Glenn Sparkman felt something coming in the air Friday night. And although he didn't get the milestone he's waited for all his life, he came away with the best start of his young career.
The Royals prospect carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and recorded a career-high nine strikeouts in pitching Class A Advanced Wimington to a 5-0 victory at Winston-Salem.
"As the game went on, I was getting a pretty good feel for my pitches. There was a feeling in the air," the 22-year-old right-hander said. "Everything felt good when I was warming up, there was a big crowd and it just felt like it was going to be a big night. I went out there focused on throwing strikes and I was able to get it done."
Despite going deeper with a no-hitter than he ever had, it was business as usual for Sparkman (4-2). On the mound, he kept his emotions under control and in the dugout, he laughed and had fun with his teammates.
While the Texas native did not allow a hit or a walk for six innings, the Dash did get one baserunner. With one out in the third, Justin Jirschele reached first on an error by third baseman Ramon Torres. Sparkman responded by retiring the next 12 batters.
"I knew he had very good location with his fastball right away," Blue Rocks manager Darryl Kennedy said. "Sparkman was able to use his fastball in counts going up in the zone when he had to. He also got a lot of ground-ball outs. He threw a really, really good ballgame."
Sparkman retired the leadoff man in the seventh on his ninth flyout of the night. But Joey DeMichele followed with Winston-Salem's first hit, a single to center field. While the no-hit bid was over, the 2013 20th-round Draft pick focused on the task at hand and struck out the next two batters.
Kennedy said the seventh would have been Sparkman's final inning, even if the no-hitter was intact, because his starter was working on an 85-pitch limit. He was a reliever last summer in the Pioneer League and began this season in the Blue Rocks bullpen. But after compiling a 2.28 ERA in 11 appearances, Sparkman moved into the rotation.
With only eight starts under his belt, Sparkman has not recorded enough innings this season to rank among the Carolina League leaders. If he did, his 1.56 ERA would put him atop the circuit.
"I just need to throw low in the zone and let [batters] hit. My infielders will field the ground balls and my outfielders will make the play on the fly balls," he said. "I always have faith in my hitters and fielders behind me."
One week after being no-hit in back-to-back games, the Blue Rocks totaled 12 knocks, with designated hitter Michael Antonio going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Starling, the Royals' No. 7 prospect, hit a two-run homer and Torres also had two RBIs.