By the time the pop-up landed, Jarod Plummer was standing right next to third baseman Michael Gaffney. The High Desert Mavericks reliever wanted to make sure the final out was secure before the celebration could begin.
When Gaffney squeezed the ball in his glove, the Mavericks celebrated the first no-hitter in their 16-year history. Patrick Green went 6 2/3 innings and Plummer pitched the final 2 1/3 as High Desert blanked the Inland Empire 66ers, 2-0, on Monday.
"As soon as he caught it, I was two feet from him," said Plummer, who pitched a pair of no-hitters at South Garland High School in his native Texas. "If that thing was going to drop, I was going to be there to catch it."
Green (3-1) breezed through six innings. His sinker was working and his fastball was reaching 91 mph as he retired 17 of 18 batters, giving up only a two-out walk to Josh Womack in the second. Green nabbed Womack leaning off first and the 66ers left fielder was caught stealing after a brief rundown.
Tomas Duenas went 2-for-4 and scored both runs for High Desert. He gave the Mavericks (66-61) a 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the sixth off 66ers starter Cibney Bello. Duenas scored an insurance run in the ninth, ripping a one-out double and coming home on Gerardo Valentin's single.
Bello (5-10) limited High Desert to one run on four hits in eight innings. He struck out six and walked two.
Green fanned five and walked four. He recorded 11 fly-ball outs and three on ground balls. The High Desert defense, which leads the California League in fielding percentage, bailed him out at least once. Right fielder Brian McFall raced to the warning track to make a running catch on what Plummer felt was a sure hit by Brent Johnson in the fifth.
"I thought that was going over his head, for sure, because he was playing in," said Green, who played shortstop in high school and was converted to a pitcher when he attended the University of Tennessee. "The guy hit it pretty good, but (McFall) ended up making the catch. He made a really good play on that."
Green tired in the seventh, issuing three walks as Inland Empire (66-60) loaded the bases with two outs. Plummer came in and retired Womack on a fly ball to left fielder James Tomlin. Plummer struck out two and had only one batter reach base as he picked up his seventh save.
"I stayed out of his way. I didn't want to put any more pressure on him. He knew what was going on," Green said.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking to watch the end of the game, but he did a great job."
The final inning was not without its drama. Plummer struck out Jack Arroyo with one out, but Arroyo reached on a passed ball by Duenas and took second on a grounder to short before Plummer got Casey Craig to pop up a forkball.
"The intensity was amazing. I knew when I was sitting in the dugout what was going on," Plummer said. "I was facing the 1-2-3 hole. I thought the leadoff hitter might try to lay down a bunt. I hit my spots and things worked out. The adrenaline was going.
"That guy (Craig) has hit well against us. The catcher called fastball and I shook him off and threw a forkball. That seems to be my out pitch. We ended up getting a fly ball."
And a piece of history.
The no-hitter was the 16th in the Minor Leagues this season and the second in as many days. On Sunday, Osbek Castillo and Hector Ambriz of the Missoula Osprey blanked the Casper Rockies, 5-0.