ASHEVILLE, N.C.–Greensboro lefthander Charlie Lowell is on a roll.
Lowell entered the seventh inning of his Saturday start against Asheville, the highest scoring offense in the low Class A South Atlantic League, just as he had his previous two starts—without allowing a hit. Unlike his two previous outings, Lowell retired the side in order to preserve the no-hit bid. But Lowell had thrown 107 pitches and did not return for the eighth, as lefthander Greg Nappo entered and allowed base hits to the first two hitters he faced.
"He went over his pitch limit the last start and obviously he wasn’t going to go two more innings, so we have our rules we have to follow," Greensboro manager Dave Berg said.
Lowell complied with the decision, understanding that long-term goals supercede short-term personal accomplishments.
"I don’t want to hurt my career because I wanted to throw a no-hitter in Low A, what does that mean?" Lowell said. "Nobody remembers that but everybody wants to be remembered as the guy that threw a no-hitter in the big leagues."
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Lowell has battled control problems (4.55 walks per nine) throughout his first full professional season, but recent work with the coaching staff has propelled him on this strong three-start run with improved command.
"The coaches and I had a big talk about my tempo and controlling the pace of the game and making sure I find a delivery I can repeat, and doing those things well has helped out a ton because I am throwing all three pitches for strikes," Lowell said.
Lowell walked only one hitter Saturday, while striking out nine. This followed his no-walk, 14-strikeout performance against Kannapolis on July 16. Over the last three starts, Lowell has struck out 29 and walked four in 20 innings, pushing his strikeout total to 106, a lone strikeout behind Sally League leader Alex Meyer, who was recently promoted to high Class A Potomac.
On Saturday, Lowell sat 90-92 mph with his fastball and touched 93, including twice in the seventh. He established his fastball the first time through the order, throwing first- and second-pitch heaters to seven hitters. The Wichita State product threw his 77-79 mph breaking ball earlier in the count in subsequent trips through the order. Following the game, Lowell said using the breaking ball more frequently and earlier in the count has been a focal point because that is the pitch he commands best, and he generated seven of his nine strikeouts via the breaking ball. Lowell complemented his fastball and breaking ball with an 83-84 mph changeup that he threw nearly a dozen times.
"His tempo has been the key because he is throwing all three pitches for strikes and getting ahead of hitters," Berg said. "Any time you can do that you are going to have success and he has been outstanding the last three times."
Lowell, 21, improved to 5-4, 3.66 overall with 46 walks and 66 hits allowed in 91 innings to go with those 106 strikeouts. Visiting Greensboro won the game 3-1.