C.J. Riefenhauser came within two outs of a no-hitter Saturday as the Bowling Green Hot Rods edged the Lake County Captains, 1-0, in the first game of their doubleheader.
Riefenhauser (1-1) helped the Hot Rods end a four-game skid, six days after giving up five runs over 5 2/3 innings against the same team.
"Really, just seeing them again," Riefehauser said of the two difference between his last two starts. "My changeup was really effective today. I wasn't trying to overpower everybody. I'm not trying to get them to swing in miss, but I'm trying to keep 'em off-balance, make them hit off their front foot.
"My sinker was working as well. If I get that command and can throw it down in the zone, things are going to be fine. If I leave it up, or belt level, we're going to have some problems."
The 21-year-old left-hander didn't have a lot of problems in his third start of the season. After breezing through the first inning, he walked Jesus Aguilar to open the second. Aguilar moved up on a passed ball and Riefenhauser issued another walk with one out before retiring Alexander Lavisky on a popup and Anthony Gallas on a fly ball to center field.
It was clear sailing from there.
The Rays' 20th-round pick in last year's Draft retired the next eight batters before walking Gallas with two outs in the fifth. Nick Bartolone reached on an error by shortstop Derek Dietrich, but Tyler Cannon fouled out to right as Riefenhauser kept the no-hitter intact.
He coasted through a perfect sixth and retired the leadoff batter in the seventh before Jason Smit -- the Midwest League's leading hitter -- lined a single to center.
"Smit got a hold of it. He's a great hitter," Riefenhauser said. "It was a sinker. I left it up a little bit and he made me pay.
"To be honest with you, there were at least three or four plays that; hey, the no-hitter should have been broken up before that. My defense, my guys behind me were making great plays."
Hot Rods manager Brady Williams immediately went to his bullpen, and Chris Rearick set down both batters he faced for his second save of the season.
"I knew going out for the seventh if nobody got a hit, I was going to finish it. But if somebody got a hit, I knew I'd be done," Riefenhauser said. "I'm only on a 75-pitch count and I knew I was around that number.
"Rearich comes in, lights-out. He's been really good."
The New York native had never pitched more than 5 2/3 innings but struck out two and recorded nine ground-ball outs to notch his second career Class A win. He made his pro debut last summer in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and went 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 11 relief appearances at Princeton. Riefenhauser was 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA in two starts after a late-season promotion to Bowling Green.
Kevin Kiermaier went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and the game's only RBI.
"We did need to win one of these two games," Riefenhauser said. "We have a nine-game homestand coming up and things will go a little bit differently at home."
The Hot Rods were pounded in the nightcap, 14-4, as Jesus Aguilar clubbed three of the Captains' seven homers.