Snodgrass, Squirrels no-hit Rock Cats
For Jack Snodgrass, even a so-so night on Friday would have been memorable. Instead, he penciled his name in the Eastern League record book.
Snodgrass pitched six dominant innings in his Double-A debut and combined with Daryl Maday on the first no-hitter in team history as the Richmond Flying Squirrels blanked the New Britain Rock Cats, 1-0, in the second game of a doubleheader.
"I would have been OK if this night was a mediocre night," the 25-year-old left-hander said. "It's really cool. You just go into your first outing, coming up a level, and you want to check some things off. It's still baseball and once you get a couple guys out, you're thinking, 'OK, I've done this before.'"
Except that Snodgrass hadn't quite had a night like this. He checked 14 straight batters off the scorecard from the second inning and, even by his account, it was new territory.
"It was cool," said Snodgrass, a 2011 27th-round Draft pick out of Austin Peay. "It was a lot of fun. First time pitching at home, we have great fans, so I enjoyed it. I had a blast."
Snodgrass struck out a batter in the first and pitched around a one-out walk to Evan Bigley in the second. Javier Herrera gave the Squirrels the lead with a leadoff homer in the third as Snodgrass retired his last 14 batters.
Maday turned the drama up a notch in the seventh after Danny Santana reached on a throwing error by shortstop Ehire Adrianza to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. A walk and a passed ball put Adrianza at third, but Maday fanned two, getting Dan Rohlfing to look at a third strike to complete the first no-hitter in the Flying Squirrels' four-year history.
Snodgrass came close last season when he allowed one hit over six innings for Class A Advanced San Jose on April 20. He said he wasn't too nervous when he handed the ball over to Maday, a 27-year-old right-hander out of the University of Arkansas.
"Not at all. I know Daryl is obviously really talented, he's proven himself several times at this leve., I knew we'd a least win the game," Snodgrass said. "The no-hitter was a bonus, so I was happy he could close the deal. It was a group effort."
Snodgrass went 10-8 with a 4.62 ERA in 27 outings as a California League All-Star last year, so his familiarity with his opponents on Friday -- a Twins affiliate -- was basically zero. He credited catcher Andrew Susac, with whom he played in San Jose, for keeping things calm.
"You hear the biggest step is getting from A-ball to Double-A, and the Twins are a team I've never pitched against, but I had Susac, so he was some element of comfort," Snodgrass explained. "I was definitely a little anxious. I'll get a little anxious before every start, but I try to make it like every other ballgame. I was a little jumpy."
Snodgrass, who threw 70 pitches, also said he started believing in the fifth that a no-hitter was possible.
"I thought, 'Oh, man, we're playing seven innings, they may let me go,'" he said. "I really thought after the the fifth, we might do this. I was getting ground-ball outs, I was fine."
Snodgrass, a sinkerballer, typically generates grounders, but it wasn't until the third inning that he found his groove.
"Early on, I was getting outs on changeups, which is weird; I'm a ground-ball pitcher," he said. "Eventually, I got some early action in the count with the sinker and got a lot of ground balls after that."
Snodgrass was 5-1 with a 1.69 ERA in his first eight outings last year and he's hoping he can get off to a similar start at Double-A.
"I'd love to," he said. "It's good to get some momentum coming out of Spring Training, it's good for your confidence. You realize it's just baseball. The league will adapt, so it'll be a season-long chess match."
As for the no-hitter, it was the first in Richmond since baseball returned to the city following the exit of the Triple-A Braves in 2008. The previous franchise had four no-hitters, the first coming in 1962 by Al Downing, who is best remembered for giving up Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run.
Humble about the no-no, Snodgrass said his teammates were just amped to get a home win.
"Everyone was pumped up, it was out first win at home, first win, period," he said. "I didn't even know it was the first no-hitter ever, so everyone was fired up."
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com.