Rick Zagone has spent part of the past two seasons in Double-A, but did not produce enough to stay there. So far this season, however, he's showing that he might deserve another shot at that level.
The Orioles farmhand took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Tuesday, leading the way as the Class A Advanced Frederick Keys blanked the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, 3-0.
Zagone ended up allowing one hit and one walk while striking out four over 6 2/3 frames. He improved to 2-0 with the effort while lowering his ERA to 1.31 in 20 2/3 innings.
"My fastball was running for me," Zagone said. "I had my changeup going also. I was trying to work fast and get ground balls. I had some great defense behind me, so overall, it was a great game."
The Keys ran into a little trouble in the first inning, when Jake Skole reached on catcher's interference by Scott Thomas with one out, then advanced to second on a passed ball. Zagone was able to work out of the inning by striking out Christian Villanueva and then inducing a groundout from Tomas Telis.
The 25-year-old left-hander did not let another batter reach base for the next five innings, retiring 17 consecutive overall. Skole ended the streak by leading off the seventh with a single to left field.
"I threw him a couple off-speed pitches for strikes," Zagone said. "I went inside and tried to go back outside and he got an [opposite-field] base hit to left. It was just a fastball for a strike that wanted to go more outside, but he drove it to left."
Zagone knew he had been tossing a no-hitter up to that point and admitted that surrendering the hit was a bit of a letdown.
"It is disappointing," he said. "I actually had one in college going into the ninth. It's always disappointing giving up that first hit, but you can't let that stuff bother you after giving up one. You've got to minimize the damage and do your best."
Zagone got consecutive flyouts out of Villanueva and Telis before walking Vincent DiFazio, the final batter he faced. Relievers David Walters and Andy Loomis combined to toss 2 1/3 perfect innings for Frederick to close out the game.
A sixth-round pick in 2008, Zagone scuffled in parts of the past two seasons with Double-A Bowie, compiling 4.34 and 4.84 ERAs respectively. So far this year, he has dominated with the Keys, as he ranks first in the Carolina League in WHIP (0.82) and second in ERA.
"Going back to where I was when I was drafted, I was pitching pretty well," Zagone said. "The last couple years, I had gone away from what got me drafted. I'm starting to feel really good out there."
Zagone made it no secret that he's aiming for another chance against Double-A competition.
"Just keep moving up the ladder hopefully," Zagone said of his goals. "Being consistent, just trying to do the best I can every inning, every pitch. Hopefully, I can get back up to Double-A and keep performing well."