Just 13 months since he went undrafted out of the University of Northwestern Ohio, Zach Petrick can no longer be ignored.
Petrick took a no-hitter into the eighth inning to earn the win in Class A Advanced Palm Beach's 5-0 victory over Bradenton at Roger Dean Stadium on Thursday night.
Petrick (3-0) allowed one hit and two walks while striking out six over a career-high 7 1/3 innings, mixing all three of his pitches in just his fourth start of the season. Since his promotion to the Florida State League, the right-hander has a 0.27 ERA in 33 1/3 innings. He has struck out 32 while walking only four.
"I was relying on the fastball most of the game. It felt good at the start of the game, it felt like I was throwing it hard and down in the zone," said Petrick, who throws in the low 90s. "I also throw a curveball and a change-up. The curve is my go-to for secondary pitches, but it wasn't working the first couple innings. I threw the change-up more than I usually do. It was working out for me. It was actually an out pitch for me."
Bradenton first baseman Stetson Allie broke up the no-hitter on a fastball with a leadoff single to right field in the bottom of the eighth inning.
"It was a good pitch. Hats off to him," Petrick said. "It was on the outside corner. I was debating whether I should have thrown a curveball, but I felt confident with that pitch. It was a good hit by him."
Robert Stock, Jordan Swagerty and Ronnie Shaban combined on 1 2/3 hitless innings to close out the one-hitter.
Petrick, who turns 24 on July 29, signed with the Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent June 19, 2012. He got the call from St. Louis as he was preparing to head to an Independent League tryout.
"It was huge. It's a call I'd been waiting for my whole life," Petrick said. "When I was in junior college, I was kind of expecting to get that call because my brother [Billy Petrick] played with the Cubs in 2007. I think I was a little cocky when I was coming from [Joliet Junior College]. When I didn't get picked up the last season after my senior year, it kind of put things in perspective."
Petrick has found nothing but success since signing. He went 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings split between the starting rotation and the bullpen in the Appalachian League last year. Then he picked up seven saves and posted an 0.83 ERA in 32 2/3 innings as a reliever for Class A Peoria in the Midwest League to start 2013. He struck out 46 and walked eight over that span.
"Honestly, I was happy and content in the bullpen just because I was being successful. But now that I see I can be a starter, I can do the same thing [in the rotation]," said Petrick, who was a starter in college.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander from Morris, Ill., grew up rooting fervently against the Cardinals as a Cubs fan -- a fandom that was only strengthened when his brother pitched for their hometown team.
"It's funny how things work out. My brother went to the Cubs and now I'm with the Cardinals," Petrick said. "All I wanted was a chance, it didn't matter who it was with. I know the Cardinals are a great organization, I'm just excited to be with them."
Jesus Montero got the scoring started with a solo homer in the second inning, his first of the season. David Popkins added a three-run homer and a triple.