Alone and ignored in the corner of the Mississippi Braves dugout, Tommy Hanson refused to glance at the scoreboard on Wednesday night at Trustmark Park. A line of zeros told the story as the 21-year-old right-hander did his best to stay calm.
Hanson recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts and pitched the first no-hitter in team history Wednesday as the Braves blanked the visiting Birmingham Barons, 6-0.
"It was awesome, by far the best time I've ever had pitching in a game my whole life," Hanson said following a clubhouse celebration. "It was great. The fans were up clapping, it was an awesome time."
The Tulsa, Okla., native, who survived a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, recorded three flyouts in the ninth before he was mobbed by teammates.
"Everybody just kept hugging me, they were all real excited," Hanson said.
The Riverside Community College product walked three, hit a batter and said he wasn't even keeping track of his strikeout total.
"I still don't even know how many strikeouts I had," said Hanson, who reached double digits for the third time in his three-year career. "I wanted to attack hitters and get ahead in the count, keep them off-balance with offspeed pitches. I wasn't thinking about the strikeouts at all."
The Braves did their best to forget all the strikeouts.
"I was kind of sitting in the corner of the dugout and guys would walk by and say, 'Good job,' but you could kind of tell they were all staying away," Hanson said. "I knew they hadn't gotten a hit, but I was trying not to think about it. It was kind of funny."
Funny except for the Barons, who had just one baserunner after the second inning as Hanson struck out the side in the second, fifth and eighth.
The no-hitter eclipsed Hanson's 13-strikeout effort over five hitless innings in his season debut for Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. He allowed 15 hits over 40 innings and posted an 0.90 ERA in seven Carolina League appearances to earn a promotion to Double-A Mississippi (6-2).
It was the second no-hitter in the Minor Leagues in five days. On Saturday, Shane Wolf, David Miller and Ashton Mowdy of the short-season Tri-City ValleyCats combined on one in a 10-0 New York-Penn League rout of the Oneonta Tigers.
Hanson's historic night began with a bases-loaded jam in the first. He issued a leadoff walk to Miguel Negron, threw a wild pitch, hit Cole Armstrong and walked Ricardo Nanita with two outs. Pitching coach Derek Botelho came out to calm his starter, and the break worked. Hanson popped up Stefan Gartrell to end the threat and was in cruise control thereafter.
"He gave me a little breather," Hanson said of Botelho. "I felt really good coming out of warmups, but I needed to bring it down a notch. Once I did that, it started to work out. I was a little too pumped up, trying to do too much."
Hanson allowed six runs over five innings in his previous start on June 18 against Montgomery.
"Since I've gotten here, I've changed a couple things and today was the first day everything clicked together," he said. "That's the main thing."
The former 22nd-round Draft pick was in command of his curve, change and slider.
"All four of my pitches, I was pretty much putting them where I needed to put them," he said. "The main thing was my command tonight."
Hanson compared the effort to a near-no-hitter he pitched last season for Class A Rome, where he struck out 12 but allowed a hit in the seventh inning against Columbus on June 5.
"I got pretty close last year in Rome, so tonight I was trying not to think about it," he said.
The reality of the no-hitter became apparent in the ninth, when the crowd of the 2,362 rose in anticipation of the feat.
"The fans started clapping on all my strikes," he said. "My adrenaline started flowing, so I was just trying to breathe, take it one pitch at a time."
Mississippi picked up Hanson after his shaky first with a pair of runs in the second. Reid Gorecki scored on a groundout and Paul Bennett lined an RBI single. Kala Ka'aihue ripped a run-scoring base hit in the third before former third-round pick Jordan Schafer delivered a bases-loaded triple.
Barons starter Dewon Day (0-2) surrendered six runs on eight hits over 2 1/3 innings.