By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- For the majority of his first-ever varsity pitching start, Jared Getz was blissfully unaware that he was inching closer and closer to a dazzling no-hitter.
Getz, a junior right-hander, might well have been far too preoccupied trying to shut down opposing Shenandoah Valley Academy batters during his April 12 start at Rebel Park. Rest assured, though, that teammate Colton Harlow was intently watching Getz's gem unfold -- for more reasons than one.
Harlow, after all, had fired a no-hitter of his own for the Generals just 10 days before when he baffled Shenandoah District rival Buffalo Gap for seven innings in a 6-1 victory.
Now here was Getz, stealing his thunder.
"It was worth it, though," said Harlow, who was playing first base during Getz's no-hitter. "I enjoyed watching him pitch. I was behind him the whole time.
"If I really didn't want him to get it, I would have just missed one of the balls when I was playing first or something. Nah, I'm just kidding. I was behind him 100 percent."
Strange stuff at Rebel Park, to be sure -- two no-hitters in one season, and less than two weeks apart?
Here's the real kicker, though -- those two no-hitters represent Stonewall Jackson's only two wins this season as the Generals are off to a 2-11 start so far.
"I was telling them the other day, I've played a lot of baseball in high school and college and went and played a little bit after college," Stonewall Jackson coach Mike Lenox said. "I've coached a lot of teams, and I've never been part of a no-hitter, let alone two -- let alone it's the only two wins we have.
"What I've told them over and over is you have the ability to do that each time you walk out there. It's your mind-set, and you believing that you can do that. You're not always going to throw a no-hitter, but if you believe you can you'll get your opportunities to do things like that and to win baseball games."
Harlow was a believer during that April 2 start against district rival Buffalo Gap. The left-hander was far from perfect against the Bison, walking six batters in the game and continually pitching out of trouble. But Harlow always found that something extra when it counted, striking out 11 in the game to completely stifle Buffalo Gap.
Lenox termed Harlow's outing afterward as "effectively wild," and that's about the perfect description.
Getz, on the other hand, had sharp control against the Stars. A late addition to the schedule, SVA nevertheless was a familiar opponent for Getz through previous matchups with the New Market school. Getz had seen a bit of time on the mound as a reliever for the Generals this season, but still -- first-start jitters should have been a given.
"I pitched in Little League and JV a little bit, but I wasn't nervous at all," Getz said. "I was pretty surprised because of that. I thought I would have been nervous because it was my first start on varsity. It just felt natural."
Nervous or not, Getz did have the lone hiccup in his otherwise perfect performance during that first inning when he went from an 0-2 count on an SVA batter to a walk when he briefly lost command of the strike zone. Getz quickly regained that command, and finished with 11 strikeouts.
Even Harlow couldn't have known then that would be the only Stars base runner, but the sophomore soon picked up on Getz's superb outing.
"I knew it the whole time because he hadn't let a guy on base," Harlow said. "I think he walked one guy in the first inning, and he hadn't allowed anyone past first base. If he hadn't of walked that guy, he would have had a perfect game."
Like Harlow before him, Getz didn't realize he had a no-hitter going until a Stonewall Jackson coach told him about it late in the game.
"I wasn't thinking about it until a coach said something about it in the fourth or fifth," Getz said. "Then I was like, 'Dang.' I hadn't really thought about it."
Perhaps the best vantage point for watching both pitching gems unfold this season was occupied by Stonewall Jackson freshman catcher Bradley Henschel, who now can boast of having caught two no-hitters in one season.
"I mean, they both pitched great games and they had a lot of strikeouts," Henschel said. "The defense backed them up, and that's what we have to do."
Stonewall did play strong defense in both games, committing just one error in Harlow's outing and none behind Getz. And the Generals swung the bats well for both pitchers, too, coming up with six runs against Buffalo Gap and breaking open a competitive game against SVA with a five-run seventh inning to secure a 10-0 victory.
"So many things have to go right to throw a no-hitter," Lenox said. "A ball can go in the hole, a flare here -- not even hard-hit balls -- hits happen all the time like that. For it not to happen and to make all the plays, it's pretty cool to be a part of."
Getz, who played third base during Harlow's no-hitter, couldn't have imagined he'd be joining his teammate with a no-hitter of his own just days later.
Now the trick is to win a game without throwing a no-hitter, something the Generals have yet to master this season.
"We've been trying hard to get them without doing big stuff like that," Getz said. "When you do stuff like that, we have to take it. It's great when we do that.
"... We've come close, and it's always one inning that messes us up. It seems like if we can avoid that one inning, we'll be good. We've been playing good ball, we've been outhitting teams every game, but somehow we end up losing."
Lenox, for one, is convinced Stonewall Jackson has more routine victories in its future this season.
"I think we're going to do a lot better down through this last home stretch of the district," Lenox said. "We've seen everybody, seen how we stack up to them. Most of the games we lost was because we beat ourselves."
Until then, Getz and Harlow can enjoy their impressive -- and downright unique -- accomplishments.
"Yeah, it's pretty crazy, right?," Harlow said. "You don't see that too often, especially two in a row."