HARTVILLE If you’re going to throw one no-hitter, you may as well throw two.
The Lake Center Christian Tigers may not have much luck turning that idea into a trending topic, but they made history with it earlier this month when their pitching staff tossed a pair of no-hitters on consecutive days.
The first was a conventional no-no, as junior Matt Starcher went all seven innings and kept Garrettsville Garfield from recording a hit in a 2-0 win. It was the first career no-hitter for Starcher, who admitted it was a exciting a day as he’s had on the diamond.
“Throwing a no-hitter was a big step for me as a pitcher and a baseball player. Once I threw the last pitch that got the last out I could hardly believe what we had just done,” Starcher said. “As the last out was made, all the tension that was building up in me as the game progressed subsided and turned into joy as the dugout cleared to congratulate me.”
He redirected much of the credit for his feat to his defense, an idea Byler quickly seconded because of the style of pitcher Starcher is.
“Matt pitches to contact … he’s not a strikeout guy, so striking out two and walking one means there were a lot of balls put in play and our defense did a great job behind him and he did great job of hitting his sports and mixing his pitches,” Byler said.
Starcher has been the team’s number two starter this season and that’s meant pitching in some big Portage Trail Conference games and recording league wins over Mogadore and Crestwood to go with his career day against Garrettsville. As far as he and Byler have been able to determine, it’s the first no-hitter thrown in a home game for an LCC pitcher, making the feat even more special.
Still, there were moments during the game when a free-swinging Garrettsville lineup gave Starcher reason to sweat.
“Only having two strikeouts in the game means that there were a lot of balls put in play, and a couple of them stopped my heart for a second,” he said.
One was a soft ground ball in the seventh inning to third baseman Daniel Underation, who fielded the ball on a short hop and made a laser throw to first base for the out. The other close call came in the same inning, when the leadoff batter made light contact with the ball and sent a shallow fly ball that Starcher thought could be trouble, but left fielder Thomas Fulk was able to settle under the ball for the out.
While it seems logical that being in a close game, as opposed to one where his team had a large lead and he had more of a margin for error, that a pitcher would find it easier to stay dialed in and calm, Byler said that didn’t seem to be the case with Starcher’s outing.
“I think naturally a pitcher could be more focused in a close game, but it’s probably tougher to throw a no-hitter in a close game because you know with a one- or two-run lead, if you give up a hit or two, they could be back in it,” Byler said.
The doubleheader sweep of the G-Men didn’t give LCC much time to celebrate, as the backloaded nature of most high school baseball schedules due to early-season postponements due to weather often finds teams with weeks where they play almost every day.
In this case, LCC had a non-league game against a Cornerstone Christian team that Byler admitted is having a down season and whose lineup doesn’t pack as much of a punch as it has in the past.
Still, a committee of four LCC hurlers managed to keep Cornerstone from recording a hit and while walks and errors allowed the Patriots to have baserunners and score three times, the Tigers emerged with a 13-3 win that marked the first time in program history no-hitters had been thrown on consecutive days or even in the same season.
While coaches can be loathe to spend too much time celebrating specific accomplishments during a season and would prefer their team focus solely on the next game, the LCC staff made sure players knew they’d been part of something special.
“As a program, we’re never had more than one in a season and we did tell them how special it is and how rare it is for no hitter to occur, especially two days in a row,” Byler said. “We want take steps forward every season and grow as a program and this is one of those.”
Ironically, the week after the no-hitters, the school honored its successful 2009 team, on which Byler was a player. He recalled being part of a no-hitter then and said that for himself and the teammate who threw it, it remains a memory they still talk about to this day when their baseball careers come up.
When Starcher looks back on his big day, be it 10 years from now or more, he’ll have memories like the one in which an assistant coach asked him during the game if he’d allowed a hit, prompting a reaction from his teammates that made him realize instantly that he was closing in on history.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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