Scheduled to be on the road on the Fourth of July, Lake Elsinore wound up putting on an early Independence Day show Tuesday.
Mark Pope allowed two baserunners over six innings and the Class A Advanced Storm took a no-hitter into the ninth before setting for a one-hitter and a 10-0 blanking of the Bakersfield Blaze.
Mark Pope (5-6) issued one walk and did not strike out a batter, with Kurtis Muller reaching on an error in the fourth. Converted outfielder Yefri Carvajal worked the next two innings, striking out two and pitching around a walk. Alexis Lara came on for the ninth and got Reds top prospect Billy Hamilton to ground out before Muller doubled to left to break up the no-hit bid.
"It was awesome, I've never been a part of that before," said Pope, a fifth-round pick in last year's Draft. "The closest I'd ever been was a one-hitter, but that hit was a solo homer, so that didn't even work out to be cool. There's nothing to really compare to this."
Pope said the atmosphere in the dugout and at The Diamond grew more and more exciting as the Storm inched closer to the first no-hitter in team history. A crowd of 7,012 was on hand for a postgame fireworks show.
Pope's teammates took seriously the superstitions typically associated with a no-hitter-in-progress.
"The deeper and deeper [it went], the more my teammates were kind of starting to avoid me," he said. "In the first couple innings, they'd come around and talk to me but not at all at the end.
"Supposedly, though, some kid in the bullpen said something about it [in the ninth] and next pitch, they got a hit. So everyone gave him kind of a hard time about that."
Pope also credited the pitchers who followed him with keeping the no-hitter intact for as long as they did.
"I mean Yefri, he couldn't have done a better job. He was going right after hitters, that was the whole plan we had the whole time, so he did a real good job," the Georgia Tech product said. "And [Lara] did the same thing, just had one pitch that got away from him. But he did a good job."
For Pope, it was his longest start of the season. In his first full season out of college, it's taken a little time to really adjust to pitching at this level, he said. The 22-year-old right-hander sports a 4.85 ERA over 65 innings with 38 strikeouts against 18 walks.
"It's been kind of a big learning process for me this year, but things are starting to come together, click out there on the mound. I was very satisfied [with tonight]," he said.
"It was a big night for us -- [July 3rd], this was our celebration. Had a good crowd, it was a good time to have it."
Pope had a big cushion with which to work almost from the time he took the mound. The Storm scored five times in the first, added a run in the fourth and four in the fifth.
Justin Miller, Tommy Medica, Connor Powers and Chris Bisson each had two RBIs for Lake Elsinore, while Everett Williams went 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored.