For six innings Wednesday night, Henry Owens was better than he's been at perhaps any other point this season. So it was particularly sweet that those six innings wound up setting the groundwork for a no-hitter.
Owens walked four and struck out a season-high tying 10 in his six frames, Matty Ott worked two perfect innings and Matt Price walked one and struck out two in the ninth to deliver the Class A Advanced Salem Red Sox's first no-hitter in franchise history in a 6-0 win over the Frederick Keys.
The last no-hitter in Salem came in 2002 when Kip Bouknight tossed one for the team then known as the Avalanche.
"This is awesome, yeah, absolutely, a very cool, very great experience," said Owens. "That was just the best curveball I've had all year and the fastball command went really well. I know I had four walks but they came in spurts, and I think a couple came on 3-2 pitches so I was at least challenging hitters.
"Early in the year I went 6 1/3 [innings without allowing a hit] but then gave up a hit and ended up giving up two. But this one was obviously the best."
After coming out in the sixth, Boston's No. 5 prospect said he wasn't overly worried about his teammates finishing what he had started.
"The first inning [after I left], I was actually in the clubhouse icing, so that was a little nerve-wracking. But then I came out and there was still no hits on the board in the latter half of the eighth inning. after that, I was just enjoying it, wasn't nervous," he said. "If it happened, it happened and fortunately it did and it was fun.
"I actually heard our third baseman, Stefan Welch, made a really, really good play and when I heard that I felt like, that's when you know. Every no-hitter in the past seems to have that one play, that one web gem."
Wednesday's effort provided a signature start for Owens (7-4) in what's been a very eye-opening season. The 36th overall pick in the 2011 Draft debuted last year with Class A Greenville, where he went 12-5 but notched a misleadingly inflated 4.87 ERA. He still flashed dominant ability, though, striking out 130 in 101 2/3 frames while walking 47.
The ERA has improved this year in the Carolina League, where he's posted a 2.93 mark in 92 innings with 107 punchouts and 47 walks.
"I think last year I was getting my feet wet. Coming to Spring Training this year I just wanted to show them what I've got, show that I can get better, because there's always room for improvement," he said.
Owens said when the no-hitter was finally in the books, it was simply nice to be able to share it with the rest of the team.
"It was cool, Matty [Ott] mentioned in the games we pitch this year, we have like four or five shutouts, so it's about time we had a no-hitter," he joked. "And Price, he just came up to me and said 'congrats.' He said he forgot we had a no-hitter going on when he went in, so at least he was focused. All in all, pretty cool."
Offensively, Henry Ramos provided the punch with a pair of home runs and three RBIs. Deven Marrero also double and brought in a run.