The California League is, generally speaking, an easier place to hit than most other Minor League circuits.
So it makes the no-hitter Kyle Hallock and Luis Cruz pitched for Class A Advanced Lancaster on Sunday all the more impressive.
Hallock struck out three over five innings before handing off to Cruz, who fanned four the rest of the way as the JetHawks beat the Stockton Ports, 2-0, at The Hangar.
It was the second no-hitter in the California League in six years and the first since five Lancaster pitchers combined on a 10-inning gem on Aug. 25, 2010. Stockton was no-hit for the first time since Aug. 15, 1987.
"It's a great feeling. It's great to see everyone smiling, coming off the field," said Hallock, who allowed just one baserunner on a throwing error in the fourth. "Luis out there did a great job and Ryan McCurdy behind the plate called a great game. And the defense went to work. It was fun to be a part of."
It was an especially sweet moment for Hallock, a 2011 10th-round Draft pick who who essentially lost last season following elbow surgery in May. The 24-year-old left-hander said he hoped it could serve as a launching point as he goes back to working his way through the Astros system, finally healthy again.
"I think it's a good start to this stage," he said. "I'm just going to try to build on it and get guys out and help the team win. That's pretty much what I want to do every time I have the ball. I feel healthy, I feel good again."
Hallock admitted that he was aware the JetHawks had the making of a no-hitter in place as he exited in the fifth and gave away to Cruz.
"I definitely know when I give up the first hit of any outing that I'm a part of," he said. "I know once you start a game there's always potential for that until you give up your first hit. Luis progressed through the game, he kept getting stronger and Ryan [McCurdy] stuck with the game plan we executed. A defensively, I can't say enough about the guys behind us because we definitely weren't striking everybody out."
It was Hallock's first start for Lancaster as the comeback trail has seen him bounce between the JetHawks, the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Class A Lexington, Class A Quad Cities and Triple-A Oklahoma City just since August.
Across three levels this season, he's 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA.
It was a landmark moment for Cruz, a 22-year-old southpaw who went 9-8 with a 4.05 ERA last year with Lexington, mostly as a starter. He tossed six hitless innings for Rookie-level Greeneville on June 23, 2009 but had never been part of the real deal.
"I came close to a no-hitter in the Appalachian League in 2009. This was very exciting, really fun," said Cruz, who struck out four batters and walked one. "Everybody was very excited, everybody was happy."
Hits were hard to come by for both sides as Lancaster totaled one over the first seven innings. But Andrew Aplin led off the fourth with his 11th double of the season, took third on a groundout and scored on Preston Tucker's sacrifice fly.
In the eighth, reliever Blake Hassebrock misplayed Delino DeShields' sacrifice bunt for an error that allowed an insurance run to score.
Ports starter Jake Brown (1-2) took the hard-luck loss after allowing one run on one hit over six innings. He struck out two and did not walk a batter.