Sometimes you have to do something the wrong way before you know how to become successful at it. That's especially true in the Minor Leagues.
For Jake Esch, it was losing his focus on a couple pitches in the seventh inning of Class A Advanced Jupiter's 4-3 loss to Charlotte on Saturday night at Charlotte Sports Park.
The Marlins prospect spun 6 2/3 hitless frames, limiting the Stone Crabs to two baserunners.
In the fourth, rehabbing Rays prospect Tim Beckham reached on third baseman Avery Romero's error and Johnny Field was hit by a pitch. Esch got Patrick Leonard to bounce into an around-the-horn double play, then retired Maxx Tissenbaum on a grounder to second base. And pretty soon, a no-hitter didn't seem so far out of reach.
"You know you haven't given up any hits, but the first time it starts to feel real is the halfway point, in the sixth and seventh," Esch said. "But baseball bites you in the [butt] sometimes."
After retiring the first two batters in the seventh, the 24-year-old right-hander looked to end the inning with Tissenbaum. But the Stone Crabs' cleanup hitter waited him out.
"I threw him the whole kitchen sink," Esch said. "We went in, we went out and he did a great job fouling off pitches. You have to tip your cap to him."
Tissenbaum clubbed the ball over the head of second baseman Noah Perio and into right field for Charlotte's first hit.
"Regroup, deal with the hit and now you have to get an out," Esch remembered telling himself.
Unfortunately for the Georgia Tech product, he gave up three more singles, including a two-run knock by Josh Sale that lifted the Stone Crabs into a 3-3 tie.
Esch was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on four hits with six strikeouts over seven innings. He said he did what he could to keep his team in the game but learned what to do differently next time.
"It's just like any big buildup. You build it up, you have this idea in your head and you just lose a little bit of focus" he explained. "When you have something big going on, as soon as it falls apart, you need to work to [regroup]."
Brad Mincy (0-4) took over for the Hammerheads in the eighth and retired the first five batters he faced. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, he walked Jake DePew, then served up a walk-off double to Sale.