Victor Sanchez went through the full range of emotions Wednesday at Ashford University Field. In the end, pride and joy ruled the night.
The Mariners' No. 6 prospect pitched a nine-inning no-hitter in his 27th professional start as Class A Clinton blanked visiting Lansing, 1-0.
What made the performance even more memorable for Sanchez was that his mother had flown in from Caguas, Venezuela to watch what turned out to be his historic effort. It was the second time she's seen him pitch on American soil and the first time this season.
In fact, the last time Sanchez had seen his mother was when he flew home last month to attend his grandmother's funeral.
"I'm not sure how to describe my emotions right now," Sanchez said through a translator. "I'm happy. My mother and wife were here to see me pitch, so I'm happy When I saw [my mother], she reinforced that I was very good. Before the game, she told me that I could do it."
After plunking Dalton Pompey, the second hitter of the game, the 18-year-old right-hander retired 20 consecutive Lugnuts. A pair of errors by Clinton shortstop Ketel Marte in the eighth inning put the potential tying run on third base, but Sanchez (2-4) set down the final four batters to wrap up his gem.
"It was a tremendous performance," LumberKings pitching coach Andrew Lorraine said. "His mom was in the stands, so it was an emotional performance.
"He was nervous with his family here, but once the game started, it didn't show. He was what he strives to be and this was a memorable game for him. Whatever else he does, he'll never forget this moment. If he pitches 15 or 20 years, this will still be a special night for him and everyone involved with the baseball club."
It was the 22nd no-hitter in the 77-year history of Clinton baseball and the seventh nine-inning gem. Jordan Shipers went the distance in the LumberKings' last no-hitter on July 11, 2012.
The Lugnuts have been the victims in three of the five no-hitters in the Midwest League this year. They were no-hit just once in franchise history entering the season.
"I want to thank the players behind me, the trainers and the athletic coaching staff that made it possible," Sanchez said after throwing 73 of 105 pitches for strikes.
"I felt really good throughout the outing. I noticed I felt that great when I started throwing the fastball to both sides of the plate to hitters tonight. I didn't really think about the no-hitter until the seventh or eighth inning, that was when I had almost an 'Oh, my god' reaction. That was when it sunk in."
Signed by the Mariners as a non-drafted free agent on July 12, 2011, Sanchez tied a career high with eight strikeouts. It was only the second time in his two-year career that he's pitched at least seven innings and the first time he passed the 91-pitch mark this season.
In his first 11 starts this year, the 6-foot, 255-pounder had just one win and a 3.29 ERA with 33 strikeouts over 54 2/3 innings. He was 0-2 in his previous three outings, allowing 11 runs on 19 hits over 14 frames.
"Tonight was different because right away I had command of my fastball and I could throw it for strikes," said Sanchez, who had appendicitis in the offseason and didn't report to Clinton until the end of April. "That gave me confidence early on to know that I could go to all three pitches."
Lansing's Taylor Cole (4-9) matched Sanchez until the sixth, when Janelfry Zorrilla drew a one-out walks, took second on an errant pickoff attempt, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
Cole lost his fifth straight decision, despite yielding an unearned run on three hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.