HARVARD – As Richmond-Burton pitcher Mike Kaska approached the plate in the first with a runner in scoring position, a teammate offered the obligatory, “C’mon Mike, help yourself!”
With one swing, Kaska ripped a 1-0 fastball to right-center for an RBI single, giving himself all the help necessary.
The senior right-hander struck out 17, allowed only four balls put in play and fired a no-hitter at Harvard for a 1-0 victory in their Big Northern Conference East Division baseball game Thursday.
“It was unbelievable,” Kaska said. “That [no-hitter] is the first time it happened in my career. I was just working fast like I always do, working ahead of batters and keeping them off-balance. It’s what I’ve been trying to do all year and it worked out.”
Kaska and catcher Kory Klicker agreed that his curveball was better than normal. Kaska (2-0) threw 100 pitches, 64 for strikes and struck out the side in the second, fourth and sixth innings.
The closest the Hornets (4-4 overall, 2-2 BNC East) came to a hit was in the seventh when Tate Miller grounded out. R-B third baseman Trevor Anderson ranged a few steps to his glove side and made the play to throw Miller out.
R-B coach Mike Giese said Kaska’s 17 strikeouts rank second in school history to E.J. Trapino’s 18-strikeout performance in a no-hitter against North Boone on May 10, 2011.
“When Mike’s on, he’s as good as anybody in the area,” said Giese, whose team is 5-4, 4-0 in the BNC East. “He’s very accurate and hits his spots. He worked ahead the whole day, he’s very consistent about doing that. It was just a great performance.”
Klicker thought some R-B player mentioned Kaska was throwing a no-hitter late in the game, but followed by knocking on wood.
“He made things really easy for us,” Klicker said. “The curveball was working better than normal and we used it a lot today. It was really nice the way he was able to hit the corners and get the strike calls. He’s been spot-on all year, so it wasn’t much of a shock.”
Kaska allowed two walks and at one point struck out 10 of 11 batters. Harvard second baseman Reiss Bielski ended a string of six consecutive strikeouts with a fly ball to right field, the only Hornets’ ball that left the infield.
Harvard pitcher Peyton Schneider (1-2) was sharp as well with nine strikeouts, four hits, three walks and one earned run in six innings.
But Kaska was just too tough, as he reached three-ball counts to hitters only four times, three to leadoff man Logan Streit and once to Justin Nolen.
Harvard coach Donnie Nolen wanted his hitters to be more aggressive against Kaska since he was in the zone all game.
“I start four sophomores, that’s a lot of young bats,” Donnie Nolen said. “They’re good at what they do and we’ve been playing decent. Offensively, they like to see pitches and when you might only get one good swing at a good pitch, you have to take it when you can. We did what we could, he was on.”