The Willliamsport Crosscutters struggled for much of the season, stuck in last place in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division. But for one night, everything went right.
Henry Cabrera and Olivo Astacio combined on the second no-hitter in team history Wednesday night as the Crosscutters edged the Batavia Muckdogs, 1-0, at Bowman Field.
"Now they can go home on a positive note," Williamsport pitching coach Bruce Tanner said. "The last taste they'll have of this season will be of throwing a no-hitter so that will help them as they head into the winter."
Cabrera (6-3) struck out a season-high eight and walked three in six innings.
The 22-year-old right-hander struggled in his previous two starts, giving up 11 earned runs over 11 2/3 frames. But the 22-year-old Cabrera adjusted between starts, establishing his fastball early and going to his change-up to get into a rhythm.
"Cabrera made the All-Star Game, but he ran into a rough stretch," Tanner said. "From the first inning on, he was using all his pitches."
The Crosscutters' other no-hitter came on June 19, 1994, against Elmira. Tonight, Tanner could sense something special was happening following several defensive gems in the early innings.
"There was a feel that this was different," Tanner said. "You felt it when our second baseman (Smelin Perez) jumped real high to get a ball, our third baseman (Jared Keel) fielded a bunt and our right fielder (Albert Laboy) ran down a ball early in the game."
Astacio fanned six and walked one in three innings for his ninth save. It was his third straight three-inning appearance, which worked to his advantage by forcing him to use his entire arsenal of pitches.
"Once he knew he was going to be out there longer, he had to use all of his pitches." Tanner said. "He was using his slider and split finger and didn't just rely on his fastball.
"When he got in the game tonight, you felt extremely good because he was throwing hard and he had a great slider. He was throwing 95-96 mph and they were late on a few swings."
Astacio was also helped by a couple of close plays in the final two innings. With one out in the eighth, Jason Donald hit a ball off Astacio's glove, but shortstop Angel Gonzalez fielded it and nabbed the runner at first.
The 22-year-old right-hander fanned the next three batters, but on the game's final play, Charlie Yarbrough lined a ball that Astacio tipped with his bare hand. Gonzalez again picked it up and fired to first to complete the second no-hitter in the New York-Penn League this season.
"You have to have luck like that to have a no-hitter." Tanner said. "I was really pleased for the kids."
Williamsport (28-46) broke a scoreless tie in the sixth. Perez worked a one-out walk, stole second, continued to third on catcher Joel Naughton's throwing error and scored on James Barksdale's single to center field.
Batavia reliever Kevin Salmon (1-3) surrendered an unearned run on three hits and a walk with four strikeouts in four innings.
Jacob Dempsey struck out three times for the Muckdogs (34-38).