ABERDEEN, MD - Thursday night was special for the Tri-City ValleyCats, and not just because they scored four runs in the top of the first inning, and went on to shut out the Aberdeen IronBirds 5-0. It also wasn't just due to the fact that it was the 'Cats fourth win in the last five games, or that Aaron Mizell went 3-for-5, with two triples.
Overshadowing all those achievements, was the feat accomplished by right-handers Kevin McCanna and Ralph Garza, and left-hander Zac Person, who combined to strike out 12 batters, allow only one walk, and toss the first no-hitter by a Tri-City ValleyCats squad in more than seven years.
Ironically, the 'Cats offense looked like it would be the story early on. Johnny Sewald led off the top of the first with a single, moved to second on a stolen base, advanced to third on a fly-out, then scored on an RBI groundout by Aaron Mizell.
Three batters later, Pat Porter drove home Hector Roa and Dexture McCall with a two-run double to right field, before scoring on an RBI single by Anthony Hermelyn, as Tri-City jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the host IronBirds came to bat.
Sewald then led off the top of the second by reaching on a walk, before stealing second again, and eventually coming home to score on a wild pitch.
That was the last run the 'Cats would score on the night. However, to say the early offensive onslaught was more than enough to support the Tri-City pitching staff would be quite an understatement.
Getting the start for the 'Cats was McCanna, who struck out five batters in four innings, allowing only one walk, while another runner reached on an error. Both the strikeout total, and the four innings pitched, equaled career-highs for the native of The Woodlands, Texas, and 2015 13th round draft pick out of Rice University
He was relieved in the fifth inning by Garza, who struck out seven batters, while allowing no base runners in four frames. Like McCanna, Garza, a New Braunfels, Texas native who was selected this year in the 26th round out of the University of Oklahoma, also equaled career-highs in both strikeouts and innings pitched.
Person, a ninth round selection this season out of Louisiana State University, replaced Garza to pitch the ninth. And just like his two predecessors, Person, a native of Eunice, La., had little trouble with the IronBirds offense, getting Aberdeen second baseman Drew Turbin to fly out to Sewald in center field, designated hitter Cedric Mullins to ground out on a comebacker to the mound, before getting center fielder Glynn Davis to fly out on a 0-1 pitch to Pat Porter in right field, cementing the no-hitter.
The no-no was the first thrown by the Valleycats since Shane Wolf, David Miller, and Ashton Mowdy teamed up to hold the Oneonta Tigers without a hit on June 21, 2008. That game, like Thursday night's contest, also was a road contest for Tri-City.
Earning the victory for the 'Cats was Garza, who not only was a part of a no-hitter, but also registered his first professional win.
Tri-City will return to Ripken Stadium on Friday night, to take on the IronBirds in the second game of this three-game set. Getting the start for the ValleyCats will be RHP Ryan Deemes, with LHP Robert Strader on the mound for Aberdeen.