No-hitters never happen at Heritage Park in Adelanto, Calif.
Heck, shutouts rarely happen in the home of the Class A High Desert Mavericks. It’s a wind-swept hitter’s dream where routine fly balls can turn into homers if elevated into the jet stream shooting out from behind home plate.
But Wednesday night in that purgatory for pitching, three High Desert pitchers — starter Tyler Pike and relievers Mark Bordonaro and Blake Hauser — combined to throw a no-hitter against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
It was the first no-hitter ever thrown at the park and just the second in franchise history.
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“It feels good, especially doing it there,” Pike said Thursday morning. “That’s a place where you would never think it would happen. But I think we only had one ball go to the outfield the whole game. It’s crazy how things work out. But it was a blast.”
Pike tossed six hitless innings, walking two batters and striking out eight. But he didn’t get the win. He left with the game scoreless. Bordonaro came on and pitched the seventh – striking out the side. He walked two in the eighth inning, but got a big double play to end the inning. The Mavericks took the lead in bottom of the eighth when Jordy Lara and DJ Peterson each hit two-run homers.
Manager Eddie Menchaca turned to closer Blake Hauser, who walked the leadoff hitter, but then got a double play. He hit a batter and then struck out Chris Jacobs to end the game.
Like most no-hitters, there were plenty of key plays made to secure it, and Pike credited his teammates.
“We had some really good defense behind us,” Pike said. “Peterson made a couple great plays behind me. (Tyler) Smith made a great over-the-shoulder catch. (Aaron) Barbosa made a diving catch in center. I wasn’t in the dugout for the seventh and eighth innings, and I heard we turned a pretty sweet double play in the eighth inning. Everything has to come together in a game like that – defense and timely hitting.”
Pike said as he warmed up in the bullpen, he felt locked in.
“I felt good coming straight from the bullpen,” he said. “My catcher, Steve Baron, said everything felt just different that night. That first inning, I was spotting up my pitches. They were all working. I felt like it was going to be a pretty good night.”
It’s been an interesting season for Pike, rated as the No. 6 prospect in the organization by Fangraphs and No. 9 by MLB.com. He went 7-4 with 2.37 ERA in 22 starts with 90 strikeouts in 1101/3 innings last season for Class A Clinton. But he knew pitching in High Desert this season was going to be a challenge. He heard the horror stories.
“They pretty much told me that the whole league isn’t great to pitch in, but especially High Desert and Lancaster, which are launching pads,” he said.
The first time he realized how bad it could be was on May 2 at home against Visalia. He pitched 42/3 innings, giving up five runs on four hits and four walks.
“I gave up three home runs in four innings,” he said. “One of them for sure would have been a no-doubt home run. But the other two — the wind was blowing straight out — and I had them way out in front of change-ups and both fly balls went out. You see it get up in the air and it just hangs up there and keeps going and going and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Coming into Wednesday’s start, Pike was 2-2 with a 5.57 ERA in 10 starts. In 42 innings, he had struck out 32 and walked 32.
“It’s been a little rough,” he said. “I’m just trying to get used to everything. I knew coming in that this is not a fun place for pitchers to be. And I think I was just trying a little bit too hard to do everything.”
It’s not the first time that pitching in the California League, particularly High Desert, has gotten into the head of a pitcher.
“I was trying not to miss over the middle and pick at corners,” he said. “I would end up getting myself in trouble, falling behind and walking guys.”
Pike’s season hit a low point in a start in Bakersfield on May 23. He made it through just two innings, giving up seven runs on five hits with two walks, no strikeouts and two homers.
“Ever since my last start at Bakersfield, I’ve been trying to simplify everything,” he said. “Just work down in the zone, throw everything for strikes instead of trying strike everybody out.”
Pike realized he couldn’t be afraid of contact.
“The last couple of starts I’ve been just letting them hit it,” he said. “They’re still going to get themselves out 7 out of 10 times even if they are a good hitter. The odds are in your favor and just let them hit the ball and let your defense do what it can. Hope for the best and hope the wind doesn’t catch it.”
Realizing the process and execution can be more important than the result is something most young pitchers need to figure out.
“You can’t worry about what happens when you know you made a good pitch,” Pike said. “If he gets lucky and gets one up in the air and it goes out, there’s nothing you can do. Everyone knows you are throwing good pitches and working hard.”
Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373