Tyler Clippard made history on Thursday, tossing the first no-hitter in team history as the Trenton Thunder blanked the Harrisburg Senators, 9-0, at Commerce Bank Park.
Clippard (10-10) struck out nine and walked four on the way to his seventh straight win.
"Surreal, it didn't settle in at first" were the 21-year-old right-hander's thoughts immediately after Richard Lane took a called third strike to end the game. "It is unbelievable, an unforgettable night, something I will always remember.
"You always kind of know you have something special going on, but you don't think it will come to fruition until the later innings. I really started to feel like it may happen when there were two outs in the eighth."
Clippard got some stellar defense to protect the first no-hitter in Trenton's 13-year history. With one out in the seventh inning, first baseman Randy Ruiz made a diving stop of Josh Whitesell's grounder and flipped to Clippard covering first.
The second defensive gem came two innings later, when center fielder Brett Gardner made a sliding catch on Kory Casto's deep fly ball.
Long before Gardner's catch, Clippard thought he had surrendered a homer to Casto in the first. But the ball died on the warning track and was caught. The Florida native said balls were not carrying all night, so he wasn't sure about Casto's blast in the ninth.
"I said, 'Oh, gosh, but I turned and saw (Gardner) had a great jump and was going to track it down, and I knew I may get (the no-hitter)."
Clippard took it from there as he retired Major League veteran Jose Vidro on a grounder to third and completed the gem by getting Lane to look at strike three. On April 11, Lane broke up the no-hit bid of Trenton's Steven White with one out in the eighth inning.
The 6-foot-4 righty has not lost since June 29 and has allowed 14 runs over his last 63 innings with 72 strikeout. He has evened his record after starting the season 2-9.
"I did make some changes to make my delivery more consistent and I also learned to slow the game down and throw my off-speed pitches for strikes, especially with runners on base and then execute those things during the game, which is what I did tonight," Clippard said of his turnaround.
The nine strikeouts against Harrisburg raised Clippard's season total to an Eastern League-leading 155. He needs 13 more to shatter the single-season team record.
Ruiz, who had two hits and scored twice, smacked a one-out double in the first to plate Gardner with the game's first run. The Thunder added two runs in the third as Felix Escalona ripped an RBI single and scored on Justin Christain's groundout.
The Thunder broke the game open with a three-run seventh as Eric Duncan, who had two hits and scored twice, slugged a two-out, two-run triple. He trotted home on Shelley Duncan's base hit.
Jason Brown added a bases-loaded triple in the ninth for Trenton (69-54), which pounded out 12 hits in support of Clippard.
Harrisburg (57-66) starter Justin Echols (5-8) allowed three runs on six hits, struck out seven and walked three over 4 2/3 innings.
Aside from White, highly touted prospect Phil Hughes also flirted with a no-hitter for Trenton on June 23. He held the Connecticut Defenders hitless until Derin McMains led off the eighth with a double.
Justin Duchscherer had come closest to the Thunder's first no-hitter. On May 11, 2001, he held the New Haven Ravens without a hit for 8 2/3 innings.