Those words may end up on Chris Golden’s tombstone one day. When the Greenport baseball coach counsels his pitchers, he harps on the same theme, time and time again.
“Strikes, strikes, strikes, strikes,” Golden said. “That’s what I tell all these pitchers: throw strikes. It keeps your pitch count down.”
It did a lot more for Greenport sophomore Matt Drinkwater. The right-hander pitched his first career no-hitter — in the season opener, no less — on Monday when the Porters defeated host Shelter Island, 6-3, in the first game of a Suffolk County League IX doubleheader. Greenport won the second game, too, 13-3.
Drinkwater, who didn’t pitch much for Greenport last year, relied primarily on his fastball to silence the Indians’ bats. He recorded 10 strikeouts and issued six walks as part of his 105-pitch outing. All three Shelter Island runs were unearned. Greenport committed four errors, including three in the fifth inning when Shelter Island scored three times, making the score 5-3.
“I thought he had good movement on his ball and good velocity,” Golden said. “It was a simple, simple philosophy: Throw strikes and work ahead from the count, and it was to his advantage the whole way.”
Along the way, Drinkwater received a little help from his friends, too. Austin Hooks made a nice running catch of a fly ball in right field. Second baseman Wilson Morales did well to collect a hard-hit ground ball. Eddie Rogers turned in a circus catch in center field.
Drinkwater also helped his own cause, going 2 for 4 and driving in four runs with his bat in the first game. He hit a home run in the second game, which also saw teammate Christian Angelson go 3 for 4 with two doubles and three runs batted in.
“He’s in baseball shape,” said Golden, who noted that Drinkwater and his twin brother, John Drinkwater, both play baseball in the off-season. “He threw the ball just as well in the seventh inning as he did in the first inning. He’s definitely bigger and stronger, you can see, and as a result, he’s more confident in his ability.”
Matt Drinkwater wasn’t the only Greenport pitcher to have a good day. Hooks went the distance in the second game, firing 14 strikeouts in a three-hitter. He allowed four walks. Hooks needed only 50 pitches through four innings, but finished with 100.
Golden said the decision on who to start, Matt Drinkwater or Hooks, in the season-opening game came down to them guessing a number between one and 10. Matt Drinkwater came the closest to guessing the number, so he had the honor of the first game assignment.
Asked if he was aware of the no-hitter in progress, Golden said: “No, I don’t pay any attention to that stuff, to tell you the truth. I was more concerned about the pitch count than anything else, especially this early in the year.”