On a rare night when both the Florida Fire Frogs’ pitching and hitting were as on-point as they could be, righthander Jasseel De La Cruz tossed the first no-hitter in Fire Frogs history in a 12-0 win Saturday over the Jupiter Hammerheads at Osceola County Stadium.
The 21-year-old De La Cruz, in just his fourth start at the high Class-A level after starting the year with the low-A Rome Braves, needed just 89 pitches to achieve history. He struck out four and walked two. William Contreras, brother of Chicago Cubs’ catcher Wilson Contreras, caught the gem.
His reward? A Sunday-morning call up to the Class AA Mississippi Braves of the Southern League, a roster move already planned before he even toed the rubber Saturday.
“It was great because he only threw 89 pitches, we have to watch these guys pitch limit,” Manager Barrett Kleinkenecht said. “He goes through the eighth inning on eight pitches. If he threw 15 or more maybe we have to pull him, no-hitter or not.
“He just attacked guys with his fastball and change up, changed speeds real well, and he exploited that they like to swing early. He wasn’t shying away from contact, something that will help at the higher levels, where if you throw seven, eight innings every time out they’ll take it even if you give up four or five runs.”
By the fifth inning the “unwritten rules” of the game took over, with nobody speaking of a no-hitter and sitting in the same dugout spots between innings, said Kleinkenecht, who noted Saturday was the first no-hitter he’d seen in person through high school and a pro ball career of his own.
“The coolest part is we were up by nine runs and guys were still running out ground balls and playing winning baseball, which is what we’re teaching, it rubs off on everyone,” he said.
At the plate, Florida pounded out a season-high 18 hits. Kevin Josephina went 5-for-5 at the plate, driving in a pair of runs along with Jordan Rodgers, Garrison Schwartz and Jefrey Ramos, who also had his fifth home run of the year.
The win, and a 2-1 affair decided by Riley Delgado’s walk-off 10th-inning double, moved the Fire Frogs to 19-24 on the season, which has seen its challenges. The Florida State League’s 12 teams have combined for more strikeouts than walks, and Florida is hitting .239 as a team, ninth in the FSL.
“Our guys battle, we’re in every game, and they are believing in each other,” Kleinkenecht said. They’re getting used to the league and now have more at-bats and data on the guys we’re seeing multiple times.
“I’ve been pleased with the progress of a lot of these guys. They have some tough stretches but they’re getting the routine down.”
Thanks to two days of rain last week the team had to play back-to-back doubleheaders and went 31 innings in less than 24 hours, winning three of the four games against St. Lucie heading into the Jupiter series.
After finishing a road trip in Tampa and Dunedin this week, the team returns to Osceola County Stadium next week for a series against Fort Myers Miracle (Tuesday-Friday, Minnesota Twins farm team) and Palm Beach Cardinals (Friday-Sunday, St. Louis). Games start at 6 p.m. except for noon games Thursday and Sunday.