Drew Huffman didn’t need to be reminded that he had a no-hitter going.
His Ross High School teammates followed baseball’s unwritten golden rule — don’t mention a no-hitter while it’s going on, lest you jinx it — during Wednesday’s game against visiting Edgewood.
Huffman took care of his end with the first no-hitter of his career, striking out 11 in a 5-0 Southwest Ohio Conference triumph over the Cougars.
“No one really said anything. They kind of kept it on the low, but it was in the back of my head,” said Huffman, a senior right-hander. “I just focused on getting the next batter and the next pitch. It was a pretty good feeling. That’s a big rival, and I really wanted this game.”
Huffman threw 84 pitches and didn’t miss a perfect game by much. No. 9 hitter Cole Craft drew a pair of walks and was the only EHS player to reach base.
“I was really proud of Huffman’s effort,” Rams coach Jason Rettinger said. “Last year he would struggle to get through four innings and he was tired, but he worked really hard in the offseason getting in shape.
“Eighty-five pitches is about all we wanted him to go. After the sixth, we brought him in and talked to him. He said he felt good. He wasn’t tired in his arms … his legs got a little tired. So we talked about throwing a little bit more offspeed. He did a really good job throwing strikes in the last inning, and that made the decision easier. We had somebody ready. Sometimes they pitch better when somebody’s ready.”
Tyler Flick and Andrew Beebe had an RBI apiece for the Rams, who boosted their record to 10-2 overall and 3-1 in the SWOC. Zach Evans and Huffman both contributed two hits.
Edgewood slipped to 7-6, 3-2, and didn’t hit much hard Wednesday. That wasn’t really a surprise — the Cougars were missing 10 players for disciplinary reasons.
EHS coach Matt Root declined to name the players and said some will return to action Thursday when Ross comes to Edgewood.
“We had a lot of new faces today, and we told our young guys just how proud we were of how they played,” Root said. “Early on it could’ve gotten out of hand, but they battled through it and didn’t hang their heads. They did a great job competing with a really good Ross team.”
Shane Watts allowed one unearned run in four innings of relief work for the Cougars. Sam Muse walked eight batters in the first two-plus innings and gave up four runs.
The Rams stranded 10 runners.
“Offensively, we saw some guys throwing with a little less velo than maybe we’re used to, and we did not do a very good job of making adjustments,” Rettinger said. “We can’t leave bases loaded back-to-back innings. That will hurt us sooner or later.
“I thought our intensity went down a little bit after the first couple innings, which I’m not real happy with. But at the end of the day, we threw a no-hitter and got a W, so we can’t be too upset. We’ll take it and move on.”
Ross’ only two defeats came at the hands of Harrison and Taylor. Rettinger has a senior-laden squad with a deep pitching staff, and senior outfielder Sam Stepaniak — who’s hitting .400 — is expected to return from a hamstring injury Monday.
“We have a lot of potential, which is the worst word in the world,” Rettinger said. “But it’s a really fun group to coach. We’ve got a couple guys that are hurt right now. In general, we roll out nine seniors in the starting lineup, and for a D-II school, that’s pretty strong. And the seniors expect to win, which is good. When they were juniors, they wanted to win. When they were sophomores, they had no idea how to win. Now they expect to win.
“What I’m trying to impress on them is that 10-2 is great and we’re doing a really good job, but I think we could do better. If they just keep realizing that and get a little better every day, I think we’re a pretty darn good D-II team.”
Rettinger said Thomas House will get the mound start for the Rams on Thursday. Root was uncertain about who will start for Edgewood.
“They were in a really difficult situation today,” Rettinger said. “The kids they had here, I thought they played really hard. Matt’s a really good guy and does a really good job. I think we’ll see a different squad tomorrow. They’ve got some pretty top-end pitchers, and I’m sure we’ll see one of them.”
WP — Drew Huffman (2-1); LP — Sam Muse (0-1). Records: E 7-6, 3-2 SWOC; R 10-2, 3-1 SWOC