Two-thirds of the way through Thursday night's start, Montgomery's Matt Moore was unaware of the scoreboard. Then one person among the 2,872 in the stands at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile -- a vociferous man on his feet -- changed that.
Hey, Moore, you know you got a no-hitter going?!
An unfazed Moore proceeded to complete his second career no-no -- and became the first Minor Leaguer to accomplish the feat individually over nine innings this season -- in the Biscuits' 8-0 victory over the BayBears.
"There wasn't a lot of fans there, so I heard him," said Moore, whose parents and brother were also in attendance. "When I first realized it, things started to get serious."
Moore (4-3) fanned 11, tying a season high, and walked a pair. The Rays' lefty prospect faced two over the minimum 27 batters, and recorded the 27th out himself on a harmless comebacker. Eleven of the 16 balls put in play resulted in groundouts. His teammates played error-free defense.
The 21-year-old hurler -- he turns 22 on Saturday -- finished off the first no-hitter in the Biscuits' history and the first at Hank Aaron Stadium on 106 total pitches. (The count wasn't an issue; talks have been ongoing about extending his limit to 110.) He also silenced a strong offense: The BayBears entered the night sporting the Southern League's third most prolific lineup, averaging 5.11 runs per game.
"The biggest thing was being on the same page with my catcher," Moore said of batterymate Nevin Ashley. "I knew the pitch he was going to call before he put the signs down. I was just rolling with it, and I think it kind of overwhelmed the hitters."
Two other Minor League clubs have recorded nine-inning no-hitters in 2011, though both were collaborative efforts: Class A Lake County's Trey Haley, Francisco Jimenez, Clayton Ehlert on April 11 and Kane County's Sugar Ray Marimon, Chas Byrne on May 18. Double-A Frisco's Martin Perez had a rain-shortened, five-inning perfect game April 19.
It marked the first nine-inning no-hitter in the Southern League since Tommy Hanson of the Mississippi Braves no-hit the BayBears at Trustmark Park on June 25, 2008.
Moore, MLB.com's No. 27 preseason prospect, enjoyed a 1-2 count advantage before falling behind and eventually walking Marc Krauss in the game's second inning. The pitcher rebounded seamlessly, retiring the next 12 batters he faced until issuing a five-pitch free pass to Jacob Elmore in the sixth.
"Everyone seemed to stay away from me after sixth," Moore said of his teammates' behavior in the dugout. "I looked around and said, 'Hey, what's up guys?'"
Neither Krauss nor Elmore advanced past first base, and Tampa Bay's eighth-round pick in the 2007 Draft retired the final 10 without issue.
One close call occurred in the eighth: Alfredo Marte hit a two-out high chopper over the mound, which second baseman Shawn O'Malley handled on the run.
"He stopped and barehanded it and threw it on fire to first," where Henry Wrigley picked it out of the dirt, Moore said. "I thought, these types of plays only happen on special nights.
"The defense was crazy good tonight."
Moore lowered his season ERA to a Southern League-leading 2.43. He also paces his peers in strikeouts with 103 through 77 2/3 innings. Moore has led the Minors in K's each of the past two seasons and is currently tied for second behind Class A Asheville's Edwar Cabrera (110).
Start-to-finish success is nothing new for Moore. Pitching for Class A Bowling Green and against Asheville on June 6, 2009, he twirled a seven-inning no-hitter and struck out 12. He also walked two in that game. In July that season, Moore recorded a career high in innings, allowing five hits over 7 2/3 scoreless frames against Rome.
More recently, the Rays pitching prospect accrued seven one-hit shutout frames as his Class A Advanced Charlotte Stone Crabs opposed Tampa on July 28, 2010.
Though he hadn't exceeded six innings in any of his first 13 outings of 2011, Moore has been a model of consistency. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 11 of his 14 outings, including the last 11.
What does he have planned for next week?
"I'm not one for superstitions," he said, "but I am wearing this [T-]shirt in my next start."
His Biscuits teammates offered their support, putting up a crooked number in three of their four innings of scoring. Leadoff man Shawn O'Malley and Stephen Vogt both registered three-hit games, while both Vogt and cleanup man Daniel Mayora plated three runs apiece.
Vogt initiated the output with a first-inning two-RBI double off BayBears starter Jarrod Parker, who exited after allowing Vogt's run-scoring single in the fifth. Parker (5-6), MLB.com's No. 29 preseason prospect, allowed those three runs on four hits over 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander also walked a season-high six.
Montgomery has won five in a row, matching its season high, while Mobile has dropped six straight games.