Senior pitcher Jacob Rocky threw a gem of a game Tuesday night in the 5-0 win vs. Hoban as he went the distance, completing seven innings and allowing just one hit. The senior went 6 ⅓ innings of perfect baseball as he did not allow a base runner until the seventh inning. The Blue and Gold offense backed up Rocky as they jumped ahead early on the Knights to take control.
Rocky had his stuff working early against Hoban as he would open the game up, striking out the side on just 15 pitches. With true command of his fastball and breaking pitches, Rocky was nearly unhittable.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early 2-0 lead as junior Gabe Nard ripped a double down the left-field line. Matt Giberti would score from second, and John Panstarescame home from first. Hoban would tight rope out of more trouble as the Wildcats would strand runners at the corners in the bottom half of the first.
Rocky would cruise again in the top of the second, as he would only have to make seven pitches retiring the side in the top half. The Cats would strike again in the bottom half of the second as Panstares grounded out first but would bring home Noah Brazytis to make the score 3-0 Saint Ignatius through two innings.
The senior pitcher for the Wildcats appeared to be on autopilot, as he would continue having 1-2-3 innings. After the fourth inning, there started to be rumblings by the Wildcat fans of what could be. During a no-hitter/perfect game, the first rule is not to mention what is happening because you do not want to jinx it. However, it was difficult for everyone around, knowing Rocky was just a couple of innings away from a rare feat.
The last perfect game in Saint Ignatius baseball history came nearly 30 years ago as Bob Baxter ’92 threw a perfect game vs. Padua in 1992. In the history of Saint Ignatius baseball, only three pitchers have thrown a perfect game. Rocky headed into the sixth inning, just six outs away.
Rocky would go 1-2-3 again in the sixth as there were a couple of balls in play that made everyone hold their breath. However, great defense by Brazytis and Nard made it look easy to get out of the inning still perfect.
“I was just trying to get ahead in the count early,” says Rocky. “My Fastball and breaking ball was working and the defense was awesome.”
As the Cats headed into the bottom half, there was the need for insurance runs before heading to the seventh. An error by the Knights to start the inning would allow Max Palinski to reach base safely. Dylan Murphy would walk, as the Wildcats would have two on with nobody out. Brazytis would smack a ground ball past the first baseman of the Knights and Palinski would score from third on the RBI single.
Panstares would ground into a fielder’s choice to allow Brazytis to score, making the score 5-0 heading into the seventh inning and leaving Rocky three outs away from perfection.
“I could tell everyone was trying to stay away from me,” explains Rocky. “I was a little nervous heading out there.”
Rocky began the seventh strong as he would strike out the first batter he faced. “When I struck out the first guys, I felt locked in,” says Rocky.
The Wildcats were two outs away from history; however, Hoban would finally strike on the hit column with their next batter. Nate Shimmel swung at the first pitch from Rocky that made its way into center field, ruining the perfect game. Rocky would recover, striking out the next two batters to complete the game as he would finish with 11 strikeouts.
As Rocky struck out the final Knights batter, his teammates rushed out of the dugout to celebrate with the senior pitcher who completed a masterful game. The Wildcats were 5-0 winners, winning their second straight game, “We’re finally playing some baseball,” says Rocky. “It’s going to be a good rest of the season.”
The Wildcats are 6-4 and will be back at home Thursday evening to take on the Solon Comets from Brookside. The SIBN will have live coverage with the first pitch at 5 p.m. The Cats seek their third straight win heading into the weekend as they’ll take on Gilmour Academy on the road at noon on Saturday.