A little command went a long way for Dylan Cease.
The Cubs' No. 3 prospect tossed six hitless innings in the longest start of his three-year career on Wednesday, striking out seven and walking three, as Class A South Bend blanked Great Lakes, 3-0, at Four Winds Field.
Cease retired 18 of the 21 batters he faced while facing two over the minimum. The right-hander threw 55 of 92 pitches for strikes.
"My fastball command was pretty solid today," Cease said. "I was able to be aggressive with that and attack them."
The 21-year-old left after fanning Dodgers No. 27 prospect Brendon Davis on seven pitches to end the sixth and strand Saige Jenco at first after a two-out walk. It was the first time he left a start without surrendering a hit since he went 3 2/3 hitless frames last Aug. 17 for Class A Short Season Eugene.
Video: Cubs' Cease fans his seventh
"I was more excited about going six than I was about going six hitless," Cease said. "I was just excited I was able to get that last guy to swing at a breaking ball. I knew I was running low on pitches, so to make it through six was really exciting."
Cease came away equally encouraged by his improved fastball command. Despite possessing above-average stuff, MLB.com's No. 71 overall prospect has averaged 5.3 walks per nine innings during his Minor League career.
The Georgia native said he understands the importance of improving in that area. Like the Loons on Wednesday, hitters typically struggle to make contact against him. Over 83 2/3 career innings, he's held opponents to a .158 average.
"It's definitely the most important facet of my game. Everything builds off of that," Cease said. "The better the fastball command I can have, it helps me execute my game plan better and hopefully be more efficient.
"I think it should be a focus for any pitcher, especially a starting pitcher. It really is just fastball command and then everything else plays off of that."
Matt Swarmer (1-1) took over in the seventh and retired one batter before giving up a single to Oneil Cruz that halted the Cubs' no-hit bid. Cease said his excitement with his performance and South Bend's win overshadowed the disappointment of seeing the no-hitter end.
Video: Loons' Cruz breaks up no-no
"It's a stepping stone," he said. "It's progress from where it has been, the fact that I was able to go that deep. I still wasted plenty of pitches and I walked three guys, so it wasn't perfect by any means. But it was just a solid outing. To get the win to top it off, that was awesome."
Swarmer did not give up any other hits, walked a batter and struck out four over the final three innings to get the win.
Jhonny Pereda doubled, singled twice and scored a run, while Vimael Machin doubled and drove in three runs for South Bend.
Loons reliever Luis De Paula (0-1) was reached for two runs on two hits and a walk while fanning three over 1 2/3 frames. Dodgers No. 23 prospect Dustin May started for Great Lakes and blanked the Cubs for five innings, yielding three hits and striking out three.