Nick Hernandez was enjoying one of those beautiful days at the ballpark.
It turned even more memorable as the Lakewood left-hander took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning. He ultimately fanned nine while scattering three hits and not allowing a walk over eight frames for the win in the BlueClaws' 10-0 blowout of the Greensboro Grasshoppers at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park.
"Everything seemed great," Hernandez said. "I was throwing the ball in and out. I was changing speeds well and getting
my first pitch over for strikes. It was a great outing."
Hernandez (2-0), drafted by the Phillies in the 12th round last year, had an inkling that he was going to have a good game.
"My bullpen was very good," he said. "The fastball command was a lot better. Everything was just tying together in Spring Training and in my last two outings.
"I got first-pitch strikes. From there, I could throw my slider, changeup or fastball to a different location. It seemed like everything I threw was over the plate."
Greensboro's Kyle Skipworth was the first hitter to reach base against Hernandez, poking a grounder through the right side for a single to lead off the fifth. Hernandez retired the next 11 Grasshoppers in a row.
"Slowly but surely, I saw people moving away from me," he laughed. "Once you give up that first hit, the pressure is off. The offense got me 10 runs, so I didn't have to nail-bite in the dugout. You just enjoy the offense and keep trying to make your pitches."
With two outs in the eighth, Brent Weaver doubled to center field off Hernandez. Jose Torres followed with a single, but Weaver was held at third base. Hernandez whiffed pinch-hitter Sequoyah Stonecipher to get out of the inning with the shutout bid intact.
With Lakewood leading by 10, Hernandez didn't pitch the ninth.
The 21-year-old, who was 8-1 with a 2.70 ERA in the short-season New York-Penn League, has cruised through his three South Atlantic League starts this season. In 20 innings, he's racked up 19 strikeouts and one walk while surrendering three earned runs for a 1.35 ERA.
"This is my first full season," Hernandez said. "It's going to be a challenge. I threw 80 innings last year. Now we're on a 142-game schedule."
The southpaw enjoyed watching the defending South Atlantic League-champion BlueClaws receive their championship rings prior to a Spring Training game last month.
"It would be great to repeat," he said.