Rockies' right-handed prospect Ben Alsup turned in his finest start since turning pro -- maybe, he says, of his baseball career -- and he was very pleased to do it in front of the people who have been there since Day 1.
The 23-year-old was perfect through five innings and he carried a no-hit bid into the seventh before wrapping up a complete-game one-hitter in the Class A Asheville Tourists' 6-0 shutout of the Charleston RiverDogs.
"It's the first time they've seen me in Asheville, so I'm really excited it turned out well for them," Alsup said. "It was heart-warming to see them up there in the stands. It was unbelievable, words can't describe it.
"They've watched me ever since I picked up a baseball. My dad taught me everything I know about baseball. It makes tonight really, really special. I spoke with them on the field after the game and my mom asked me if this was her present for coming to see me. I just smiled and said yes."
Alsup, pitching some 700 miles east of his hometown of Ruston, La., retired the first 17 batters he faced, inducing two ground balls in each of the first four frames and not allowing a ball to leave the infield until the fifth.
"First things first, the whole team played a good game," said Alsup, who throws a sinking fastball, a slider, a curve and a changeup. "I had good command and all of my pitches were there, but the guys made all the plays behind me.
"They hit some balls hard to Sam Mende at third base, David Kandilas made some good catches in the outfield and [shortstop] Trevor Story made some good plays. Catcher Ryan Casteel called a good game and I don't think I was in disagreement with him on any pitch."
He lost his opportunity for a perfect game when he issued a two-out walk to Eduardo Sosa in the sixth inning, and his no-hitter fell by the wayside when Ben Gamel flaired a broken-bat single over the leaping second baseman Taylor Featherston to right field with one out in the seventh.
"I had no idea I was working on [a perfect game]. I was just pitching like it was a 0-0 game," said Alsup. "When I walked the first guy, I could hear a lot of people in the stands, I could hear their emotions. It was that 'aww' sound, that groan. That was when I wondered, that's when I realized it was the first time I'd had someone on first base.
"I think I might have thrown [Gamel] a first-pitch fastball. Then I threw him a changeup down to try and get a strike and get weak contact and that's what I did. I broke his bat, but he hit it where nobody could get to it. I loved the pitch, but he got just enough to hit it out of reach. I'd throw that pitch again in a heartbeat."
But Gamel was stranded at first, and the 6-foot-3 right-hander proceeded to set down the next eight of the final nine batters to complete his first career complete-game shutout.
It marked Asheville's fifth complete game and second shutout of 2012. The last Tourist to toss a shutout was Tyler Anderson, who threw a seven-inning three-hitter against Charleston on July 29. Vianney Mayo threw a nine-inning three-hitter against West Virginia in a 16-0 rout on April 16.
The outing also marked the third one-hitter in the South Atlantic League this season. Hickory's Victor Payano achieved the feat in a five-inning 1-0 win over Savannah on April 22, and Hagerstown's Nathan Karns one-hit Lakewood in a seven-inning 7-1 victory on May 26.
"This is definitely the best outing I've had since coming to pro ball," said Alsup, who threw a seven-inning one-hit shutout for LSU against Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament. "I've had some good outings and some not-so-good outings, but this top them all."
The outing gave Alsup his team-leading 12th win of the season and lowered his ERA from 4.20 to 3.94. Only Lexington's Michael Foltynewicz (14) has more victories on the circuit.
Selected by the Rockies in the 18th round of the 2011 Draft out of Louisiana State University, Alsup is in his second year of pro ball and his first year in a full-season league.
He went 3-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 13 games -- including 11 starts -- in 2011 before being promoted to Asheville to begin 2012.
In 22 starts at the new level, Alsup has recorded 84 strikeouts and issued 43 free passes over a league-leading 144 innings.
On Wednesday, Asheville first baseman Jordan Ribera went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer -- his ninth longball of the year -- and six RBIs, and leadoff hitter Trevor Story reached base four times and scored three runs in the win.
RiverDogs starter Corey Black (1-1) allowed three runs on three hits and two walks while striking out seven batters and hitting two with pitches over 4 2/3 innings in a losing cause.