Despite having a run charged to him in the first inning, Class A Lexington's Daniel Tillo carried a no-hitter into the seventh on Friday.
The Royals' No. 19 prospect surrendered back-to-back doubles and ended up allowing two runs on two hits and three walks with two strikeouts over seven innings in the Legends' 9-7 loss to Hagerstown at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
Video: Tillo notches strikeout against Hagerstown
"I did have [the no-hitter] on my mind a little bit," Tillo admitted. "But I was out there just trying to compete and help my team win. I felt good tonight, just got to keep it rolling and stuff like that.
"It's been a great start, not much to complain about right now. I'm feeling good, locating my fastball well."
Tillo opened the game by walking Cole Freeman, who came around to score on a wild pitch and a pair of groundouts that started a run of 10 straight batters set down by the 21-year-old. He pitched around baserunners in the fourth, fifth and sixth, but no Suns player had a hit to that point.
"I just located my fastball tonight," Tillo said. "Both sides of the plate, up and down, that was really working for me tonight."
Gameday box score
A third-round pick in last year's Draft, Tillo got Nick Banks to ground out leading off the seventh before Kameron Esthay lifted a ball into no-man's land in shallow right-center field. Right fielder Travis Jones came close to making the play, but the ball fell for a double, breaking up the no-no.
"I made a pretty good pitch," Tillo said. "I got in on him, just a bloop hit. Those hits are probably the most disappointing ones, because you make a good pitch. He happens to get a bloop hit on you."
Branden Boggetto followed with a double down the third base line, plating Esthay.
"I tried to get back into it," Tillo said. "I got a ground ball, just a little too far down the line."
The left-hander rebounded with a comebacker and struck out Armond Upshaw to finish his outing. He threw 49 of 84 pitches for strikes and recorded 15 of his 21 outs via ground balls.
"My defense did a really good job for me," Tillo said.
Video: Legends pitcher Tillo makes quick catch
The Sioux City, Iowa native considered himself a strikeout pitcher heading into the season. But Tillo said he's found success pitching to contact during three strong starts, allowing four earned runs and fanning eight over 18 1/3 innings to begin the year.
"It's awesome for low pitch counts, so I can keep going farther in games and stuff like that," the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder said. "And watching guys make great plays for me, it's always great."
Although Tillo turned in a strong outing, he said he'd like to see improvement from his off-speed pitches. The slider is his most used secondary pitch and he's developing a changeup to serve as a third weapon.
"I've been leaving things just a little too low and not letting hitters see it as a strike and just kind of bouncing in front of the plate a little too much," he said. "Once I get that going, I think I'll hopefully be a little better."
Tillo said a strong Spring Training has helped fuel his early-season success.
"That's kind of been a boost," the Iowa Western Community College product said. "Since I got out here, I'm just trying to do the same thing from Spring Training. So far it's been going well. It's only been three starts though. I got to stay locked in, not let it get to my head and keep grinding it out."
With Hagerstown trailing by one in the ninth, Nationals No. 7 prospect Yasel Antuna hit a grand slam for his first South Atlantic League homers. He finished 2-for-3 with a pair of walks, a career-high five RBIs and two runs scored.
Royals No. 2 prospect Nick Pratto went 3-for-5 with an RBI double and two runs scored for the Legends.