Stuck no-hits Cape Central
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- An anemic offense coupled with a dominant opposing pitcher proved too much for the Cape Central baseball team to overcome.
Poplar Bluff senior left-hander Brandon Stuckenschneider tossed a no-hitter and added a two-run home run as the Mules blanked the Tigers 4-0 Saturday morning at the Central High School diamond.
"He was outstanding," Central head coach Tatum Kitchen said of Stuckenschneider's effort. "He's one of the better [pitchers] we've seen all year, if not the best. His velocity was extremely good, especially as the game went on."
Stuckenschneider consistently got ahead in the count on Central's batters, forcing the Tigers (5-9) to beat his best stuff, which was unhittable on Saturday.
"That's Brandon at his best," first-year Poplar Bluff coach Steve Edwards said. "First-pitch strike. He has a plan."
That plan worked to perfection. Stuckenschneider allowed just two baserunners. He hit Central's Jacquen Cummins with a pitch with two out in the second inning and walked Brock Baugher to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Neither runner advanced past first base.
"Lots of strikes, lots of getting ahead," Stuckenschschneider, an Arkansas State recruit, said of his first high school no-hitter. "That's what I struggle with at times, but when I do that well, I'm really effective out there."
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Edwards lauded Stuckenschneider's approach to the game.
"It's not just a one-pitch plan," he said. "It's the idea that, 'I've got to be thinking three pitches ahead.' And when you're throwing strikes early and commanding the ball where you want to put it, then you can think three strikes ahead. You can't think that way when you're throwing balls."
Stuckschneider's command of his pitches had Central's batters flailing throughout. And when the Tigers managed to get contact, the Mules' defense was there to respond.
"The few balls we managed to hit hard, they made plays on them," Kitchen said. "We had a few good at-bats, but he was just better than us today. He won the game."
The anticipated pitching duel between the team's staff aces never materialized as Central's Chase Hagerty departed after pitching a scoreless first inning. Hagerty had tossed seven innings in Central's 11-inning, 3-2 victory over Jackson on Tuesday.
"I was hoping I could recover a little faster, but it's still early in the season and three days rest. ... I could probably deal with that later in the season," Hagerty said.
With Central's ace showing signs of fatigue, taking him out was an easy call, according to Kitchen.
"It was a very easy decision," Kitchen said. "You've got so much more of the year to go, and he's too important to us down the stretch. ... Just kind of some bicep soreness. Another day would have been great."
Nick Wiggs relieved and ended up taking the loss, allowing four runs -- all earned -- over three innings of work. Hayden Lynn finished up, keeping the Mules (11-2) scoreless over the final three frames.
Kameron Misner and Zach Lawrence each drove in a run for the Mules in the top of the third, and Stuckenschneider walloped a two-run home run over the fence in right field in the fifth, chasing Wiggs.
"Nick threw the ball OK at times," Kitchen said. "He was getting behind, but when he's on, he's very good. So we're just trying to work him in and get him back there. But Hayden did a great job just keeping us right where we needed to be."
Kitchen acknowledged the Tigers' offense isn't where it needs to be at this juncture, and may be a sore spot all season long.
"It's been a concern the whole year," Kitchen said. "We're hitting probably below .200 right now. We're not very good offensively. ... We understand that it's going to be a toe-to-toe game for us all the time. That's just how it's going to be. They're going to be low-scoring (games), we're gonna get good pitching most of the time, and we play good defense most of the time.
"But hitting, that's going to separate us from going somewhere else or going home."