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GCL Marlins trio tosses perfect game

Tag team of '12 picks Jackson, Merkling, Stone face minimum
July 19, 2012
If No. 1 overall draftee Carlos Correa -- and Gulf Coast League Astros teammates Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz -- didn't already know about the attention that comes with being a heralded first-year pro, they should by now.

"You know about the first pick in the Draft. You see him on the field every day," GCL Marlins reliever -- and 25th-round draftee -- Dane Stone said. "You don't get intimidated by it. You want to bring your best stuff. Fortunately for us, we all had our best stuff."

Stone finished what starter Justin Jackson and fellow reliever Patrick Merkling initiated in the trio's perfect game and 6-0 victory on Thursday afternoon over the Rookie-level Astros.

Like Correa, all three pitchers were 2012 draftees. Jackson (2-1), a 27th-round pick out of Sam Houston State University, pitched the game's first six innings. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out six and recorded seven outs on the ground. He credited his success to the command of his fastball and curveball.

But did he realize he hadn't allowed a single baserunner?

"I knew I hadn't pitched from the stretch," said Jackson, who had never been a part of a no-hitter.

Jackson estimated he threw about 70 pitches and understood why he was lifted two-thirds of the way through the game.

"That's not the name of the game down here," he said, referring to the developmental aspect of the Rookie-level league.

Left-hander Patrick Merkling, Florida's 18th-round draftee out of Chattanooga State Community College, struck out a batter in his seamless seventh.

That's when Stone got his cue.

"Watching Jackson throw six innings, I had to step up and pitch to his par," he said.

The 21-year-old right-hander struck out three, including two in the final frame.

"The [eighth] inning, I was throwing my curveball, and I couldn't get it over for a strike. I just got guys out with my fastball and changeup. In the ninth, my catcher [Felix] Castillo kept calling for [the curve], and it kept falling for a strike: boom, boom, boom."

Was the St. Thomas (Fla.) University product feeling the nerves of keeping perfection going?

"I was stretching in the sixth, and I took my mind off of it altogether," he said. "As soon as the game was over, everyone in the dugout was going crazy. I was like, 'We won by six runs; why is everyone screaming?' Then I snapped back to reality, 'Oh wow, that was a perfect game.'"

Correa is batting .165 through his first 20 pro games; Ruiz, who wasn't a sure thing to sign, struck out twice in three at-bats and is hitting .176 through five. McCullers, Houston's latter first-round pick, gave up two runs on five hits over two innings. He suffered his first loss in his second pro outing.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB.