Tony Cingrani couldn't decide where Wednesday's start ranked in his baseball career.
The Reds' No. 10 prospect had just taken a no-hitter into the seventh and finished with 15 strikeouts over eight shutout innings in Double-A Pensacola's 5-0 win over Jackson. It was the highest strikeout total in the longest outing of his two-year Minor League career.
"It's right up there with one or two," Cingrani said.
When pressed about what could best such an outing, the 22-year-old left-hander mentioned a six-inning no-hitter he threw for Lincoln-Way Central High School in Lenox, Ill., in March 2007. That start stood out because it came against St. Rita of Cascia High School, one of the better baseball programs in Chicago's south suburbs.
Then he remembered his opponents on Wednesday and changed his mind.
"This was probably the best," he said. "This was better because it's obviously against better hitters and guys who have been in the pros for a while."
Cingrani retired his first 14 batters -- 10 on strikeouts, including three in the opening inning -- before issuing a two-out walk to Denny Almonte in the fifth. The former Rice closer promptly picked off the Generals center fielder.
He didn't surrender his first hit until Leury Bonilla lined a single to left field with one out in the seventh. And while he lost a chance at an even more historic evening, Cingrani admitted he wasn't miffed.
"I was obviously aware of it, but I wasn't worried about it," he said. "A no-hitter would've been nice, but it was a single hit and I try not to get worried about that kind of thing."
Bonilla was caught trying to steal second one batter later as Cingrani faced the minimum through seven innings.
In the eighth, Kalian Sams singled, but Jesus Sucre bounced into a double play. After Almonte tripled, Cingrani struck out Joe Dunigan on his 100th and final pitch.
The 15 strikeouts for Cingrani -- who employs a fastball, changeup and slider that he's continually working on -- eclipsed his previous high of 13, established over six hitless innings for Rookie-level Billings last Aug. 27. The eight innings were one better than his previous best, established for Class A Advanced Bakersfield on April 20.
What makes Wednesday's outing even more impressive is that it followed a 3 2/3-inning stint a week ago in which Cingrani allowed two runs on five hits and three walks while striking out three.
"I felt like I was rushing too much," he said of his last start. "My body was coming in way too fast and it affected my command -- I didn't know where anything was going. But I worked with [pitching coach Tom Brown], and that's something we really focused on in my bullpens and side sessions. "I feel like I've figured it out."
The 2011 third-round pick is 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA and 38 strikeouts in five starts with Pensacola after going 5-1 with a 1.11 ERA in 10 appearances with Bakersfield. He's recorded 109 strikeouts over 86 innings across both levels, ranking third in the Minor Leagues behind A's farmhand Daniel Straily (124) and D-backs top prospect Trevor Bauer (116).
With numbers like that, the Reds prospect has the confidence level to repeat Wednesday's performance -- the one he now believes was his best ever -- and, in fact, even improve upon it.
"[My confidence level is] always high," Cingrani said. "Obviously, after the last two starts, it's not extremely high, but it's back up there now. Today was just another day. I've got to go out there and do it all over again in four or five days.
"I definitely I feel like I can do this again. I can do even better."