Syracuse, NY --- Justin Marks tossed the Durham Bulls' first-ever Triple-A nine-inning no-hitter, leading to an historic 2-0 win over the Syracuse Chiefs on Saturday night.
A strikeout of Matt Skole on a 3-2 slider on Marks' 130th pitch sealed his legacy as his teammates raced onto the field to celebrate his milestone. Marks struck out seven, but six punchouts occured against the final 11 batters of the night.
There were only a handful of hard hit balls by the Chiefs, with all of them finding defenders. However, centerfielder Eury Perez was involved in the two early-game near-misses.
The first batter Marks faced in the game was Caleb Ramsey. Ramsey hit what appeared to be a routine flyball into calm skies toward centerfield, which Perez played very uncommonly. Perez zig-zagged as if he was being manipulated by a joystick, ultimately making the catch over his shoulders running toward the wall. Perez then yanked some grass and tossed into the air as if the wind that wasn't blowing had an effect.
Despite the shaky catch, Perez turned in a sensational catch two innings later to deny what would be the closest the Chiefs would come to a hit all night. Steve Lombardozzi clubbed a deep drive to left-center, with Perez breaking toward the gap immediately after contact. A perfect route Perez took, laying out onto his chest and catching the shot at full extension.
After that, Marks did the rest.
The only remaining question to be answered would be if Marks would have enough pitches left to pursue history. Marks, whose season high was 109 pitches, coincidentally against the Chiefs two weeks ago, finishined the seventh inning with 97, and the eighth with 114.
Marks, 28, spyly returned to the mound in the last of the ninth three outs away from his no-hitter, and having converted all of the home Syracuse Chiefs fans into Justin Marks fans for the final inning.
Caleb Ramsey grounded a ball just beneath Marks' glove, but shortstop Daniel Robertson turned that into the first out. Then Brian Goodwin bounced a ball right over the first base bag, ruled fair by umpire John Bacon, with Casey Gillaspie gloving it and carting it to the bag. Goodwin, so convinced that the ball was foul, took one step out of the batter's box and stood as the fair signal was displayed. After about a two minute debate with Chiefs' manager Billy Gardner Jr. protesting the call, effectively freezing Marks like a free throw shooter at the end of a game, Marks stood one batter away from history.
Matt Skole, who reached base seven times in the first two games of the series, worked the count to 2-2 before Marks stuck a pitch an inch off the outside corner. It was ruled ball three despite Taylor Motter taking one quick step toward the mound and Bulls relievers nearly running onto the field.
Catcher Hank Conger hung his 130th sign of the night, calling for one last slider, which Marks broke outside and wide of Skole's swing to secure his position in Bulls lore. Conger was in his first-ever game for the Bulls, having been optioned down by the Tampa Bay Rays earlier in the week, and had never caught a Marks pitch in his life before this special Saturday night.
A massive celebration began in front of Marks' mound, with Marks mobbed by teammates, doused by a water jug and as the last Bulls player to leave the field, posed for one picture holding the ball that produced history. As an exhausted Marks left the field, he was greeted by a standing ovation from the Syracuse fans, and acknowledged by a genuine tip of the cap.
Oddly, on a night in the International League where two other no-hit bids went deep, Marks was the one pitcher to complete the pursuit. Pawtucket lost a no-hitter with two outs in the eighth against Charlotte, and Indianapolis' bid to no-hit Louisville ended in the seventh.
Durham (41-54) scored the only two runs of the game in the fifth on a throwing error by Adrian Sanchez at shortstop to permit Jake Goebbert and Jaff Decker to score with two outs.
The series concludes Sunday at 1:35 PM ET with Jaime Schultz (5-4, 3.43) opposing Paolo Espino (6-7, 3.12).