The playoff run could not be off to a better start for the Saint Ignatius varsity baseball team.
Offense? ✓ The Wildcats plated 11 runs, with all nine players contributing a hit or an RBI.
Defense ✓ The Wildcats made some great plays in the field, including a recovery on hard-hit ball by AJ Gaich and a nice catch behind the plate by Austin Jones.
Pitching ✓✓✓ Andrew Mulhern delivered an outstanding effort. The senior recorded the 16th no-hitter in program history.
The final result? An 11-1 win over Valley Forge in the Sectional Final.
The Wildcats were all smiles after a great win to start the playoffs. The club has enjoyed great stretches and endured hard times, including a recent 4-game losing streak. But heading into the playoffs, the Wildcats are hot. And more importantly, they're mentally ready for the long run.
After a walk to open the game, Mulhern cruised through the rest of the first, inducing a ground out and striking out two batters looking. The Wildcats didn't have to look at too many pitches in the first, starting strong at the plate.
AJ Gaich kicked things off by beating out an infield single with his stellar speed. Jack Whalen then drew a walk to set the stage foe Michael Holdsworth. The senior crushed a triple to left center, scoring two, marking his 18th and 19th RBIs of the season. A couple of batters later, Austin Jones clapped a single to right, scoring Holdsworth to end a 3-run first.
Mulhern kept the slate clean in the second in a quick frame. Whelan added to the lead with a triple to center, scoring Gaich on a monster hit. Valley Forge remained quiet in the third, and managed to hold the Wildcats' bats at bay.
The fourth inning was far from silent. The Patriots plated their first and only run of the game on a three-base error on a hard-hit ball to the outfield. A groundout to second allowed the run to score from third, narrowing the gap to 4-1. The Wildcats responded in kind in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back singles by Erik Daugenti and Gaich, followed by a steal, set the table for Whelan. The junior lofted a fly ball to left field for a sacrifice fly, scoring Daugenti. Holdsworth then drew a walk, bringing McNamara to the plate.
For the first time this season, the Wildcats experienced the joy of a home run in the friendly confines of Fisher Field. McNamara absolutely blasted a ball to left, climbing over the wall in left center, 375 feet from home plate. His bomb daggered any hopes of a comeback, setting the score at 8-1.
Mulhern took it from there. Utilizing a beautiful speedball, Mulhern struck out the side with blistering efficiency in the top of the fifth. Mulhern looked flat-out unhittable.
The Wildcats nearly ended the game in the bottom of the fifth, but still did damage. Jones led things off with a walk, followed by a Matt Geraci single. Jake Lang grounded out to short to score Jones and Daugenti scored Geraci on a sacrifice fly in selfless at-bats, stretching the lead to 10-1. AJ Gaich reached base on a walk, but the Wildcats could not score him to win.
Mulhern struck out the first batter before veering towards the edge of danger. After issuing back-to-back walks, Mulhern looked like he might lose out on his no-no. But then Mulhern knuckled down, drawing a pop out and striking out a Patriot to shut the door in the sixth. The Wildcats then took care of business in the bottom of the frame. Holdsworth reached on an error, getting to second on a hard-hit ball to center. Holdsworth got to third on a wild pitch before McNamara hit a grounder to score the Nebraska commit.
The Wildcats walked away with an 11-1 conquest.
"We wanted to get a big win and roll into the playoffs with some energy," Mulhern said. "I threw all heaters, I was trying to blow it past them. This win proves we can do damage against teams. We just need to bring the offense and pitching every day and avoid walks."
Head Coach Brad Ganor was very proud of his senior ace after the no-hitter.
"He pitched a great game, and he had a lot of strikeouts. Twelve strikeouts in six innings is pretty good," Ganor said. "He did a great job of using his fastball to get ahead and stay ahead. He had a couple of guys on base the last inning, but he battled to get out of it. That's why he's our ace. I'm not surprised he threw a no-hitter, he's got that kind of stuff. He's a quiet leader. He leads by example and takes care of business every time he's out there. He did a great job of using different arm slots and mix speeds. He did a fantastic job today."
Looking ahead, the Wildcats head to Canton to face Canton Central Catholic on Friday night. The Baseball Cats return home on Saturday, hosting the Solon Comets. The Wildcats will have a special senior day ceremony before first pitch, tentatively planned for 2 pm.