On July 11th, Pat Cantwell of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans led off the third inning of a game against the Salem Red Sox with a single off of Henry Owens.
On July 28th, in the fourth inning of a game against the Potomac Nationals, Owens allowed his next hit.
Owens had not spent the intervening weeks injured. He had not missed his starts, had them cut short by rain, or anything of the sort. He had simply dominated. Better than four innings against the Pelicans, six innings against the Frederick Keys, five in Potomac, and then three-plus against the Nationals in Salem. All told, Henry Owens had strung together 19 innings of no-hit baseball.
Only one of the performances actually resulted in a no-hitter, with Matty Ott and Matt Price completing the feat against the Keys on July 17th, but that's the way minor league baseball works. Player development trumps all else, and few are the players with serious major league aspirations who would hope to count a no-hitter in High-A Salem as amongst their greatest achievements--even two in a row. So as pitch counts rise, no matter how good the starter has been, the bullpen will take over.
Still, whether in one game, or spread out over four, two full games worth of no-hit professional baseball is unreal. In that 18.1 inning stretch, Owens struck out 25 batters, fanning ten against the Keys and nine in his first game against Potomac.
Last year, Owens was a curious case: an exciting arm, good peripherals, poor results. The hope--really, the expectation--was that 2013 would prove more normal, allowing his ability to shine through even after a promotion. With a 2.92 ERA in 104 innings of work this year, and now this most recent ridiculous stretch, it seems that these expectations have been met. While the focus remains on the arms in the top levels of the system, and Owens still has some walk issues to iron out, it's not hard to make the argument that he could be the cream of this very impressive crop.