a long way and I've felt like I'm finally starting to see things clicking for me mentally and physically," he said. "There's more stars up in [Class A Advanced], I definitely have to focus in a lot more and mix up my pitches in High-A compared to Low-A, but I think the challenge will be the next three starts and how I take my progress and what I do with it."
Voth is used to success. He finished second in the Pac-12 Conference in strikeouts behind Stanford's Mark Appel, the eventual No. 1 pick of last year's Draft, and has pitched well wherever the Nationals have sent him. He went 3-0 with a 1.75 ERA over 46 1/3 innings last year, then was 4-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 13 starts for Hagerstown.
"I've finally gotten in that groove where I want to be in that rotation every five days and I look forward to coming into the ballpark and competing for my team," he said.
The brief taste of the bright lights with Harper and Ramos in town only added to Voth's mission.
"It's crazy having two big leaguers on your team and being able to contribute with them," he said.
Kline (5-4) was charged with four runs on eight hits and two walks, striking out four over seven frames for Frederick.