Tuesday was a night of firsts for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, one helping produce the other.
Aided by the first triple play in team history, Will Smith combined with Kelvin Herrera on the Naturals' first no-hitter as Northwest Arkansas edged the Arkansas Travelers, 1-0.
Seeking his third straight win, Smith (8-7) struck out five and walked two over seven innings. He equaled a season high by throwing 101 pitches, 62 for strikes.
"You always want to finish your own work, but you have to respect pitch counts," Smith said. "The coaching staff has my best interests at heart."
The 22-year-old southpaw was perfect through five innings but walked Clay Fuller and Orlando Mercado to open the bottom of the sixth. After failing to execute a sacrifice Travelers catcher Alberto Rosario grounded to third baseman Mario Lisson, who started an around-the-horn triple play.
"We were looking for a strikeout to keep the double play in order and we ended up turning three," said Smith, a seventh-round pick in the 2008 Draft. "It was the first triple play I've been a part of the Minor Leagues."
Smith breezed through the seventh, striking out Pettit and Darwin Perez before getting Luis Jimenez to ground to Lisson on his final pitch of the night.
Herrera fanned the first two batters he faced, then retired the last four on ground balls to complete the game and record his seventh save.
"Kelvin's been lights-out this year," Smith said. "I did my job and he did his."
The no-hitter came almost exactly a year after Smith was traded from the Angels to the Royals with right-hander Sean O'Sullivan in the deal that sent Alberto Callaspo to the West Coast. In fact, Smith made four starts for the Travelers last season.
"It felt good to finally beat them," said the Georgia native, who was 0-3 with a 6.60 ERA in his first three starts against Arkansas.
Smith outdueled Texas League All-Star Matt Shoemaker (8-2), who got little help from his defense and had a personal eight-game winning streak snapped. The Travelers committed four errors, including two on the same play in the top of the first.
With one out, former first-round pick Christian Colon reached when Jimenez bobbled his grounder and continued to second on an errant throw by the Arkansas third baseman. After Wil Myers struck out, Jamie Romak singled to center
field to produce the game's lone run.
Shoemaker struck out eight, limited the Naturals to five hits and pitched his Minor League-leading fifth complete game but suffered his first loss since May 3.