By Jim Laise - email@example.com
STEPHENS CITY -- There was talk about it in the outfield. Certainly, Sherando baseball coach Pepper Martin and his staff knew about it. And only one teammate breached the secret, as an aside, with pitcher Chase Smallwood throughout the six-inning game.
But nobody in Red and White had to say anything about a perfect game, to the tall right-hander in a 10-0 "mercy-rule" shortened, non-district contest to open the home season here. Smallwood, usually the team's catcher, knew he was sitting on history the whole time.
Smallwood, a junior, pitched for Sherando the first time Saturday since a brief outing last season and, in so doing, fashioned Sherando's first-ever perfect game in the history of the 20-year-old school, according to Martin, the only coach the Warriors have known.
Smallwood (1-0) erased every batter in order through six innings; only one ball got out of the infield, a routine fly ball to left in the top of the fourth inning. His was just the fifth no-hitter all-time, according to Martin.
He obviously gave up no hits and walks. No Brentsville batter reached base on an error or otherwise. Smallwood, considered a "spot starter," by Martin, struck out six. He threw only 12 balls and allowed just one batsman to get to a full (three-and-two) count.
He put out four of the first six Tigers (0-6) he faced.
He also was 4-for-4 at the plate, doubling twice and driving in two runs as Sherando ran its record to 7-0 this season. The Warriors, who whipped Brentsville 23-3 in five innings to open the season on March 21, won for the second time in as many days due to the 10-run rule. It was the Warriors' third such shortened game of the campaign. They have outscored opponents 91-11.
"Coach [Craig] Bodenschatz, coach [Tom] Carney and I knew about it, but, of course, we didn't say anything about it," said a happy Martin after the game. "[Right fielder] John Bentley was talking about it in the outfield, and mentioned it in the dugout. But we told him, 'OK, don't jinx it.'"
"I remember, early, [shortstop] Taylor Loudan said, 'Hey, 'why don't you let the rest of us make some plays?'" said Smallwood with a smile.
The pitcher fielded two balls cleanly, threw runners out at first and fanned two other Tigers among the first six opposition at-bats.
"I overheard Logan Bucher saying something about, 'Hey, what if Smallwood hit a home run to go along with his no-hitter?'" Smallwood said. "I started thinking about it towards the end of the game, in the fifth inning. I just kept taking deep breaths and trying to relax, but I was awfully happy to see that ball go through his legs."
"His" in this case was the Brentsville third-baseman whose error allowed the 10th Sherando run to score, ending the game in the sixth inning.
Sherando dug out four runs on four hits in the second inning, when it batted around, then came up with five more in the fourth, when the Warriors swatted as many hits, to gain a 9-0 lead.
Obviously the outcome of the game was in far less doubt than Smallwood's perfect performance in the home sixth, when Smallwood slapped a double into the right-field power alley. Pinch-runner Loudan then stole third to bring up pinch-hitter Trent Marchi.
Marchi had already driven in a run with a sacrifice to right field on his first chance in the fourth, batting for Bentley. This time he skipped a blistering hopper that zipped through the Brentsville third baseman's legs, scoring Loudan to end the game and start the on-field celebration around Smallwood.
"We always say to play every inning out," said Martin. "They weren't holding him, so we took it. But who's to say what would have happened [had Loudan not occupied the bag] and the [Brentsville] youngster makes the play? We might have still been playing."
Smallwood would have been up to the task. He never seemed to tire as he struck out batters to end the fifth and decisive sixth innings for Brentsville.
"Being a catcher, I'm used to going hard, and, after playing football and basketball, I was used to it," Smallwood said. "We play 36 games in American Legion [summer] ball."
"The fact that we would get a quality start out of Chase was not surprising, because he's a competitor," Martin said. "But I never imagined we'd get a perfect-game, no-hitter from him. These were the first innings he's pitched this year."
According to Martin, previous no-hitters at the school have come from Jason McIlwee, who twirled the first one in recorded history in 1995. A set of pitchers -- Drew McCormick and Kyle Simmers -- combined for a no-hitter in 2003. The coach said Darrell Thompson did the deed twice last year during Sherando's 19-3 campaign.
"The fact that he was throwing strikes with all three of his pitches -- his fastball, his breaking ball and his change-ups was really impressive," Martin said. "You can't say he pitched to contact, because he got 18 outs and six of them were strikeouts. He got ahead of the hitters and he got them out."
Martin also credited back-up catcher Connor Stevenson, who was doing work in place of Smallwood.
"We call the pitches, but he handled it well," Martin said.
"My goal has always been to -- since Little League -- get ahead of the hitters and then paint the corners," said Smallwood. "That's what I was able to do today. I was getting my pitches on the corners for strikes."
Loudan went 2-for-3 with a double. Reid Entsminger was 2-for-4 with one run batted in. Stevenson and Marchi each had two RBIs. Jacob Carney doubled.
Adam Whitacre, who hit for the cycle in a 15-4 Friday night shellacking of Kettle Run on the road, missed the game because of illness.