Following five pitches, four out of the zone, Royals' prospect, Ramon Torres, was on first base. He would be the last to see that location. The following 103 pitches were the biggest of Jordan Kipper's life, thus far.
Nine innings, eight strikeouts, 12 ground outs, and most importantly, zero hits. Los Angeles Angels' prospect, Jordan Kipper, collected his first career no-hitter, in 108 pitches for the Double-A affiliate, Arkansas Travelers. The first for the Little Rock-based franchise since Ryan Brasier put a gooseegg on the scoreboard on April 29, 2010.
Most impressive throughout the ninth round pick's outing was how he recorded his 27 outs. After the leadoff walk, he retired 26 straight and faced the minimum through his work load. According to Travs' Director of Broadcasting, Robbie Aaron, all balls hit were directed straight towards Arkansas fielders.
The work load came relatively light for Kipper, as he was breezing through the the order. The first time through came easy, the second time was soon where it all came together in his own mind, and the mind of his teammates.
"First time I went through the lineup, I kind of realized it," said Kipper. "I think it was after the fifth or sixth is when I really noticed it. When the thoughts started creeping in that you've got a chance to do something special out there."
"It was pretty much like you see on TV. Once the fifth or sixth inning came around, I was on one end by myself and everyone was down on the other end and there wasn't a whole lot of communication or interaction between myself or the other guys after that."
All that ease came to a halting stop on one pitch in the ninth inning. Any pitcher will tell you the ninth is the hardest, whether it's a closer, starter looking for a complete game, or, in this case, a no-hitter. To leadoff the ninth, Kipper had to hold his breath following a one-strike pitch that was drilled to left field.
"I just couldn't believe it. I thought it was a home run. I was standing there, looked back at the home plate umpire and he was staring at the ball, and I didn't hear the third base umpire make the call yet so my initial reaction was I couldn't tell."
Cam Gallagher, trotting away from the plate, and all in attendance watched the ball dart into the night. It was trailing and trailing, and went over top the foul pole in left field - "Foul!" yelled the umpire. A few pitches later, Gallagher was called out on strikes, a questionable call according to some, expressed his opinions and was tossed for them.
"I knew it was close and was like, 'he's gonna call this a home run, it's all gonna be over.' All of a sudden, I hear him call foul and it was a big sigh of relief that I still had the opportunity to finish this off."
One out later, Kipper tossed a 2-2 slider that was swung at and missed by Terrance Gore, and the feat was accomplished. The 23-year-old slammed his fist in his glove and was soon receiving a hug from his catcher and was surrounded by teammates, cheering, high-fiving, and throwing gatorade coolers on him. A standard celebration for a no-hitter, but of course, for Kipper himself, it was nothing near standard.
"I was more just kind of in shock. That's why there wasn't really a big reaction because it hadn't sunk in. Just, a big relief like it's over finally. I was just so in shock that I was able to do it."
Behind the plate for the game was catching prospect, Jose Briceno, who was playing in his first game at the Double-A level. Briceno caught a separate no-hitter on July 5, 2010, while with the Colorado Rockies Dominican affiliate, in his rookie professional season. As standard, Briceno was the first to Kipper following the last pitch with a giant bear hug.
"I threw to him once in Spring Training so I had a little familiarity. I felt comfortable with him. As the game went on, just got more comfortable, whatever he put down I felt comfortable with and the flow of the game went well. Overall it was just a well called game."
Kipper now holds a 3-2 record and 3.78 ERA in his first year with the Double-A Travelers. Despite a down year last year that saw an ERA of 5.62, Kipper is progressing at a steady pace to become a member of the Angels future rotation.