Legion AA off to a hot start

Nobody was more in awe after Josh Fritch threw a six-inning, 10-0, no-hitter against Squalicum Wednesday than Fritch himself.

In fact Fritch wasn’t even aware of what he had accomplished until Oak Harbor Junior Legion AA head coach Jim Waller told him a good five minutes after the game was over.

“I did not know I threw one,” a surprised Fritch said to Waller.

Over six innings, Fritch used a strong changeup as the key to keeping the Storm bats off balance and gather his first ever no-hitter.

“It’s usually my changeup that I have trouble with, but today my changeup was my best pitch,” he said.

The only real scoring threat came in the top of the sixth inning when Fritch hit the lead-off batter, walked the next and hit the third batter to load the bases with no outs.

In a situation that in the past would have flustered him, Fritch battled back strong as he reared back and struck out the next two batters.

“Usually I get down on myself for letting two guys get on base at a time, but not this time,” Fritch said. “I’ve been working on it for like four years now—to just forget about it.”

His composure of working out of a tight spot also impressed his coach.

“I was very pleased with that, probably more than the no-hitter because he recovered from a bad situation,” Waller said.

The third out of the inning was not easy, but a prime example of how strong the defense has been this season and how much of a factor it was in the no-hit shutout.

On a hard-hit line drive to the outfield, left-fielder Kyle Issacson got turned around as he headed to his left. Seeing the ball wasn’t going where he originally thought, Issacson put on the brakes and dove to the right, completely laying out in mid-air and making the catch.

“I started going the other way toward center and I barely picked it up,” he said. “I figured it was like 10-feet away from me—I was like well, the bases are loaded, I’ve got to sacrifice myself.”

Issacson’s key defensive play not only kept the no-hitter in tact, but saved three, possibly four runs from scoring. It was also one of many solid defensive plays in Wednesday’s game and something Fritch knows is key to the team’s success.

“We’ve had really good defense,” he said. “That’s something I’ve been really happy about.”

Not only was the defense strong, but the Cats showed they were able to put together an offensive rally.

Up 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth, the runs began to flow across the plate. Camden Schutte picked up the first RBI of the inning on a sacrifice fly. With two out and the bases loaded, pinch-hitter Zack Peattie picked up an RBI after getting hit by a pitch. Matt Badger then broke the game open after blooping a base-clearing triple down the right field line. Racing around to third base, the Storm’s attempt to throw Badger out went sailing into the Oak Harbor dugout, allowing him to add on another score.

“That was a big one,” Waller said. “That’s something we’ve been doing all summer.”

Leading the offense on the day was Ryan Lange, who went 2-for-3 with a triple, a walk and two runs scored. Badger was 2-for-4 with a triple and three RBI, while Schutte was 1-for-2 with two RBI.

So far there are no complaints from Waller on how the season has panned out.

“We’re doing well in all phases of the game,” he said. “We’re pitching well, we’re playing good defense and hitting.”

The win moved the Cats’ record to 13-2 overall and 5-0 in league to put them atop the Junior North Legion AA standings. Although they have found early season success, Waller knows there will be tougher games to come.

“I’m sure we’re going to be running into stiffer competition, but regardless we’re still playing well,” he said. “If we play like we did most of these games, we’re going to beat most of the teams.”

The Cats took on Squalicum again yesterday, June 13 and play next against Anacortes at 6 p.m., Tuesday, June 17 at home.

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