It may only have been his third professional start, but Eric Pettis was keenly aware that he was working on a no-hitter Wednesday night.
"I'm pretty alert about that stuff," Pettis said. "I don't believe in the baseball gods. I was talking about it in the dugout and all that."
Pettis lost his bid with one out in the seventh inning but recorded a career-high nine strikeouts as the Williamsport Crosscutters shut down the Auburn Doubledays, 4-1.
Just three weeks after the Phillies selected him in the 35th round of the First-Year Player Draft, Pettis tossed seven scoreless frames to improve to 2-0 and lower his ERA to 0.53.
His lone blemish of the evening was Carlos Perez's single in the seventh.
"We were trying to go off the plate, away," Pettis said. "It was kind of a waste pitch, actually. He hit it right back up the middle. Actually, I almost snatched it out of the air. At least it wasn't a cheap hit."
After Pettis struck out Marcus Knecht and Lance Durham to end the inning, Chase Johnson allowed one run over the final two frames.
In Pettis' first professional start on June 20, he allowed four hits over five shutout innings to beat State College. He returned to the hill five nights later against the Doubledays and yielded a run on four hits over five frames.
"This is what I expected out of myself. This is where I want to be," Pettis said. "If I had performed worse, I wouldn't be happy."
Pettis began his collegiate career as a starter at Cal-Irvine and went 4-0 with a 4.53 ERA. But the Anteaters lost all-time NCAA saves leader Blair Erickson after the 2007 season, so Pettis transitioned to the closer role.
"We had some starters lined up for the spot, but they thought my mentality worked well for closing," he explained.
Pettis, the 2009 Big West Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, posted ERAs of 2.62 and 3.86 in 2008 and 2009, respectively, while accumulating 34 saves. Twice, he was named a second-team All America and a Stopper of the Year finalist by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
The California native returned to a starting role as a senior and went 9-5 with a 3.62 ERA but still notched six saves while moonlighting out of the bullpen.
"I just like to pitch," said Pettis, who turned 22 the day he was drafted. "I like to pitch and get people out. It doesn't matter where they have me."
Currently, Pettis' repertoire includes a fastball, changeup and slider, but he is tinkering with a curveball.
"That's sort of an off-speed thing," he said. "We'll see where it gets me."
Now that his studies are behind him, Pettis can spend more time developing into the pitcher he wants to be.
"I like it a lot better," Pettis said when comparing the pros to college. "There's a lot less little stuff you worry about. Your focus is on baseball and you're able to really improve as a player.
"The last couple of [bullpen sessions], I've been working on making my movement go down as opposed to across the plate. I'm just refining my mechanics so I can repeat it all."
Cameron Rupp drove in three runs with a double and a forceout. He also scored on Miguel Alvarez's eighth-inning triple.