Few pitchers have been able to solve the Hagerstown Suns' batters this season. But Lexington Legends starter Jake Junis has done it twice, including Sunday's near no-hitter at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
The Suns, who came into that game with a .756 winning percentage that was the best in affiliated minor-league baseball, were hitless for the first eight innings of a 1-0 loss.
Junis struck out six and walked one before Matt Alvarez came on in the ninth and gave up one hit and a walk before finishing Hagerstown off.
In two starts against the Suns, Junis is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 14 innings.
"You know guys have certain tendencies, and they're a really good fastball-hitting team; they're a good team, period, actually," Junis told MiLB.com. "I wanted to get the fastball going early on and I started using the changeup more and more. Something just clicked, man."
Junis (5-2) retired the final 14 batters he faced, with shortstop Humberto Arteaga robbing a potential hit to finish off the eighth.
"He saved my butt a couple of times," Junis said.
Junis' pitch count was at 88 and he didn't come back out for the ninth.
"Oh, man, that's a pitcher's dream to finish out a no-hitter," he told MiLB.com. "I definitely wanted to finish it out, that would have been great. But there are rules with pitch counts, and you can't be too upset about it.
"I actually hit 88 (over eight innings on May 8 against Asheville) and wanted to get the complete game then, too, but they took me out. So once I heard the No. 88 in terms of my pitch count, I knew I wasn't coming back."
Junis' ERA is down to 2.66 after the win, and he has 41 strikeouts against nine walks in nine starts.
"I haven't had too many starts here yet, but I was excited to break camp with the guys here in Lexington," he said. "I felt I was ready to move up and take on a new level, and I've been excited to prove that here."
Legends rally on Monday
The Legends rallied from an 8-1 fourth-inning deficit Monday afternoon to win 10-8. Lexington has won the first three games of the four-game series against the Suns.
Frank Schwindel's two-run single in the eighth inning broke an 8-8 tie.
Luis Rico pitched 52⁄3 innings of shutout relief for the Legends as they made their comeback. Rico gave up one hit, no walks and had six strikeouts.
Legends centerfielder Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado had three hits, including a two-run home run. He knocked in three runs and scored four. Ramon Torres and Schwindel added three hits and knocked in two runs apiece.