The 2009 Brooklyn Cyclones started the season strong, winning nine of their eleven games in June. They won their first seven games in July, but went 12-12 over the course of the rest of the month. August was also a mixed bag for them, with the team going 11-8 through August 23rd. Rain cancelled the regularly scheduled contest between the Cyclones and the Aberdeen IronBirds on August 22nd, so the game was scheduled to be made up the next day as part of a seven-inning doubleheader. With all four teams in the McNamara Division fighting for first place in the division and a possible Wild Card playoff berth, the game would have major playoff implications.
Six-thousand five-hundred fans came out to Leidos Field at Ripkin Stadium, home of the IronBirds, that day. The clouds that had cancelled the game the night before were long gone and were instead replaced by a clear skies and sun. In the shade, or when the nearby Chesapeake Bay- about ten miles away- provided a slight breeze, it was a balmy, 82-degree summer day, but without any shade and/or breeze, the sun felt downright oppressive. The sellout crowd would be treated to a marquee match-up, as Aberdeen starter Nick Haughian led the IronBirds with a 2.26 ERA in 67.2 innings, while Brooklyn starter Brandon Moore led the Cyclones with a 2.15 ERA in 71.0 innings.
Drafted by the in the 14th round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana, Moore was the first player drafted from there in 28 years. A senior signing, Moore posted a sterling 1.73 ERA in 93.2 innings with the Wildcats, but with a fastball that sat 88-92 and a handful of below-average secondary pitches, expectations were never especially high for the right-hander. He made his professional debut that June with the Cyclones, but was ineffective and was sent to the Kingsport Mets after about a month of struggles, where he was much more effective. In eight appearances with the Cyclones- all out of the bullpen- the right-hander posted a 9.00 ERA in 7.0 innings, allowing 9 hits, walking 6, and striking out 11. In six appearances with Kingsport- four out of the bullpen and a pair of four inning starts- he posted a 0.90 ERA, allowing 12 hits, walking 8, and striking out 22.
Moore returned to Brooklyn in 2009 and enjoyed a great deal of success. In two starts in June, he posted a 0.64 ERA with 7 hits allowed, 1 walk, and 13 strikeouts. In five starts in July, he posted a 2.87 ERA with 28 hits allowed, 5 walks, and 27 strikeouts. In the month of August, he had a 2.89 ERA in three starts, allowing 12 hits, walking 6, and striking out 17.
Warming up in the Leidos Field bullpen, it had been almost two weeks since he had last toed the rubber. He last pitched on August 11th, but missed his next start because he sprained his ankle covering first during that game. In addition to having to contend with a little bit of rust, the right-hander had to deal with something worse: a virus. Unbeknownst to manager Pedro Lopez or pitching coach Rick Tomlin, he threw up in the bullpen while warming up. Not wanting to let his team down, Moore did not say anything and took the mound. Luckily for him, center fielder Justin Garber led off the game with a double and later came home to score on a sac fly, meaning he had been given a quick 1-0 lead; if nothing else, it was a little breathing room and a bit of a margin of error if he labored.
Moore navigated out of the first with little difficulty. He got DH Tom Baxter to ground out, got second baseman Buck Britton to pop out, and after issuing a walk to third baseman Tyler Kelly, got first baseman Tyler Townsend to ground out. When he returned to the dugout, he was greeted by teammate Colin McHugh, who had a cup of cold water ready for him. McHugh forced the right-hander to hydrate, and would end up doing so between every inning. Moore’s counterpart on the IronBirds sent the Cyclones down quickly in the top of the second so it was back to work for Moore. He struck out catcher Justin Dalles to start the second, followed that up by striking out center fielder Steven Bumbry, and after hitting left fielder Richard D Oleo and letting him steal second, he struck out shortstop Garabez Rosa to end the inning. The Cyclones threatened in the third, giving Moore a little extra time to recover in the dugout, but Nick Haughian ended up putting up another zero and it was back to work.
Moore had a quick inning in the bottom of the third, getting right fielder Jason Rook to pop out, Tom Baxter to fly out, and Buck Britton to strike out. Cyclones right fielder Luis Rivera led the fourth inning off with a walk and ended up coming home to score on Alex Gregory double, giving Moore a 2-0 lead to work with and more time to rest, rehydrate, and contemplate his performance in the dugout. He was having trouble locating his fastball for strikes, but was more accurate with his slider and changeup and was feeding the Aberdeen hitters a steady diet of those instead.
