One game, two pitchers, two no-hitters.
A baseball rarity occurred on Tuesday when Pat Stepnoski of the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs and Shaun Hansen of the Greenport Porters both threw no-hitters for their teams in a Suffolk County League VIII game at Greenport High School.
But even in a double no-hitter there is a winner and a loser. Stepnoski picked up the win as the Monarchs prevailed, 1-0, with the game’s only run coming on another baseball rarity: a steal of home plate. Tom Kretz stole home in the second inning.
It was the first varsity no-hitters for both pitchers.
“That was crazy,” Stepnoski said. “No one said anything the whole game, but I knew what was going on. It just happened.”
Stepnoski (2-0), supported by errorless defense behind him, fell two walks shy of a perfect game. The junior right-hander threw primarily fastballs with a couple of sliders, and fired 13 strikeouts. He was economical, needing only 86 pitches, 54 of which were strikes.
“It was, bar none, the best he has ever looked,” McGann-Mercy Coach Ed Meier said. “He had his top-notch velocity and his control. He was tough to hit. I mean, he was bringing it today. … He didn’t really use his off-speed all that much, and he was mowing them down.”
Hansen, a senior right-hander with a misleading 0-3 record, had to work a little harder. His 115-pitch performance featured 11 strikeouts and three walks. He mixed his two-seam fastballs with curveballs. “It worked for me,” he said.
Hansen said he wasn’t aware of the situation until the sixth or seventh inning when someone mentioned that a double no-hitter was in progress.
“To me, honestly, it’s not even about the no-hitter,” he said. “I just wanted to win the game. I’d rather give up 10 runs and if we scored 11 and won, I’m happy with that. That’s fine with me.”
The wet conditions (a light rain fell early and late in the game) didn’t make for ideal pitching conditions, but they didn’t prevent the pitchers from putting on a show.
Greenport Coach Mike Reed was irate over the three errors his team made and what he cited as bad judgment by his team in the batter’s box, swinging at some bad pitches.
“I’ll take this one to the grave,” he said. “That’s how bad I feel for [Hansen]. This kid gives you everything day in and day out, and we can’t produce.”
Perhaps the closest either side came to getting a hit was when the second batter of the game, McGann-Mercy’s Keith Schroeher, blasted a ground ball that the second baseman struggled with. Schroeher beat the throw to first base, and an error was charged on the play.
Appropriately enough, the sole run was the result of running, not hitting. Kretz had drawn a one-out walk before stealing second base, third and then home. When catcher Michael Reed threw the ball back to Hansen after a pitch, Kretz broke for the plate and made it easily. The right fielder had four stolen bases on the day.
“You got to give Kretz a lot of props there,” Meier said. The coach said he wanted Kretz to draw a throw from the catcher and then take off, “and Kretz saw that he wasn’t paying that much attention and kind of timed the catcher’s throw and went on his own there. He wanted to steal home, but not in that way.”
McGann-Mercy (3-1, 3-1) had a couple of chances to bring in some more runs later on. An error and a walk, followed by a passed ball and a steal, left the Monarchs with runners on second and third with two out in the fourth. But Stepnoski escaped trouble by getting a groundout for the third out. Then, in the sixth, Owen Gilpin reached base on a walk. J. T. De Scalo came in as a pinch runner for him, stole second base and advanced to third on a groundout. But then De Scalo got caught in a rundown and was tagged out by Reed for the third out, ending that threat. It was the end of a 24-pitch inning for Hansen.
Stepnoski, who fanned nine of the last 11 Greenport batters, then struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to end it. It was the league opener for Greenport, which is 0-3 overall.
“I was just hitting my spots,” Stepnoski said. “My fastball had a little zip on it, and I was just hitting wherever Rocco [Pascale, the catcher] told me to throw the ball. It worked.”
It was a pitchers’ duel to the extreme.
“That was two great pitching performances right there,” Meier said. “That was phenomenal. That was as advertised.”