Eric Fornataro has hit a few rough patches in 2010, but the Class A Quad Cities starter was as smooth as could be in five no-hit innings against Beloit on Thursday night.
The right-handed Cardinals prospect finished the game with three strikeouts and two walks as the River Bandits dropped the Snappers, 2-0.
Relievers Chris Notti, Jesse Simpson and Aaron Terry combined for four innings of one-hit ball to seal the victory.
"My fastball felt great," Fornataro said. "I was throwing like 93, 95 [mph]. My curveball wasn't as good as usual, so I switched to my change.
"It was pretty much just fastball, changeup for the most part and a couple of sliders when I needed to," he added.
One of the important lessons Fornataro is learning is how to win when he isn't dominating.
"I think I've had two or three rough outings," he said. "Something bad would happen and I would get [upset] about it. Now my coach is teaching me not to get down about it and just be a bulldog and bare down. Even tonight I didn't have my best stuff."
Fornataro has allowed four or more earned runs in three starts this season, but hasn't allowed more than two in his other seven outings.
In his last 22 2/3 innings, Fornataro has hit a stride, allowing just three earned runs while striking out 18 hitters.
"Most pitchers don't go out there with their best stuff every day," he said. "A good day for me, I'll hit 94 or maybe 96. My last two outings, I was only at 91. Two outings before this, I didn't have that strong of a fastball and I had to resort to my offspeed stuff and my location. I just can't let small things get to me."
The 22-year-old, who was pitching at Miami Dade Community College two seasons ago, was chosen by St. Louis in the sixth round of the 2008 Draft. He went 4-5 with a 3.63 over 15 games (11 starts) between Quad Cities and Class A Short-Season Batavia last year.
"Compared to last year, my fastball location and velocity has been up," Fornataro said. "I'm actually learning to pitch now. In college, I didn't pitch that many innings. Last year was my first year of getting 75 innings or more, so I feel like I'm just learning how to do this."
Even though he had a no-hitter through five innings of a close game, River Bandits manager Johnny Rodriguez held him to his pitch count of about 85 to 90 pitches.
"I had a couple of batters that had like 12 or 13 pitches, so I had 85 pitches in five innings and I had to go out," Fornataro said.
"I asked to go back out for the sixth, but they're pretty strict with the pitch limit," he added. "My arm felt great. I could have pitched a little more."
Fornataro (5-2) has a 2.63 ERA and is holding opposing hitters to a .220 average. While he's enjoying his success, the right-hander is eager to test himself above Class A.
"I definitely want to get out of here as soon as possible," he said. "I just want to get my career moving. I want to make it to the big leagues and be an All-Star there."
Most importantly, Fornataro now knows what he has to do to reach his lofty goals.
"Just be consistent," he concluded. "Going out every day with whatever I have, which is what I've done the last three games, and just baring down."