In the fourth, he retired Tyler Kelly and Tyler Townsend on a pair of groundouts and got Justin Dalles to fly out to center for out three. The Cyclones went down 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth, but Moore matched Haughian’s zero with another of his own, working around a two out walk. Richard Lucas doubled to lead off the top of the sixth, but the Cyclones were unable to drive him in. It was around this time, as Moore was returning to the mound for the sixth, that he realized that he had a no-hitter going.
“I was going over the game in my head, and I just kind of starting thinking, “wait...have they gotten a hit yet?” I walked a couple of guys, and hit another one, so they had runners on base throughout the game, but I couldn’t really remember any hits. Almost immediately, I tried to push it out of my mind. If I was throwing a no-hitter, I didn’t want to think about it. I had to force myself not to look at the scoreboard. When I did look, I focused on the balls, strikes, and outs. Deep down, I knew it, but I just didn’t want to confirm it.”
Trying to ignore the fact that he needed just six more outs to complete the no-no, he got Tom Baxter to strike out swinging, Buck Britton to fly out, and Tyler Kelly strikes out swinging. Three outs.
“After I got through the sixth inning, though, I knew it was for real. I finally looked at the zero on the scoreboard, and I knew I had three more outs to go. I went out to the mound for the last inning, and just kind of said, “Here we go. Let’s see what happens.”
For good or for bad, Moore had to wait before taking the mound in the seventh. He sat in the dugout for nearly twenty minutes as the Cyclones offense went to work. Alex Gregory led off the top of the inning with a single, and after Robbie Shields was hit by a pitch, Aberdeen manager Gary Kendall replaced starter Nicholas Haughian with reliever James Brandhorst. Brandhorst subsequently loaded up the bases, allowed an RBI single to Jordany Valdespin, and let two more runs score on a throwing error before finally getting Scott Grimes to ground out, ending the inning.
Knowing what was at stake, Moore took the mound for the ninth. Facing Tyler Townsend, he got the first baseman to fly out to left. One out. Facing Justin Dalles, he got the catcher to fly out to right. Two outs. All that stood in his way and history was center fielder Steven Bumbry, who had struck out and flew out. Moore quickly got two strikes. His next few pitches were all close, and an argument can be made that home plate umpire Gabriel Morales could have called any of them strikes, but he didn’t, and Moore walked Bumbry. Given a reprieve, IronBirds left fielder Richard D Oleo was given another chance to stand in-between Moore and history, having been hit by a pitch and flown out in his prior two plate appearances. He grounded out weakly, second baseman Jordany Valdespin to first baseman Alex Gregory.
“When I got that last out, I was just so happy that we won, and that the game was over. Thinking about the no-hitter didn’t even hit me immediately. But then the guys swarmed the mound, and everybody was telling me what a good job I did and congratulating me. It was such a cool experience. I’ve never thrown a no-hitter before, and I later heard that it was the first one for the Cyclones, too, so it’s very cool for me to be a part of the team’s history.”
Moore would end the 2009 season with a 2.52 ERA in 82.0 innings, allowing 61 hits, walking 17, and striking out 71. Promoted to the Savannah Sand Gnats in 2010, Moore posted a 2.49 ERA in 79.2 innings. Named a South Atlantic League All-Star, Moore was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets in the second half of the season. He was effective there as well, posting a 3.82 ERA in 66.0 innings, before ending his season with a handful of token innings for the Double-A Binghamton Mets. As is the case with most minor leaguers with below-average stuff, the gap between his talent and that of the batters he was facing became more apparent. In 133.0 innings, he posted a 4.47 ERA, allowing 156 hits, walking 42, and striking out 105. After the season ended, it was announced that he would be suspended for 50 games as a result of a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse. He began the 2012 season on the restricted list, and after being activated in late May spent considerable time on the disabled list. All in all, he was ineffective when he was on the mound, and was released that October. He initially signed with the Rockland Boulders of the Can-Am League for the 2013 season but was released. He quickly signed with the New Jersey Jackals, and ended up posting a 3.66 ERA in 76.1 innings, but his foray into the indies lasted a single year, and he has not pitched professionally since.
Since Moore’s no-hitter, the Columbia Fireflies and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies have each thrown one- as have the Mets- but the right-hander’s afternoon remains the only one in Brooklyn Cyclones history.