By Pete Chiodo
April 16, 2013 7:00 a.m. —
The area baseball scene can be forgiven for not knowing who the heck this Thomas McCloskey kid is. With only a couple JV pitching appearances last season, and just a few more in summer baseball, he kind of flew under everybody’s radar.
Well, now we know.
On Monday at Eldred Glen, as the Meadville baseball team faced Region 6 foe Slippery Rock, the junior McCloskey fired a perfect game at the Rockets — 21 up and 21 down, no walks, no hits, not one base-runner. That effort led the Bulldogs to their first win of the season, 3-0.
“He was dialed in,” said Bulldogs head coach Bruce Stewart. “That was fantastic.”
McCloskey went right at the Rockets. In Slippery Rock’s 21 at-bats, McCloskey threw 17 first-pitch strikes. And 15 of the outs were recorded in three pitches or less.
His final pitch count: 62.
“That’s as efficient as you’re going to get at the high school level,” said Stewart.
Most of those 62 pitches were fastballs.
“This game I threw all four-seam fastballs and maybe 10 curve balls,” McCloskey said. “It was working. So whatever works.”
According to Stewart, “(Slippery Rock) wasn’t jumping on (the fastballs). And I call most of the pitches. So between (catcher) Duncan (Brode) and I, we were working the corners. You could tell they weren’t getting around on it. And until they proved that they could hit it and they forced me to change to something else, we were going to roll with it.”
McCloskey finished the game with four strikeouts. The rest was handled by the defense, which was also perfect on the day, getting 17 put-outs on 17 attempts.
“Very good defense,” said McCloskey. “I’m very happy with all of them.”
Slippery Rock seriously flirted with reaching base twice in the fourth inning. First, Cody Stephenson rifled a pitch back to McCloskey on the mound. It deflected off his glove. But second baseman Brock Biggs found it and slung it to first baseman Kyle Lynch just in time to nab the Rockets’ runner.
Then with two outs, the Rock’s Jackson Kerchis hit a low fly ball to right center field. Zach Grill sprinted to his right to intercept it, and leaped high to pull it out of the air. He rolled to the ground, bounded back to his feet, and showed everyone the ball in his glove.
“Usually when you have (a perfect game) happen there are one or two plays that can make or break it,” said Stewart. “Grill’s catch was outstanding. And Brock, on the shot that came back off of Thomas’ glove; made a heck of a play to make the play at first.”
The seventh inning eventually rolled around. The pressure was mounting.
“I kept thinking about it,” said McCloskey, “and then I would step off the mound and not think about it. Because if you’re thinking about it, what if you throw a lazy pitch up high? They’re going to hit it and there goes the game.”
There was a bit of a scary moment with one out in the seventh. Ryan Lauster hit a come-backer to McCloskey. He got a glove on it, but it bounced out. Instead of panicking, McCloskey calmly tracked it down in the grass and had enough time to toss it to Lynch for the out.
The next batter grounded out to second. The inning lasted all of eight pitches. And the Bulldogs were celebrating the victory.
Slippery Rock pitcher Joe Barnhart also pitched a nice game. He only logged 76 pitches.
“Their pitcher was fantastic too,” said Stewart. “He was working ahead all game long.”
However, Meadville touched up Barnhart for five hits and drew one walk, and the Rockets defense committed four errors. That was more than enough to support McCloskey.
Meadville got on the board in the first inning when Ted Williams led off with a double. One out later, Brode brought him home with a single to left.
Meadville made it 2-0 in the fourth. Kye Hopkins recorded his second base hit of the day — a double to right center. He moved to third on an error and then scored on a fielder’s choice grounder by McCloskey.
The ’Dogs tacked on one more run in the sixth. Dominik Pruskowski hit a single to right-center. Then with two outs, Grill and McCloskey hit into back-to-back Slippery Rock errors, allowing Pruskowski to come home.
“(Meadville) did what they needed to do,” said Slippery Rock head coach Nathan McCullough. “They made the plays behind their pitcher, we didn’t. They got timely hits, we didn’t. They got base runners, we didn’t.”
Meadville improved to 1-3 overall and 1-0 in Region 6 with the win.
Slippery Rock dropped to 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference.