Adrian Sampson made Curve history Friday night, even though he fell just short of an historic performance.
Sampson was just two-thirds of an inning away from a no-hitter, then Mike Yastrzemski belted a double to left field as the Curve beat Bowie, 3-0, before 5,004 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field. The fans gave Sampson a thunderous ovation at the time the no-hitter was broken up.
Sampson became the first pitcher to throw a one-hit, complete-game shutout in Curve franchise history. No individual has tossed a no-hitter, and the team has thrown two combined no-nos.
It was, quite simply, the best game ever thrown by a Curve pitcher in the team's 16 seasons.
"It was a great game," Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. "It was a shutout, but I wish the baseball gods could gift him with a no-hitter."
Sampson called the experience "incredible."
"It was fun. Everyone was in the game," he said. "The defense was outstanding. When they made those plays, I couldn't help but smile when I was up there sometimes."
The last time the right-hander threw a no-hitter was in a seven-inning game his sophomore year of high school.
He might have had one Friday had he listened to his catcher, Elias Diaz, on an 0-2 pitch that Yastrzemski hit for a double.
"He called for another pitch, and I shook to a slider in the dirt," Sampson said.
Diaz had called for a high fastball, but the left-handed hitting Yastrzemski grandson of legendary Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski - was able to inside-out the slider down the left field line.
"When you've got a guy who's comfortable where he is and he's locating real well like that, all you can do is try and hope he makes a mistake," Yastrzemski said. "If he makes one, you've got to capitalize on it. If you don't, he's just going to carve you up."
Sampson started to understand what he had a chance to do late in the ball game.
"I would say probably like the seventh inning," the pitcher said. "I've gone seven innings a bunch of times this year, and that's kind of like the cutoff to where they'll stop throwing you, they'll go to the bullpen.
"Once I got through the seventh inning, a short inning, I was like, all right, six more outs. I think I can do this."
Sampson saw his third baseman, Jarek Cunningham, make a great diving play near the bag to throw out Sammie Starr to start the ninth.
"(Sampson) was throwing the ball well, and we were playing great defense," Curve pitching coach Stan Kyles said. "It got to a point where we expected him throw a no-hitter. It was a super job by everyone."
Sampson said Yastrzemski, who was playing in just his second Double-A game, battled well in getting the double in the ninth.
"I threw a good pitch before, a slider in the dirt," Sampson said. "I wanted to repeat the pitch but even more in the dirt. I left it up just a little bit. It was a good pitch, but it was just left up a little bit. He's a good low-ball hitter, so he just got the best of me right there."
Kyles said he didn't notice it was a no-hitter until the sixth inning.
"We were talking a lot more, earlier, but once you figured out that he was in control of it, and he was on his game, you let him go out and do his thing," the pitching coach said.
Garcia knew that the bench was aware of what was going on, but everyone tried to keep the game in perspective.
"We tried to stay calm," he said. "We tried to not make a big deal, let him be in his moment, and try to focus in on what he wanted to do when he walked to the mound in the ninth inning.
"When he gave up the double, it was a heartbreaker," the manager added.
Kyles believes that Sampson's effort was a testament to the work he has put in.
"He's been solid all year, and you'd like to think that everything he has done up to this point has been building to it," he said. "It was just a climactic experience for him. He's throwing the ball great, and to be able to go out and provide a performance like that is pretty special."
Among those in attendance were five members of Sampson's family, including his mother Natalie, brother and sister. who flew from Seattle to be with Sampson during the Eastern League All-Star break. Sampson was not allowed to pitch in that game by the Pirates he likely would have started the game but his family got to see the highlight of his career anyway.
Natalie Sampson's birthday, by the way, just so happens to be Sunday.
"I still haven't gotten her a present yet, so hopefully this works for her," Adrian said.
Having his family there to see it was even more special for him, especially when they don't see him play that often.
"It's rare. They're here for one start of the year, and it happens to be my best," he said. "Everything fell into place today, and I'm happy that they were here to watch it."
"You don't see those every day, and to be part of that commotion, it makes you appreciate this game even more," Garcia said. "The effort those kids put in every night, to develop themselves to go the next level, and see the reward of the hard work they put in, and the frustration, they way they played for him tonight was unbelievable."
The last time the Curve were involved in a no-hitter was July 25, 2013, when Ethan Hollingsworth, Jason Townsend, Jhonathan Ramos and Ryan Beckman combined for one.
Dan Gamache led the offensive charge with a RBI-double to put the game away in the fourth inning.
The Baysox Anthony Vasquez (4-6) took the loss after giving up all three runs, on seven hits in five innings.
Key Player: Curve P Adrian Sampson had a no-hitter for 8 1/3 innings and finished with a nine-inning, one-hit shutout.
Key Play: 3B Jarek Cunningham's diving stop in the ninth to retire Sammie Starr protected the no-hitter, but it was broken up by the next hitter, CF Mike Yastrzemski.
Key Stat: Sampson is the first player in Curve history to throw a nine-inning one-hit shutout.
How they scored
Bot 1st: Maggi singled, scored on Allie fielder's choice (1-0).
Bot 4th: Garcia singled, scored on Gamache double (2-0); Gamache scored on Maggi fielder's choice (3-0).