It’s not often that a game that ends up 13-0 can be called a pitcher’s duel. But that’s what happened in the DeSoto County win over the Community Christian Mustangs last week at Harold Avenue Park.
DeSoto County’s Braden Steele and Community Christian’s Kaleb Smith locked up in an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel. For the first three innings Steele’s fly-out to left was the only ball to get out of the infield, for either team.
Smith fanned four in his three-inning, 48-pitch stint on the mound. Steele whiffed five in the first three innings, with the only runner reaching base on a double error at second base to lead off the third. In the end, it was Steele left standing—the Bulldogs jumped on the Mustangs bullpen for 13 runs in the 13-0 win.
The Mustangs going to their bullpen was when all the fireworks began: The Bulldogs’ Jade Zepeda greeted relief pitcher Jeff Vivian with a shot up the middle for the first hit of the game. Another single and a double gave DeSoto two runs to break the scoreless tie.
Vivian threw 55 pitches in his two innings on the mound, as the Bulldogs erupted for five in the fifth on four singles and a double. DeSoto put up another two in the sixth inning and finished their offensive onslaught with four more runs in the seventh.
The Bulldogs had 10 hits that included four doubles. Their aggressiveness on the bases caught the Mustangs off guard. The Bulldogs, for instance, pulled off a double steal with a run scoring and Danny Shea had a straight steal of home as he baited the catcher to throw behind him at third just as Shea broke for the plate.
Meanwhile Steele kept throwing his fastball and struck out 13—including Smith—to end the game and give the Bulldogs their first win of the season after losing the first two.
Baseball’s superstition says players shouldn’t talk about a no-hitter while it is in progress, but Steele’s teammates didn’t know that. “Absolutely I knew what was going on. Some of the players said to me, ‘You know you have a no-hitter, don’t you?’ I told them to shut up and not talk about it.”
The Mustangs managed just one other base runner in the game, and that came on a two-out walk in the fifth inning. He was cut down trying to steal second. Steele lived with his heater, fanning five of the final six batters in the game. “My curve and changeup weren’t working, so I just threw my fastball all night.”
The closest the Mustangs came to a hit was a screamer down the third-base line with one out in the final inning. The ball was hit by a left-handed batter so it was tailing away from the field and down the line. Freshman Cody Burton was playing the hot corner and dove for the ball. He came up with it on the bag and fired a strike across the diamond to keep the no-no alive.
Steele said, “Thank God for Cody. That was a great play. I wouldn’t want anybody else over there. He’s only a freshman but he’s a real good player.”
Burton said, “I wanted the ball to come to me. When I got it, I just thought don’t panic, set my feet and make a good throw.”
It wasn’t the first time Steele flirted with a no-hitter. “It was against Lake Placid with two out in the seventh and a 2-2 count on the batter. He hit a little blooper in the 5-6 hole (between third and short) and Mason (Ayers) dove for it and it hit off the end of his glove for their only hit. I’ll never forget that game ... or this one either.”