Sam Runion's season appeared to be derailed when he was demoted from the Midwest League after nine outings. The former second-round pick got himself back on track Saturday.
Runion tossed 5 2/3 hitless innings as he and three relievers combined on a two-hitter in the Burlington Royals' 3-2 victory over the Danville Braves at Legion Field.
L.V. Ware reached on second baseman Angel Franco's fielding error to start the first inning before Runion (1-1) retired 14 straight batters. He issued a pair of walks to start the sixth, but retired the next two hitters before reaching his pitch count of 75.
"I just went out there and threw strikes and got ahead," Runion said after striking out four and lowering his ERA to 1.69 in two starts for Burlington.
"I didn't use the curve until the third inning, so I had that in my pocket. I'd say this was right up there with some of the better games I've pitched."
Jacob Rodriguez got the final out in the sixth and worked around a pair of walks in the seventh. Carson Bryant issued a leadoff walk in the eighth before Will White grounded a single into left field to end the no-hit bid.
Shayne Moody stroked an RBI double one out later and Chris Shehan lifted a sacrifice fly to draw the Braves within a run. But Barry Bowden restored order by recording the final five outs for his first professional save.
Runion wasn't expecting the no-hitter to remain intact, but it wasn't because he lacked confidence in his relievers.
"That's a little unheard of," he said of a potential combined no-hitter. "It was in the back of my head when I was out there, but you have to stay away from that, that's when you get in trouble. I was in the clubhouse and I heard an uproar when they got the hit. But as long as we win, that's all that matters."
Runion began the season with the Class A Burlington Bees, going 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA over 40 2/3 innings before being reassigned to the Royals. He yielded two earned runs on seven hits over five innings in his first start for Burlington on July 6 against Johnson City, but took the loss in a 4-1 setback.
"There's a lot I can take from this start," Runion said. "Limiting my pitch count to get deeper into the game and throwing strikes low in the zone. I need to eliminate some of the walks too."
The 19-year-old right-hander went 3-4 with a 5.82 in 12 appearances, including nine starts, for the Rookie-level Royals of the Arizona League in his professional debut last summer. On Saturday, he fell just one out shy of matching the longest outing of his career. Runion tossed six shutout innings last Aug. 22, marking the third time he had gone that deep.
Julio Aparici ripped a pair of RBI singles and David Wood stroked a run-scoring double for the Royals (5-19), who stopped a seven-game losing streak. Three of Burlington's five wins this year have come against Danville.
Braves starter Ross Francis (1-1) took the loss, despite giving up only an unearned run on three hits with six strikeouts in five innings.
Danville (16-9) has lost six of 11 this month after winning 12 of 15 in June.