Aaron Northcraft talks to his father before every start, just to check in on how he's feeling. On Friday, he said something to his dad that he'd never said before.
"This morning, I called my dad and said I just want to throw a no-hitter," Northcraft said.
Amazingly enough, he got his wish.
The Braves prospect held the Salem Red Sox hitless over seven innings as the Class A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats completed a doubleheader sweep with a 3-0 blanking.
It was the first complete-game no-hitter in Lynchburg history.
"It feels amazing," said Northcraft, who was selected in the 10th round of the 2009 Draft. "I got a little nervous when there were two outs to go. I've never had that happen before."
Only four Red Sox reached base, thanks to two walks, a hit batter and an error by third baseman Matt Weaver. Northcraft tied a career high with 10 strikeouts -- a mark he had not reached since he started for Rookie-level Danville on July 21, 2010 -- while recording eight ground-ball outs.
"I was pretty much throwing sinkers all night long," Northcraft said. "I was throwing my four-seamer pretty much to strike guys out. ... I didn't use my slider as much tonight as I normally do, but I'd mix it in on the first pitch to throw them off. I was just getting ground balls all night but surprisingly had a lot of K's."
Northcraft (7-4), who had not pitched in eight days because of the Carolina League All-Star break, scuffled a bit in the first inning. He hit Heiker Meneses with one out and walked Travis Shaw one batter later but settled down after talking to pitching coach Derek Botelho.
The 22-year-old right-hander retired 18 of his last 20 batters, including the final 10.
"I hit a guy, walked a guy and thought it would be a long night," Northcraft said. "After that, I had to give a lot of credit to Bo. he always keeps me on track. He doesn't tell me what to tweak but just lets me know. And then I make some adjustments."
Northcraft also credited his defense, particularly shortstop Nick Ahmed, who went 4-for-4 in the opener.
"Ahmed made some unbelievable plays, two in a row in the sixth," Northcraft said.
So what inspired the Arizona native to ask for a no-no? Was it a moving song or a motivational quote?
Nope. It was his Playstation.
"I was playing "MLB The Show" and I just got in the mood because I almost pitched a no-hitter in that," Northcraft said. "I thought it would be cool."
The Arizona native lowered his ERA to 3.38 ERA and has 78 strikeouts over 80 innings. He has been particularly strong of late, going 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last three starts.
"I moved over to the left side of the rubber," Northcraft said. "That's been the big thing I've done the last three outings. That's been able to help me with my release point and everything. ... When I was on the right side, I started cutting the ball, and I've never done that before in my life. My mechanics were all messed up. Bo got me back to what I was doing best."
Looking ahead, Northcraft said he'd like to improve in every start. Although it might be impossible to top a no-hitter, he knows there are still things to work on.
"My changeup, for sure," he said. "I need to be able to throw that with consistency. I've been able to throw my two-seamer, four-seamer and slider with consistency this year. There's always stuff to improve on."