When Steve Ascher walked from the mound to the dugout after three innings of work, he turned to one of his coaches and joked, "I shouldn't be pulled with a no-hitter going." He didn't realize at the time that his words would be prophetic.
The left-handed Tampa Bay prospect combined with Jared Mortensen, Jordan Harrison and Kyle Winkler to toss the third no-hitter in Double-A Montgomery history in Monday's nightcap as the Biscuits edged the Jackson Generals, 2-1, at The Ballpark at Jackson. The foursome's effort was the Biscuits' first since Victor Mateo accomplished the feat on Aug. 24, 2013 and the team's first combined no-no.
Making his third straight spot start out of the bullpen, Ascher got the ball rolling by keeping the ball on the ground over the first three frames. The southpaw racked up six groundouts and never let the ball out of the infield as he struck out one and worked around three walks.
"I was working with Dick Bosman a lot, our pitching coordinator, on just staying on top of everything so my changeup had more depth and my fastball had the same," Ascher said. "Making sure I'm on top of all my pitches."
The 22-year-old passed the baton to Mortensen (5-7) to begin the fourth. The righty knuckleballer struggled to reign in his signature pitch, issuing two walks in the fourth and two more in the fifth along with four wild pitches. One of the wild pitches allowed Brock Hebert to race home with the Generals' lone run in the fifth, but they remained hitless.
Southpaw Jordan Harrison took over to begin the sixth and got Leon Landry to fly out to left before striking out Marcus Littlewood. In the bullpen, Ascher watched Biscuits closer Kyle Winkler walk to the mound.
"Going into the sixth, I think we all noticed it," the New York native said. "After I came out, it was only the fourth. Then from the fifth, I knew it was only a seven-inning game, but it still felt a little ways away. When [Winkler] came in … I think we all noticed it."
The righty got Kyle Petty to fly out to center field and move Montgomery within three outs. In the seventh, he struck out Patrick Brady, Adam Law and Brock Hebert in succession.
"He was just throwing a lot of sliders, his slider is just really good," Ascher said. "It's mid-80's [mph], and when he shows his low- to mid-90's fastball, the slider works even better."
The celebration was muted and Ascher wondered whether his teammates even realized what had happened as they ran in from the bullpen. He said the no-hitter's unorthodox nature may have had something to do with it. The four pitchers combined for seven walks and four wild pitches, but allowed only two balls leave the infield.
"I mean, a combined no-hitter with four different pitchers throwing, seven innings, doubleheader, late night," Ascher said with a laugh. "I think we realized when we got into the clubhouse how cool it actually was."
Eighth-ranked Rays prospect Casey Gillaspie and Jake DePew provided the Biscuits' offense with back-to-back solo homers in the second.
No. 10 Mariners prospect Andrew Moore (3-1) gave up two runs on six hits and a walk while fanning three over six innings for the Generals.
Jackson won the first game of the double dip, 3-2, on a walk-off single by Landry in the eighth.