SALISBURY, Md. - Single-A Delmarva left-hander John Means threw a seven-inning no-hitter in the Shorebirds’ 4-0 victory over Charleston in the first game of a doubleheader Friday night.
Means, an 11th-round pick by the Orioles out of West Virginia in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, walked one and struck out six in his first career no-hitter. He threw 78 pitches, 50 for strikes, in a game that lasted only 1 hour, 51 minutes.
“That’s a first for me,” Means said. “Never thrown a no-hitter before. I was a little nervous going into the last inning, but it was a lot of fun.”
It’s the first no-hitter in Shorebirds history since April 27, 1998, when Matt Achilles spun a 5-0 gem over Hagerstown, and the third no-no in the team’s 20-year history.
Means was in control the whole way, using an effective curveball early and then getting RiverDogs hitters off-balance late with a changeup. Though he allowed some well-struck balls, they were hit right at the defenders behind him for easy outs.
“My fastball was getting up a little early on,” Means said. “They were hitting some good shots, and I was getting some good defense behind me. I think toward the end, I started to settle in and get everything working.”
Each no-hitter seems to turn on a sparkling defensive gem, and that happened in the fifth inning, when Means got out of a jam after Billy Fleming led off the inning by reaching on a throwing error by shortstop Steve Wilkerson. With one down, Collin Slaybaugh ripped a liner to third that was gloved by third baseman Jomar Reyes, who threw to first baseman Derek Peterson for an inning-ending double play. Fleming fell down between first and second trying to return to first.
“That was unbelievable,” Means said. “That was hit hard, I made a mistake. I knew it would be kind of close, and I knew (Reyes) might have to dive for it. I knew it would be kind of right at him and he’d have to make a good play on it. But it was an unbelievable play. I’m glad the guy on first kind of slipped so he couldn’t get back.”
Needing three outs to complete the no-no, Means took the mound in the top of the seventh as many fans were strolling into Perdue Stadium for Friday evening baseball. Last night’s scheduled game against the RiverDogs was rained out, necessitating today’s doubleheader, with the first game starting at 5:05 p.m.. The opener of the twinbill was sparsely attended, but fans began arriving around 6:30 p.m., and many found they were witnessing history.
Means got Leonard Thompson to pop to Peterson at first on a 1-1 pitch, with Peterson shielding his eyes from the sun setting behind the stadium as he made the grab. Isaias Tejeda flew out to left fielder Ademar Rifaela on a 1-0 offering for the second out. With the fans standing and applauding, Means got Austin Aune to stike out swinging on a weak half-swing for the no-hitter’s final out.
Catcher Yermin Mercedes slapped a tag on Aune, who pleaded that he’d checked his swing, just to make sure and then raced to the mound to embrace Means. The Shorebirds dugout emptied, players rushing the mound and mobbing Means in celebration.
“I was thinking about it for the last three innings,” Means said. “It’s hard to get out of your mind, but you try not to think about it. You just go in and try to do what you’ve been doing.”
Three Charleston hitters reached base: Thompson when he was hit by a pitch in the first inning; Thompson on a fourth-inning walk; and Fleming on the fifth-inning error.
Means improved to 8-7 and lowered his ERA to 3.48.
Delmarva gave Means a 2-0 lead in the second, loading the bases on three singles before Elier Leyva hit an RBI single and Peterson grounded into a double play that plated another. In the third, Rifaela singled, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Cam Kneeland’s two-out triple. The Shorebirds’ final run scored in the sixth, when T.J. Olesczuk hit a run-scoring single.