Ian Dickson sat anxiously in the dugout while his teammates racked up runs. Since it was the second game of a doubleheader, a seven-inning contest, thoughts of "What if" crept into his mind earlier than usual.
So he sat there, thinking about the zero in Frederick's hit column.
But with the first base line helping clear his mind, the Nationals prospect tossed six hitless innings Sunday as Class A Advanced Potomac crushed the Keys, 12-1, to earn a split of the twinbill.
"In between every inning, it felt like it was forever. Our guys are having some great at-bats and scoring frequently," Dickson said. "I kept trying to put [the no-hit bid] out of my mind. I didn't want to think about it, I just wanted to focus on the at-bats. I think I did a good job of flipping the switch after I crossed over the white line."
The 23-year-old right-hander struck out five and induced five groundouts but issued five walks while keeping the Keys hitless.
"It was a good one. I'll say off the bat, I don't think I had my sharpest stuff, it was a bit of a battle and it was a grind," he said. "My approach tonight was to be as aggressive as possible and keep the ball down in the zone. When I was able to do that, good things happened; and the five times it didn't, I had walks."
When he entered the dugout in the middle of the sixth inning, Dickson was told by manager Tripp Keister that his night was over after 98 pitches. The Lafayette College product said he was frustrated, knowing the walks were part of he reason, but knew his health comes first.
Dickson became a spectator as Jake Walsh came out of the bullpen. But Chih-Hsien Chiang ended the tension by sending the reliever's first pitch in the seventh inning over the right-field fence.
"I really just wanted him to be aggressive with those guys," Dickson said of Walsh, "We had a 12-run lead and the biggest thing is a 'W.'"
Dickson (5-8) got his fourth "W" in as many decisions, eight days after allowing one hit over eight innings against Carolina. He spent some of the extra off days with pitching coach Franklin Bravo, trying to put even more distance between himself and a rough first half.
After compiling a 6.25 ERA in 16 games before the All-Star break, the 2011 35th-round Draft pick has a 2.79 ERA in the second half.
"It's been a roller-coaster of a season," Dickson said. "I'm glad I had a rough first half, a lot of adversity. I really just tried to stay positive. Right around the All-Star break, my manager came up to me and spoke to me, he gave me reassurance. He said, 'We're not giving up on you, we believe in you, we trust your stuff. We're going to figure this out.'
"Over time, the accumulation of the hours we put in on a day-to-day basis came together and things just clicked. And it feels awesome."
Dickson got support Sunday from Stephen Perez and John Wooten, who drove in two runs apiece. The P-Nats took the lead two batters into the game when Tony Renda doubled home Isaac Ballou.
"It's nice to pitch when your team puts up 12 runs," Dickson said. "It makes you more comfortable."
Frederick took the opener, 4-3, as Mark Blackmar (9-1) pitched his first career complete game to win his ninth straight decision.