July 4 will always have a different meaning for Austin Kirk.
Kirk faced one batter over the mimimum while striking out a career-high 10 batters for Class A Peoria as he no-hit Clinton, 2-0, on Monday.
Kirk (5-5) opened the game by walking Mike McGee, but erased him on a double play two batters later. He settled in to retire the side in order in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings before issuing a free pass to Jetsy Extrano to start the sixth.
"I just went out there and I was able to locate my fastball in and out," Kirk said. "My curveball finally came back, I was able to throw it pretty well. I was going out there and I was just trying to get ahead of hitters."
Anthony Phillips sacrificed Extrano to second, putting a runner in scoring position for the first time all night against Kirk. He responded by fanning Carlton Tanabe and McGee to end the sixth.
"At that point I was thinking I got one out with a runner on second, so I need to keep the ball on the infield," the former third-rounder said. "I was able to jump out 0-2, and once I got the strikeout I was like 'I got this'."
Kirk continued to mow down hitters, striking out the side in the seventh, and he fanned Extrano in the eighth for his 10th of the evening.
"I got in a pretty good groove right there. I was able to elevate ahead in the count and I was able to use my curve to get a strikeout," he said.
Kirk retired McGee on a popout to first baseman Ryan Cuneo to end the game after 101 pitches. The 21-year-old left-hander tried to put history out of his mind in the final frame.
"I got the second out and everyone stood up and started cheering, so I had to hurry up and throw the pitch before I could think about it," he said.
Kirk thought about making the play on the final out, but decided against it.
"It was a really high popup, near the pitcher's mound and I got underneath it and I thought 'I got these guys around me that are paid to catch it,' so I let them get it," he said.
Moments after the game, the achievement had yet to sink in for the Oklahoma native.
"To me it's still pretty surreal," Kirk said. "All the guys in the locker room are going crazy, I'm pretty sure I'll be stoked later when I tell my parents."
The Midwest League All-Star had lost his last three starts, allowing 13 runs over 11 innings in that time. Kirk felt tonight was time to get back to what made him an All-Star.
"I just went in there with the mentality with going in and attacking hitters, and just let my pitches work like they did in the first half," Kirk said.
Kirk's historic outing was almost ended before it gained momentum as left fielder Greg Rohan made a diving catch to start the third.
"My change-up wasn't working all that well," Kirk said. "I gave up a line drive in the third on one and Rohan made a diving catch, which turned out to be significant."
Kirk became the first Chiefs pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Nick Struck tossed five hitless innings in a rain-shortened game on April 30, 2010. The last nine-inning no-hitter thrown by a Chief was on July 27, 2009 by Austin Bibens-Dirkx.
Monday marked the first time the LumberKings were no-hit since Aug. 5, 1996, when Jason Grote of Burlington did the deed.
Peoria picked up their runs in the sixth when Richard Jones hit a sacrifice fly and Cuneo singled home a run.