Justin Wilson was already part of baseball lore after throwing 129 pitches over eight strong innings to help Fresno State clinch the 2008 College World Series.
The left-hander pitched his way into the history books again on Sunday.
Wilson struck out nine over 7 1/3 innings and combined with Jose Diaz and Doug Slaten on Triple-A Indianapolis' first no-hitter in nearly seven years as the Indians blanked the Durham Bulls, 2-0.
Between walks to Kyle Hudson in the third and Jeff Salazar in the eighth, the Pirates' No. 10 prospect retired 14 consecutive batters. It was the first no-hitter in which he'd ever participated, going back to his days on Little League fields.
"I'm excited," said Wilson, who improved to 2-3. "It's pretty awesome to go the 7 1/3 innings without a hit. And then it was great to have the bullpen shut the door after me. Jose [Diaz] and Doug [Slaten] pitched great there in the eighth and ninth, so I'm glad we could all do it together."
Wilson, who threw 72 of 107 pitches for strikes, began to feel the pressure associated with a no-hitter in the sixth. When Indians manager Dean Treanor pulled him after walking Salazar in the eighth, the move was greeted by boos from fans at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
"I think [shortstop Jordy Mercer] said, 'Don't even think about walking off,' and I said, 'I'm not going anywhere," Wilson said. "Then Treanor came out and I said, 'I'm not coming out.' And he said, 'Yeah, you are.' He was pretty serious about it and he said, 'This isn't about today, it's about years from now. We have to protect you and your arm.' I didn't know I had that many pitches at that point, so it's totally understandable."
Diaz retired both batters he faced to end the eighth on five pitches, all strikes. Slaten set down all three Bulls in the ninth on ground balls, including Reid Brignac, who couldn't quite beat out a slow roller to second base to end the wrap up the no-hitter.
It was the second-longest outing of Wilson's career and marked the deepest he'd gone into a game since fanning 11 over eight shutout innings for Double-A Altoona on Aug. 14, 2010. The 24-year-old had struggled with his control earlier this season, issuing at least five walks in two of his first four starts. He shaved more than a run off his ERA on Sunday, lowering it to 3.00.
Wilson explained that a change in his throwing motion may have been the reason for his increased command.
"I just started going over my head instead of to the side," he said. "I threw a couple like that in my last bullpen [session], and it just felt more natural to me. So it's something I wanted to use today in the game."
The California native made nine relief appearances for Indianapolis last season, and the belief was that his future with the Pirates may be in the bullpen. But he's was hopeful that the organization may continue to project him as a starter.
"I'm more comfortable starting," he said. "I know I can do both, but the routine that I've developed is as a starter. ... But everyone here knows that it's whatever the big team needs."
The no-hitter was the Indians' first since Ian Snell went the distance in a 4-0 win over Norfolk on May 15, 2005. It was the first time Durham was no-hit since Charlotte's Tetsu Yofu blanked the Bulls, 5-0, on Aug. 1, 2004.
The Indians' gem was the second no-hitter of the Minor League season after Jose Fernandez, Greg Nappo and Kevin Cravey combined on one for Class A Greensboro on Tuesday.
Pirates' No. 3 prospect Starling Marte hit a solo homer, his second of the season, in the third inning to give Wilson all the support he needed.
Starter Alex Cobb (0-3) gave up two runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings for Durham, which tied a franchise record with its 13th straight loss.