Nathan Moreau made a huge splash in his Carolina League debut Wednesday night.
After joining the Frederick Keys on the road in Salem early in the afternoon, the Orioles prospect threw the second nine-inning complete-game no-hitter in team history as the Keys topped the Red Sox, 7-0.
"I was with the Shorebirds in West Virginia and they told me yesterday that I was going up to Frederick and was supposed to start today," Moreau said. "I had a connecting flight and just got to the ballpark at about 2.
"It's great -- I know a bunch of these guys from playing in Delmarva and the others from Spring Training, so I was already comfortable."
A former 11th-round Orioles' Draft pick out of the University of Georgia, Moreau struck out six and did not walk a batter. Two Salem hitters reached base via errors -- one of them by Moreau himself on a bunt attempt in the sixth inning.
It was the first no-hitter in the Carolina League since Winston-Salem's Levi Maxwell threw a seven-inning gem against Wilmington on June 19, 2009. The last nine-inning no-no was a combined effort by Frederick's Brandon Erbe, Ryan Ouellette and Fredy Deza -- also against Salem -- on Aug. 5, 2008.
Moreau's historic effort was the sixth no-hitter in Keys history and the first nine-inning complete-game no-hitter since July 3, 1991, when Erik Schullstrom shut down the Kinston Indians at Harry Grove Stadium.
The left-hander retired the first 16 batters he faced and had a 1-0 lead in the sixth when Salem shortstop Ryan Dent tried to bunt his way on base. Moreau threw the ball away for a two-base error, giving the Sox their first baserunner. Dent moved to third on a flyout, but was stranded there when Mitch Dening grounded out to end the threat.
"I didn't get my body turned all the way and just threw it wide," Moreau said. "I knew [about the no-hitter], so I think I was a little nervous about fielding it."
Though bunting to break up a no-hitter is considered by some to be poor baseball etiquette, Moreau didn't have a problem with it.
"It was still a close game at that point, and you've got to play to win," he said.
Salem designated hitter Tim Federowicz reached on a fielding error by Keys third baseman Buck Britton with two outs in the eighth, but Ryan Dent flew out to center for the third out. Moreau faced two over the minimum.
The southpaw was the beneficiary of several outstanding plays made by Keys outfielders, most notably a superb catch made by center fielder Xavier Avery on a Will Middlebrooks drive in the eighth.
The Keys scored one run in the fifth, added two in the seventh and tacked on four runs in the eighth to give Moreau a comfortable cushion. Brian Ward doubled and drove in three runs, Bobby Stevens tripled, doubled and scored three times and Billy Rowell doubled twice and had an RBI.
The Red Sox entered the game ranked second in the Carolina League in team batting at .269.
Moreau spent the 2009 season in the Class A Delmarva rotation, going 5-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 20 starts. But he began this season in the Shorebirds' bullpen, where he made nine relief appearances through mid-May while posting a 4.91 ERA. He returned to the rotation May 18 and was sharp in seven starts, going 2-1 with a 1.88 mark while holding South Atlantic League hitters to a .182 average.
"I'd never worked in relief before and it's a different style of pitching," Moreau said. "Things were starting to come around, but I'm used to starting so I feel more comfortable doing that."
On May 28, he combined with two Delmarva relievers on a one-hit shutout of the visiting Lakewood BlueClaws and was named Sally League Pitcher of the Week for his effort.
He took the loss in his final start for Delmarva on June 25, allowing two runs on five hits over six frames, but matched a career high with nine strikeouts.
Starter Miguel Gonzalez fell to 1-1 for Salem, allowing one run on five hits over five innings. He struck out five and walked one.
The Keys, who were first-half champions in the Carolina League's Northern Division, improved to 8-4 against the Red Sox this season, and at 20-17, have the only winning road record on the circuit.
With Nathan Moreau taking the mound for them every five days, their future looks just as bright.