Cavs’ pitching staff starts season with pair of no hitters
by Aaron Garcia
One of baseball’s many time-tested adages states that, at the beginning of the season, pitchers generally have the advantage over hitters. It’s easy to reason – there typically aren’t many arms available to concentrate on preparing for the season and giving the hitters enough looks at live pitching to get them acclimated. That’s what pitching machines are for.
While it’s not a guarantee, more often than not, this proves true.
But Cuthbertson High School’s pitching staff took that belief to another level when the Cavaliers opened their season with two consecutive no-hit wins. Senior lefty and University of North Carolina signee Peter Hendel notched the first as Class 2A Cuthbertson began play on March 2 with an 8-0 home win over Class 3A Concord Robinson. Hendel went the distance. He struck out 15 and retired 22 of the 23 batters he faced in seven innings, coming a walk and an error shy of a perfect game.
“I felt good in warmups, and that translated into the game,” said Hendel, who noted that he changed speeds with his pitches to keep Robinson’s hitters off balance.
“I’m not going to say I’m surprised … but I am a little surprised,” said coach Travis Little. “To go seven innings and not give up one flair, one ground ball with eyes, that’s just statistically improbable.”
Hendel used four different pitches in the game, and about 75 percent of them were strikes, which Little said is rare for an early-season start.
“To come out in the first game and be so polished is exciting,” Little said.
The Cavs next took the field March 8 at Central Academy. After Cuthbertson’s game against Indian Land (S.C.) High School was rained out on March 7, Little said he entered the game with the idea of spreading out the innings to as many pitchers as possible to let them log some experience missed with the rainout.
Cameron Tekker was the pitcher charged with the unenviable task of starting the game after Hendel’s no-hitter.
“That’s a lot to come back up to after someone on your team starts the year with a no-hitter,” Tekker said with a chuckle. “You have that expectation, but at the same time you just go out there and have your own mentality. You just go do your job.”
Hendel took the mound in the second inning and pitched through the third. Before the bottom of the fourth, Tekker, who was playing outfield at the time, noticed something interesting as Preston Morrison took the mound.
Baseball has as many unwritten rules as it does adages, and one of the most sacred, next to the prohibition of crying and stepping on the chalked base paths, is that a player is never, ever supposed to talk about a no-hitter while it’s in progress.
“I kind of almost messed that up,” admitted Tekker. “I went up to (Hendel) and I forgot that rule. I told him we had a no-hitter going. He was like, ‘What did you just do?!’”
Recalled Hendel: “I was like, ‘Tekker, shut up!’”
Luckily, the baseball fates weren’t listening as Morrison finished the final two innings without a hit, giving the Cavaliers their second no-hitter in as many games.
Tekker notched one inning and struck out three and issued a walk. Hendel pitched two innings and struck out five. Morrison struck out three in two innings, securing the Cavs’ 10-0 win in five innings, along with Tekker’s first win of the season.
“I feel like it was a good day for all three of us,” said Morrison, who’s committed to Texas Christian University. “We were all clicking, and whatever we were doing was working.”
Added Hendel: “I think it says a lot about our pitching staff and how deep we are – how all three of us could do pretty much the same thing, and we were on.”
The one constant in the two performances, besides Hendel, was catcher John Mangum, who has emerged as one of the top backstops in the country and even earned a Louisville Slugger Pre-Season All-American nod. Mangum’s range behind the plate, said Morrison, has been a huge help already.
“It gives me a lot of confidence (having him back there),” Morrison said. “He just makes it look so easy.”
Added Tekker: “You can throw whatever (kind of pitch) you want (and Mangum will catch it). It also helps if you get a runner on (base) – you don’t really have to worry about the runner because you know (Mangum) has (your back). If the runner leads off too far, (Mangum) will get him. If he tries to steal, he’ll get him.”
Cuthbertson’s season started with a seemingly insurmountable amount of hype, beginning with the team’s selection as the country’s No. 10 team in Louisville Slugger’s 2011 Pre-Season Top 25 rankings after finishing last spring with a record of 23-4 in the program’s first year.
Instead of getting complacent, said Little, his club has done a good job of continuing to improve, as the two no-hitters prove.
“To see those guys bust out like that and come out with that kind of tenacity is really exciting,” said Little. “It’s also early. Their energy and their legs are still fresh, so hopefully we can maintain that throughout the season.”
The trio should get some help as the season goes on, however. Brian Donovan has been battling a back injury but should emerge as the team’s No. 4 starter, and a good one at that. Sophomore Andrew Hendel also looks to be a factor and should provide some valuable innings.
Tekker said that while the team trained hard in the off-season, notching two no-hitters to open the year gives the club some hard-to-match momentum.
“It gets us going a little more,” he said “You definitely have more confidence after something like that.”