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Fireflies' Conlon turns it up to 10

Mets prospect takes no-hitter into seventh in 97-pitch effort
June 4, 2016

After P.J. Conlon struck out the final batter in the ninth inning Saturday night, he was relieved, thinking he had just gone the distance for the first time in his career. Then Class A Columbia manager Jose Leger approached him in the dugout.

"When the ninth inning ended, there was no doubt in my mind I was done. I put my stuff down and shook a couple hands and then the manager came over and asked me, 'How do you feel?' And I'm like, 'I feel fine. I feel OK,'" Conlon said. "I didn't know where my pitch count was at, but for him to be asking me that, there was a possibility for me to go out for another inning. After I got the third out in the ninth, I took a sigh of relief like, 'All right, I'm done.' And then I had to refocus in the dugout for another inning."

The Mets prospect took a no-hitter into the seventh and ended up allowing an unearned run on three hits over a career-high 10 innings before the Fireflies dropped a 2-1 decision in the 12th to visiting Hagerstown.

"I would say, for the most part, I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes," Conlon said after issuing one walk and striking out five in the 97-pitch effort. "And seeing Hagerstown play the last two days in a row, they have a lot of free swingers, and I took that into account. I was cautious and I was making sure I was getting the ball down and they were swinging."

The University of San Diego product faced the minimum through the fourth, then encounterd a hiccup in the fifth. Rhett Wiseman reached second on Conlon's throwing error and took third on Matthew Page's ground ball. Austin Davidson followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Suns a 1-0 lead.

"There was a bunt down the first base line and I threw it up the line, so it was my error that scored. So it was my own doing," Conlon said. "It was kind of frustrating because if I would've just picked up the ball and held onto it and not tried to force a throw, he would've been at first and set up for a potential double play.

"It's frustrating thinking about how it wouldn't have had to go to extra innings if I hadn't tried to force that. I was frustrated with myself, but I had to go out there and try to keep them where they were and give my team a chance to chip away."

Conlon kept the no-hitter intact until the seventh, when Kelvin Gutierrez singled up the middle with one out.

Despite leading the South Atlantic League with seven wins and a 1.21 ERA and ranking second with a 0.92 WHIP, the southpaw said he's working on being more consistent. Through 10 starts, he pitched at least six innings nine times while allowing more than two earned runs once.

Nationals prospect Jefry Rodriguez matched Conlon for seven innings, striking out eight and limiting Columbia to three hits and two walks. But he gave up a game-tying solo homer to David Thompson leading off the seventh. The 22-year-old right-hander is fifth in the league with a .197 opponents' batting average.

"It definitely keeps you in the game," Conlon said. "The game was flying by and we were both having quick innings, and so it seemed like I'd come sit down and then five minutes later I was back out on the field. He pitched really well tonight, and when a guy's doing that ... there's like this light switch that comes on: 'OK, this guy's doing it for his team, I've got to do it for my team' and just go toe to toe and keep my team close enough to where they'll eventually be able to scratch across a few runs and if not, it just wasn't our night."

The Fireflies were unable to scratch across another run after the seventh and Hagerstown took advantage of a pair of wild pitches by Alex Palsha (2-2), who gave up a leadoff double to Victor Robles in the 12th.

Mack Burke is a contributor with Follow him on Twitter @macburke18_MiLB