The bats for Maiden Post 240 were all but silent Saturday night at Bandys’ One River Stadium, but the Salamanders’ pitching and defense were deafening. Maiden managed just one hit that didn’t even figure in the scoring, but still came away with a 2-0 win over Huntersville.
“Very, very odd game,” admitted Maiden coach Justin Hawkins. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of a one-hit ballgame and still scored two runs. The thing I’m taking away from it the most is from three games this year we’ve given up 16 runs with two earned runs. Tonight, we gave up zero runs with zero errors. That I’m more impressed with our guys defensively. Maybe the combination we had tonight figured out something.”
Maiden starter TJ Rasar threw five strong innings of shutout baseball, allowing five hits with five strikeouts and just one walk. However, the night didn’t begin nearly as promising as it turned out in the first Huntersville at-bat.
Leadoff hitter Zach Eddy hit the first offering he saw into right field no-man’s land for a base hit. After an infield pop-up, Jeff Frey launched a long double to the fence in left to put runners on second and third with one out.
But Salamanders third baseman Cy Spencer made the first of several big plays at the hot corner when he took a ground ball and nailed Eddy at the plate with a perfect throw. Rasar then ended the inning with his first strikeout.
“I struggled in the first inning,” Rasar said. “Everything I was missing, I was missing middle, middle-in. So, whenever I came out in the second inning, I knew what kind of adjustment I had to make. I really didn’t have my off-speed stuff tonight, but luckily enough my fastball was working good enough so I could still get guys out and let my team compete.”
While Huntersville had two first-inning hits and came up empty, Maiden scored the game’s only two runs in the bottom of the first without the benefit of a hit.
Jay Sipe was hit by Hunter Stallings’ very first pitch and later went to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, Mac Beam swung at strike three in the dirt. The throw to first trying to get Beam went down the right-field line, allowing Sipe to score from second and Beam to take his place at second. Beam stole third moments later and the throw trying to get him sailed into left field, allowing Beam to score as well.
After that it was all pitching and defense. Although three of Hunterville’s first four hits went for two bases, web gems by Spencer at third and Ivan Huffman in center made them meaningless.
“That really just helps us (pitchers) out a ton,” Rasar said of the defensive support. “It lets us know we can throw the ball in the zone and trust the guys behind us to do things they’re supposed to be doing and helping us out.”
Rasar threw 12 first-pitch strikes in five innings and his relief help, Elijah Carr, threw four more in two nearly perfect innings of work. Carr struck out three and walked one without allowing a hit.
“I can’t say enough about TJ and Eli coming in and throwing the way they did, throwing strikes. Pitching wise, I was really proud of them tonight,” Hawkins said. “One of the things I say to them all the time, I quiz them all the time: ‘What’s the best pitch in baseball? Not fastballs, not curveballs, not sliders, not changeups, whatever it is. It’s the first-pitch strikes.’”
Stallings was all but unhittable for Huntersville. He gave up a third-inning single to Huffman and walked another in five innings on the mound. He struck out six Maiden batters.
Maiden evens its overall record to 2-2. Saturday’s game was the first against an East IV opponent so the Salamanders find themselves at 1-0 in divisional play.
“I texted the guys today and said, ‘Guys, we start a winning streak today,’” Hawkins said. “So, hopefully, we just started something.”
Maiden Post 240 will play at 7 p.m. Sunday against Gaston at East Gaston High School.