Dan Osterbrock came within three outs of a perfect game Saturday, settling for the Midwest League's third no-hitter in two nights, as the Snappers blanked the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, 4-0, to sweep their doubleheader.
Osterbrock took the mound one night after Peoria's Nick Struck tossed a rain-shortened five-inning no-hitter and three pitchers combined on another for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Displaying the kind of control that earned him Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year honors in 2008, the 23-year-old left-hander retired the first 18 batters.
"I was mixing it up," Osterbrock said. "Someone told me I threw only 20-something fastballs out of 80-something pitches. My catcher, Tobias Streich, did a great job. I was throwing fastball, slider, changeup, constantly mixing it up -- in and out, up and down. We really had them off-balance today."
It was around the sixth inning when Osterbrock became aware of the no-hitter.
"I was standing out on the mound and I heard somebody from the stands yell, 'Five more outs.'" That's when it kind of hit me," he said. "Beloit's not a very big place. You can hear people, you can hear conversations."
The Cincinnati native appeared unfazed until D'Vontrey Richardson led off the seventh for the Timber Rattlers and fouled off three two-strike pitches before walking on a 3-2 count to spoil the bid for a perfect game.
"I had confidence," Osterbrock said. "Tobias was back there, my teammates were behind me. Even if I gave up a hit, it's not the end of the world. A no-hitter's a little feather in your cap. I wasn't too concerned."
Osterbrock promptly got Ryan Gennett to ground into a double play, then retired Khristopher Davis on a pop fly to second base to complete the Snappers' first no-hitter since Jason Dawsey beat Burlington on July 26, 1996.
"I guess for this year, it's top of the list," the former seventh-round pick said. "For my entire baseball career, it ranks pretty high. Definitely, top five."
That's no understatement for a pitcher who thoroughly dominated the Rookie-level Appy League in his first professional season. He went 7-2 with a 3.00 ERA and one complete game in 13 starts, issuing only eight walks while striking out 104 batters in 75 innings.
The Midwest League proved more difficult in Osterbrock's first full season. He was 7-10 with a 5.19 ERA in 28 games (26 starts) and allowed 213 baserunners over 137 innings.
"I was a little upset I came back to Beloit [this season], but I don't blame [the Twins] for sending me back," he said. "My stuff wasn't working too well in Spring Training.
"In college and the Appy League, I was told, 'Go after guys, let them beat you.' ... I strayed away from that. That's not my style. I have to throw the ball over the plate, keep guys off-balance and not let them hit the ball too hard."
On Saturday, he didn't let them hit the ball at all.