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Trio spins Muckdogs' first perfect game

Castellanos fans 12 in seven innings; Lilek, Farnworth complete gem
June 24, 2015

Twenty-seven consecutive outs made for one proud coach.

While any pitching coach feels pride when one of his charges completes a perfect game, Brendon Sagara was especially touched watching Gabriel Castellanos, who he'd worked with and watch mature for three seasons.

The Marlins prospect struck out a career-high 12 over seven innings and combined with Brett Lilek and Steve Farnworth on the first perfect game in team history Wednesday night as Class A Short Season Batavia blanked Mahoning Valley, 1-0, at Dwyer Stadium.

"It's really gratifying for Gabriel Castellanos," Sagara said. "His maturity and work ethic and his dedication to all the important things to develop as a pitcher and as a human being kind of culminated with tonight. And his appearance was the microcosm of his development, so it was real fun to watch."

Returning for a second stint with the Muckdogs, Castellanos (1-1) was shaky in his season debut on Friday, allowing five runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings. Sagara said the 21-year-old left-hander improved his body control while taking control of all three of his pitches.  

"He had a couple bumps in the road early in his season opener and just couldn't regroup quick enough," the Muckdogs pitching coach said. "Tonight, it was a 1-0 game, obviously, real tight and anytime there was a missed call or he lost a couple pitches and fell behind, 2-0 or 3-1, or had to make some big 3-2 pitches, there was a real sense of calm in him throughout."

As the innings went on, Sagara noticed a buzz around the stadium, from the mound to the seats to the bullpen, where he was watching.

"I think [Castellanos'] work rate started to get a little quicker and he had to calm himself and step behind the mound a couple times," Sagara said. "[My] heart rate started to get up, and you try to stay cool and just watch the game because that's all you can really do."

Castellanos was able to shake off his nerves and complete seven flawless frames. After the native of the Dominican Republic finished the longest outing of his career, Batavia went to the bullpen.

First up was Lilek, the Marlins' second-round pick this month out of Arizona State. Knowing the 21-year-old southpaw had pitched in the NCAA Regionals, Sagara knew he could handle the big situation in his professional debut.

Lilek struck out the side on 14 pitches.

"He really stepped it up. He stepped up to the moment big-time," the pitching coach said. "What the two relievers did really well was getting control of counts and commanding fastball down in the corners. They didn't make any mistakes out over the plate, they didn't give hitters a lot to look at, got them on their heels quick."

Farnworth was tapped for the ninth. The 21-year-old right-hander also pitched for the Muckdogs last season, so Sagara knew what to expect.

"What a fighter, what a perfect guy to close it all out for us, a guy who wasn't going to give in, who wasn't going to be denied," he said.

The first out turned out to be the toughest as Scrappers right fielder D'vone McClure sent a hard shot at first baseman Eric Fisher.

"Our first baseman dove and nicked it with his glove and our second baseman, [Giovanny] Alfonso, was there to make the play and threw over to Farnworth, who was covering first," Sagara said. "It was just one of those days where as the game went, everyone was getting better and you could just see everyone was locking in to perform at their best for their pitchers and try to support their teammates."

With Sagara's heart rate continuing to rise, Farnworth needed only five pitches to finish off Mahoning Valley and earn his first save. He struck out Nathan Winfrey, then retired Silento Sayles on a grounder to shortstop Anfernee Seymour.

"You're rooting for them and you know what good kids they are, and you just know a chance like this doesn't come around," Sagara said. "You really want it for the kids, more than anything. You want your kids to be able to experience that and have that for the rest of their lifetime."

It was the third nine-inning perfect game in New York-Penn League history and the first since Guillermo Moscoso accomplished the feat for Oneonta on July 15, 2007. Peter Agostinelli pitched the Muckdogs' last no-hitter, a seven-inning gem against Wellsville on Sept. 1, 1993.

With Korey Dunbar and Taylor Munden delivering back-to-back doubles in the second, Batavia snapped a five-game season-opening losing streak. 

The blanking came after the Scrappers totaled 22 runs and 30 hits in the first two games of the series.

"It's funny. It's one of those things, the old adage, it takes good pitching to stop a slide. It took a perfect game, it was 1-0. There wasn't much margin for error," Sagara said. "But you could see our guys are slowly, one by one, playing a lot better. You can never say you see it coming after giving up [11] runs last night and then pitching a perfect game -- I'd be lying if I told you that had truth to it -- but it was good to see the kids playing in this environment and stepping up to the moment. It was a lot of fun to watch."

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.