Kelvin De La Cruz and two relievers combined on a seven-inning no-hitter as Mahoning Valley topped Vermont, 7-1, in the second game of Thursday's doubleheader.
De La Cruz allowed an unearned run, struck out seven and walked two over five scoreless innings but did not factor into the decision. Daniel Frega (2-1) struck out one and walked one in the sixth inning, and Vinnie Pestano hit a batter, but closed out the no-hitter in the seventh.
"It was pretty cool, everybody was excited about it," Frega said. "Some of us didn't know. I didn't realize it at first. The scoreboard was crooked, so I couldn't tell. The numbers were hard to read, so I didn't really look at it."
The Lake Monsters managed a run off De La Cruz in the third when Brandon Whiting was hit by a pitch and stole both second and third base before scoring on catcher Alex Castillo's throwing error. De La Cruz struck out Dan Lyons to end the inning.
After giving up six runs on five walks and a hit on July 6 against Jamestown, De La Cruz said he focused on keeping the ball down in the zone.
"Fastball, down down down," De La Cruz said. "I used the inside ball because last time I threw a lot of balls and walks. I felt good in my bullpen. The change and curve in the bullpen worked really well."
With the Scrappers trailing by a run heading into the seventh, Frega said the team was just concerned about scoring some runs. While the dugout was unaware, he said the bullpen pitchers knew what was going on.
"All the bullpen knew, but some of the hitters didn't know or didn't want to talk about it," Frega said. "The way I realized was when bullpen came running down and yelled it, and I was like, 'whoa!'"
Mahoning Valley rallied for seven runs in the top of the seventh before Pestano got Agustin German to pop out to first baseman Nick Petrucci in foul territory for the final out. The reliever said he wasn't thinking about the no-hitter when he took the mound.
"We put up that huge seven-spot, so things kind of died down after that," Pestano said of the Scrappers' seventh-inning rally. "You don't think about it, but I think I can speak for everyone else in that we're glad we came in and shut it down. [De La Cruz] went out and threw a tremendous game and we're glad he could do that for us."
De La Cruz was 3-0 in three starts with the Gulf Coast League Indians this season before his promotion to Class A Short-Season Mahoning Valley. He went 1-2 with a 10.98 ERA in nine games last season for the Indians.
The 18-year-old left-hander said he thought back to his last no-hitter when he threw seven hitless innings in 2005 for Cleveland in a Dominican Summer League game. The Indians signed him as an undrafted free agent on Dec. 8, 2004.
"I felt good, I threw good," De La Cruz said. "I worked with my fastball, keeping it low. Last game my fastball was too high. But I think I did a pretty good job. The team wins. I didn't win though, but the team wins."
The Scrappers bullpen had been following De La Cruz's work intently.
"He was phenomenal," said Pestano. "The way he pitched, it was tremendous for us. It's one of those things that can push us further along."
"He was hitting hit spots, working hitters up and down in the zone," he added. "He looked pretty excited, but he's also very happy-go-lucky guy, so you don't know if he was thinking about [the no-hitter]. I'm sure when he came out, he knew, but I'm sure he was more worried about us winning the ballgame."
Pestano said the no-hitter was almost forgotten in a game in which his team trailed for most of the night.
"The no-no kind of got lost in us trying to win the ballgame," he said. "We put that spot up and things got a little lackadaisical. But we're glad we were able to do it for De La Cruz."
Frega said he once threw seven scoreless innings in a collegiate summer ball game but took a no-decision in the first half of a doubleheader. In the second half, the opposing team's pitcher threw a no-hitter. De La Cruz said his last no-hitter was also part of a doubleheader.
Justin Jenkins went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run for Mahoning Valley (11-11). Jenkins sparked the seven-run rally with a single before Juan Waldes and Jansy Infante drew bases-loaded walks. Alex Castilla lined a two-run single and Mark Thompson and Ramon Alvardo added consecutive RBI base hits.
Vermont reliever Alberto Tavarez (0-1) allowed two runs to take the loss after starter Jordan Zimmermann struck out nine and allowed just one hit over five frames.
The Scrappers crushed the Lake Monsters (12-9) in the the opener, 11-2.