Nicco Blank, a baseball pitcher at Tucson’s Catalina High School, tossed a pair of no-hit games earlier this month – within a week of each other.
Most pitchers, at any level of play, never experience the rare feat of a no-hit game. But Blank’s performance of putting together two in the same season has been somewhat diminished, through no fault of his own.
Both games, a 10-0 victory over Cholla High School and a 15-0 win against Santa Rita High School, were called after five innings due to the ‘run rule’ imposed on high school and college sports programs. At the prep level, if one team is ahead by 10 or more runs by the fifth inning, the game is cut short of the full seven innings.
So we won’t know whether Blank would have been able to hold his opponents for a couple more innings and be able to record a truly unique event.
Actually, Blank threw a ‘complete game’, even if it wasn’t seven innings.
And Blank’s coach, Tony Gabusi, is quick to validate the effort of his senior pitcher, who also plays infield for the Trojans. He points to the relatively few times he has had a player throw a no-hitter in his 30 years coaching, telling one reporter that “No matter the opponent, it’s extremely rare.”
He was referencing the fact that Santa Rita is winless this season, and Cholla has notched just four victories.
However, in fairness, it should also be pointed out that both teams generally are able to put runs on the board. Cholla has been shut out just five times and Santa Rita seven times.
Blank is not even carrying the best ERA on a pitching staff that has been pretty effective this year, carrying Catalina to a 16-9 overall record and first place in the 4A Gila Region with a 7-3 mark.
Blank’s ERA this season is 3.04, with an 8-2 record. T. J. Morales, a senior who also plays third base, carries a 1.80 ERA, and senior shortstop Robby Pearson boasts a 1.85 ERA when he is on the mound. Alex Meza, another senior who also plays first base, sports a 2.19 ERA.
Blank and Pearson combine to pitch the most innings for the Trojans.
Overall, the pitching staff has held opponents to single-digit runs, except for one game, all season. That was a 19-10 victory over Buena High School in mid-March. They have thrown three shut-outs in the last five games, allowing just three runs total.
And Catalina can hit the ball, too. The team has a .351 batting average and .481 slugging percentage.
It will be interesting to see who gets the start on the mound Wednesday, when Catalina is faced with a Douglas High School team that is averaging over eight hits and nine runs a game. When they met earlier this season, Catalina won that game, but just barely. That contest turned into a 1-0 pitching duel.
And Douglas is nipping at the heels of the Trojans in region play, with a 6-1 mark (13-5 overall).
If Blank gets the call against Douglas, it’s a safe bet he will have to go more than five innings to get the win.