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O's Means throws seven-inning no-hitter

Southpaw walks one, hits another in Shorebirds' first gem since '98
July 31, 2015

It took nearly two decades for Delmarva, but John Means needed less than two hours to make history on Friday.

"It was a really cool feeling," Means said. "A surreal moment."

The Orioles' No. 29 prospect pitched the Shorebirds' first no-hitter in 17 years, striking out six, walking one batter and plunking another in a 4-0 blanking of Charleston in the first game of a doubleheader at Perdue Stadium.

Means (8-7) threw 57 of 78 pitches for strikes to pitch the third no-hitter this season in the South Atlantic League and the first for Delmarva since Matt Achilles twirled a nine-inning gem in a 5-0 win over Hagerstown on April 27, 1998.

"It was really cool. That was my first one ever, first anywhere that I even came close, so that was really cool," he said. "It was nice to finish it off. I didn't expect everyone to come charging at me with water bottles, but it was a cool feeling."

The 2014 11th-round pick out of West Virginia University induced two grounders and six fly balls in a game that took just an hour and 51 minutes. It was the sixth straight start in which Means has allowed three earned runs or fewer as he lowered his ERA to 3.48.

"Probably around the fourth inning, to be honest, I said, 'Ohh!' And in the fourth, it was quiet in the dugout, no one's talking," Means said. "Usually, my coaches are asking how I'm feeling, but they were standoffish and just let me be."

Means, a 22-year-old left-hander, hit Leonard Thompson with two outs in the first inning but retired the next eight batters. He walked Thompson with one out in the fourth and pitched around shortstop Steve Wilkerson's throwing error to begin the fifth before setting down the final eight RiverDogs to wrap up his first career complete game.

The southpaw popped up Thompson and Isaias Tejeda before fanning Austin Aune for the final out in the seventh.

Means said he never worried about being pulled before the seventh, despite the Orioles' plan to have him pitch no more than five innings in a game for the rest of the year.

"Basically, right now I'm on an inning cap of five innings for the rest of the year, but I guess this was the exception to that," he laughed. "No one said anything to me. [Afterward], my phone was lighting up with tweets and texts and all that stuff." 

Delmarva was on the losing end of the league's last no-no when West Virginia's Stephen Tapley -- a former Orioles prospect -- threw a rain-shortened six-inning masterpiece on July 7.

The Shorebirds gave Means a lead in the second when Elier Leyva hit an RBI single and Jomar Reyes scored on Derek Peterson's double play. Cameron Kneeland added an RBI triple in the third and T.J. Olesczuk capped the scoring with a base hit in the sixth.

Means said he started off shakily and didn't expect it to be an especially good night.

"It feels pretty good, but looking back, that was not the best I've felt, to be honest," he said. "I had a lot of help from my defense. They hit me pretty good in the first, but toward the end I settled in, got the changeup in the game and kept them off-balance."

Means said he overcame issues throwing his fastball before ironing out his mechanics later on. That was the story Friday -- and in general this season -- as he's come on strong after finishing May with a 6.04 ERA.

"My fastball command wasn't there, I wasn't all over the place," he said. "My control was worse than usual, but it was a lot better toward the end. In the beginning, I thought my stuff was iffy. I thought, 'This could be a long day.' But toward the end, I started hitting my stride.

"It just kind of clicked in about the fourth inning. I kind of clicked in locating my fastball better -- it might just be the starter in me."

Despite feeling more comfortable, the 22-year-old admitted he felt some nerves walking back out to the mound to start the seventh.

"I was a little nervous, to be completely honest, but once I got my warmup pitches in, I was feeling good," he said. "That first hitter, I walked him and hit him [before], so I said, 'I gotta get this guy out now.' After him, I felt good. I thought I could definitely do it after that."

Means dropped his ERA to 4.18 in June and finished July with a 1.69 mark. Friday served to highlight his second-half resurgence; last season with Class A Short Season Aberdeen, he lowered his ERA from 4.97 in July to 2.59 in August.

"Yeah, definitely, the first half of the season I was very up and down, I had good and bad starts," he said. "These last few starts, I've seemed to settle in, hit my stride. It's good to be pitching good and consistent now."

Danny Wild is an editor for Follow his MLBlog column, Minoring in Twitter.