Wednesday, March 6, 2013
I've thrown my share of no-hitters in my day. They're fun. They are special moments that require a lot of look, a lot of great pitches, timely hitting on your offense's part and some spectacular defense.
The Berkeley Stags got all of those on Thursday night in the 2-0 win over Fort Dorchester.
There is no better way to make your varsity baseball debut than by being near perfect. That was Stags hurler Zach Gonzales in the second round of the American Legion Post 166 Pre-Season Invitational Tournament, near perfect. Facing just two batters over the minimum, Gonzales fired a no-hitter in his first varsity start.
“I didn't even know he'd thrown a no-hitter,” said Berkeley Coach Landy Cox. “I get so caught up in the game, I didn't know until they told me afterwards.”
Cox said while Gonzales struggled early with his curve ball, the Patriots couldn't touch the fastball or the curve: “He hit his spots and while he struggled with his command early, they couldn't touch him after he started throwing the curve for strikes. He was lights out after that.”
The game took just over an hour to complete, approximately 75 minutes to play seven innings.
They call that playing a game like you have dinner reservations. The field was empty and everybody had gone home by 8:20 p.m.
“We were out of there in a hurry,” Cox said.
Gonzales said he knew he'd had the no-hitter all along, and said the key to the game was his defense, though the junior rightie racked up 13 K's on his way to the no-no. “I struggled a little early but I found my groove in the fourth inning,” he said. “My fastball was good and I was hitting my spots.”
Gonzales said this was the first no-hitter he'd ever thrown. “It was pretty amazing,” Gonzales said of his varsity baseball debut.
He has two whole seasons to throw another.
No-hitters are like lightning strikes, and many of the game's best pitchers never threw one. Sometimes they are thrown in the most perfect of baseball moments, like Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
Baseball's first no-hitter was thrown by George Bradley on July 15, 1876, pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals against Hartford. The last was thrown by Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 28, 2012.
There have been 276 no-hitters thrown through the end of the 2012, and a total of seven no-hitters last season.
Gonzales would have lost the no-hitter in the fifth inning were it not for the defensive gem of the game. Rightfielder Andrew Lockliear made a spectacular diving catch on a line drive in the gap.
“He laid out and was completely horizontal,” Cox said. “It was an outstanding defensive play that saved the game.”
The Stags went on to win the Post 166 Tournament Championship over defending Class AAAA state champions Ashley Ridge, 3-2, following a Kyle Garrick game-winning home run in the eighth inning. Berkeley 3-0, begins regular season play this week.
This team can hit, it can play excellent defense, and its pitching so far, has been near perfect.