On Tuesday afternoon at Coca-Cola Field, Aaron Sleggers and the Rochester Red Wings got closer to history than any other team has in the ballpark's history.
The Herd's closet rival came four outs away from being the first opposing team to throw a no-hitter in the 30-year history of the ballpark in a 5-0 victory over Buffalo. Jason Leblebijian broke up the no-no with a sharp single into left field with two outs in the eighth inning in the team's first defeat of the season.
It had been 17 years since a team took a no-hitter into the Bisons half of the eighth inning in front of the hometown fans. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Tim Mauser had been the closest to making history in the ballpark on May 28, 1991 when his no-hit bid was broken up after 7.1 innings of work.
Rochester was flirting with a combined no-hitter on Tuesday, started by Sleggers in his Triple-A debut. The righty was tremendous, allowing just three base runners over his six frames of work -all from walks. He erased one of those runners in the third when Ian Parmley was doubled off first base on Chris Coghlan's line out to right. Sleggers got stronger as the game moved along, with three of his seven strikeouts coming against the final four batters he faced.
Reliever Trevor Hildenberger took over the seventh and was equally tough. He retired the next five batters, including a strikeout of Luke Maile to lead off the eighth. Christian Lopez then flew out to right field to move the Red Wings performance past Mauser's as the new ballpark's best. But two pitches later, Leblebijian pulled a sharp grounder past a diving Leonardo Reginatto at third base for the Herd's first hit.
Former Bisons and current Braves pitcher Bartolo Colon remains the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Coca-Cola Field. He blanked the New Orleans Zephyrs 4-0 on June 21, 1997.
Buffalo's best chance to score in the game came back in the fourth as Jake Elmore led off the inning with a walk, stole second base and advanced to third on a fly out. Sleggers got out of the jam with a Rowdy Tellez pop out on the infield and a strikeout of Juan Graterol.
For his part, Buffalo's Brett Oberholtzer kept the Red Wings off the scoreboard over the first four innings, matching Sleggers in punchouts The southpaw struck out seven in his Bisons debut, including three batters in the third inning.
Rochester scored all five of their runs off the bullpen with one in the sixth, one in the seventh, two in the eighth and one more insurance run in the ninth. Nike Goodrum doubled and scored in the seventh and plated two more with his second double in as many frames in the eighth inning.