Sonora hurler Ryan Stevenson was almost unhittable Tuesday night. When solid contact was made against the lefty, he took matters into his own hands, at least his glove hand.
Stevenson pitched a complete-game one-hitter with 15 strikeouts and made the defensive play of the game to lead the Wildcats to a 7-1 baseball victory over their county rivals the Summerville Bears at Bev Barron Field.
"That was vintage Stevenson," said Wildcat head coach Scott Johnson. "We just seem to play a lot better when he's on the bump. Our guys don't want to win when he is pitching, they expect to win."
Stevenson retired the first 10 batters he faced, seven by strikeout. But after he had thrown four innings, which included eight strikeouts, the Bears were ahead 1-0.
Summerville's Logen Foster walked with one out in the top of the fourth and Bryce Farrell followed with a solid single up the middle. Foster scored shortly after on a throwing error after a wild pitch.
Bears starter Joey Brocchini cruised through the first three innings without a hit allowed and four strikeouts.
"He stymied us," said Johnson. "If he hadn't been in basketball so long and could go a few more innings, I think it's a whole different ballgame. We hit the ball as a team pretty well and he really stymied us."
The Cats broke through in the home half of the fourth.
Tyler Helm stroked a single to left field to leadoff and Justin Payne followed with a double off the right field fence. Ryan Dies walked to load the bases to set up sophomore Nick Harris.
Harris smacked a hard chopper into center field to plate Helm and Payne to give the Cats a 2-1 lead.
"I was just looking for a hit," said Harris. "(At first base) I felt good that I did my job at the plate."
"He's (Harris) not intimidated and he's mentally strong," said Johnson, "and that's why he's up here on varsity. A lot of guys physically can play up here but you've gotta be mentally tough because I'm hard on you, the game's faster and there's more pressure. He's doing real well."
After the Cats took the lead, they were able to plate five more runs in the inning with the help of three errors, a Ryan Dills sacrifice fly and a Helm RBI-single, his second hit of the inning. Payne followed Helm with a line-drive double down the left field line, his second extra base-hit of the frame. In all, Sonora sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth inning, had five hits and scored seven runs. In the other five innings combined, the Cats were held to just one hit.
Bears reliever Jonathan Olsen pitched the final three innings, allowed no earned runs and struck out seven, including the side in the sixth.
After the Cats grabbed the lead, it was all Stevenson the rest of the way.
"We started out in a real tight game and then they took the lead and I was a little mad," said Stevenson. "But errors happen, they're part of the game. But we came right back in that inning - it was a big, big inning for us. After that, I was very confident going back out there. My arm never really tired throughout the game."
Stevenson struck out the side in the fifth and struck out the leadoff hitter in the sixth but he reached first base after strike three was a wild pitch.
Farrell tried to start a rally and followed with a first-pitch smash headed up the middle. Stevenson's glove hand flew up faster than the speed of light and, at full extension, snared the meteoric sphere then calmly tossed to first base for a double play.
"I was guessing first pitch fastball and I knew he was going to bring me one and I sat on it and I ripped it up the middle," said Farrell. "I thought for sure it was a single because I hit it so hard and there was so much contact. I don't think he even saw it coming off the bat. It was a great play."
"That's why baseball is such a cruel game," said Johnson. "That was probably the best swing on either team tonight. He hits a shot and it's caught. But next game he'll probably check swing on one and hit a bloop single to right field. That's baseball, it's a cruel game sometimes. I'm just glad that ball was above Ryan's head and not at it."
Stevenson ran his record to 4-0 this season with a .97 earned run average. That's right, he averages giving up less than one run per game. He has also struck out 55 in just 29 innings.
"Stevenson is one heck of a pitcher and we knew that coming in," said Farrell. "We knew we'd be facing him probably for seven innings which is what happened. We struggled to hit him, but you know, it's early in the season and it's fun to play the crosstown rivals. It was a good time."
"Scott (Johnson) gets his team put together and when you gotta face Ryan Stevenson, especially with our basketball players just back now, you're gonna see the real deal, and he threw a one-hitter," said Bears head coach Larry Gold. "He doesn't expect too many guys to hit him and they don't.
"But I wasn't too displeased, Joey did great on the mound. He's just out of basketball so we've gotta bring him along a little bit at a time, he threw good today. He started to get up there with his pitch count and he's facing guys that have been out here playing for over a month and they're a good hitting team. But now we've gotta work on our hitting. We saw the real deal tonight, but now we know what to expect so we've gotta be able to put the bat on the ball."
"Nothing against Summerville, but Stevenson has done this to everybody," said Johnson. "And it's almost not fair when you're just coming out of playing basketball and you're facing a guy like Stevenson, because he's that good -he really is. He's really focused this year, he's more mature and he's doing the little things. He's a leader."
The Wildcats (6-3) will next host Calaveras on Friday at approximately 6 p.m. while the Bears (2-6-1) will host Modesto Christian on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.
"I'm pretty confident heading into league with these guys," said Payne, a senior captain. "I'm really proud of eveybody on this team. They're all pulling their weight. All the guys on the bench are talking and cheering and being positive."
"I think Summerville is gonna do some damage in the Mother Lode League," said Johnson. "I think they've got a good chance to win that league. I think we underestimated them, we knew they were pretty good, but we didn't know they were that good."