Robert Stephenson once threw consecutive no-hitters en route to being named the high school player of the year in California.
The Reds' No. 2 prospect showed that kind of ability in the pros Thursday, when he didn't allow a baserunner until Michael Lange delivered a slow-rolling single in the sixth en route to the Class A Dayton Dragons' 9-0 victory over the South Bend Silver Hawks.
"I knew that I could beat any of those hitters tonight," the 6-foot-2 right-hander said. "Once I gave up the hit, I was a little bummed. I was disappointed, but there was nothing I could do about it."
Stephenson has a powerful four-seam fastball, as well as an impressive curveball and a changeup. His secondary pitches came in handy against South Bend. The 20-year-old estimated he threw about 25 percent curves -- which he labeled his "out pitch" for the evening -- and 15 percent changeups.
The Reds' 2011 first-round pick didn't pick on a weak-hitting squad either. The Silver Hawks were the Midwest League's top-hitting team before falling to a .268 average after Thursday's game and the loss put an end to South Bend's 10-game winning streak.
Stephenson, who improved to 5-3 on the year and lowered his ERA to 3.32, has been rolling out plenty of zeros in his past five starts. He's yielded just four runs while striking out 42 and walking just four over 31 2/3 innings in that span. Overall, he's fanned 77 compared while issuing 16 passes.
The key has been mental focus and good stuff. "Sometimes I just have to go with what I got, but I've had a pretty good feel for my pitches [during the last five starts]," he said.
"There are a few things that I've worked on mentally -- not trying to do too much, working in the bullpen with pitching coach Tony Fossas on all my pitches and getting the ball down."
Stephenson said he got lots of help Thursday from the Dragons lineup at the plate and in the field.
"My teammates did a great job picking me up. Nine runs is unbelievable and the defense was great as well," he said.
Dayton designated hitter Beau Amaral spearheaded the offense with three singles in five at-bats.
Wandy Peralta and Sean Lucas allowed two hits over the final 2 1/3 innings to seal the shutout.