"I'm trying to catch my breath still," Holliman said after the second game, a 4-2 Smokies win. "It's been a long time since I've not given up any runs."
The 23-year-old did a lot more than that Thursday.
Subtract a single walk, and Holliman would have had a perfect game.
The 6'0 right-hander from Germantown, Tenn., who was selected by the Cubs in the third round of the 2005 draft from Ole Miss, entered the day with a 2.71 ERA and was winless in his last five starts. A few hours later, as soon as the final out – a groundout to third baseman Matt Craig – was recorded, he was being swarmed on the mound by teammates and coaches.
A small crowd of less than 1,000, which swelled to more than 3,000 for the second game, witnessed the feat.
Entering the seventh, nobody was bringing it up.
"You just want something so bad," Holliman said. "It's hard to explain. You know you've got three outs to go. I was waiting for it to come across the infield. It's never over 'til it's over."
Holliman threw 51 strikes out of 81 total pitches.
"That was probably the biggest key," he said.
Holliman didn't just pitch a gem; he also hit a 350-foot shot to left-center in the fifth inning to cap the Tennessee scoring.
With outfielder Jorge Cortes on second, Tennessee manager Pat Listach gave Holliman the sign to swing away although there was just one out.
Anyone expecting a bunt was fooled. The ball landed well beyond the fence.
"He said, ‘Go ahead and swing,' " Holliman recalled. "I don't know what to say. Sometimes that happens. He (Corey Thurman) threw a fastball."
It was Holliman's second home run of the season. His other roundtripper came just over a month ago back on May 19 at Mississippi, an outing that saw Holliman carry a no-hit bid into the sixth inning of that game.
"He had his pitch and stayed with it," Listach said.
The last no-hitter thrown in the Cubs' farm system had happened on April 20, 2005, at Class-A Peoria. That night, Cubs pitcher Sean Gallagher, Walt Nolen and Jon Hunton combined to no-hit the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
"What do you say when a guy throws a no-hitter?" Listach asked. "I don't think you can have a much better day. It was his day. He did everything he could to help himself out. He was outstanding."