Near no-hitter boosts confidence

Drew Anderson didn’t even get to watch the drama he created unfold Sunday night, at least not until it was nearly over.

The Williamsport Crosscutters starter threw six hitless innings in his second start of the year Sunday at Bowman Field, starting what nearly became the Cutters’ first no-hitter in almost 7 years. But after leaving the game when he hit his pitch limit, he retreated to the clubhouse for treatment from the training staff, a very normal process for starting pitchers.

“But I came out for the ninth,” Anderson said Monday after batting practice. “I wanted to watch it to see what happened.”

Anderson made his best appearance as a professional Sunday. His six innings were a career high since being drafted in the 21st round out of Galena High School in Reno, Nev., last year. His five strikeouts were a career high, and it was the second time in his brief career he hasn’t allowed a hit during an appearance.

Sunday was different, though. Bowman Field hasn’t hosted a no-hitter since Henry Cabrera and Olivo Astacio combined on a nine-inning no-hitter in 2006 on the final day of the season. Anderson set up the Cutters to try and end the streak.

He was brilliant for six innings, utilizing almost entirely fastballs to blow through the Batavia batting order two times. He retired the final 11 batters he faced, and 18 of the final 19.

“I didn’t feel any different. I thought it was just going to be another day and I’d just get out there and throw,” Anderson said. “I had no idea it was going to be as good as it was.”

It was that good, though. He handed the ball to Lee Ridenhour after 86 pitches and Ridenhour retired all six batters he faced on just 16 pitches, which was enough to bring Anderson out of the clubhouse for the ninth inning. And even though the Cutters lost the no-hitter in the ninth inning on a Luis Ortiz solo home run, Anderson said the day was positive for the Crosscutters, which won two consecutive games for the first time this season.

Anderson, Ridenhour and Rob Marcello combined on a one-hitter as the pitching seems to be coming around for a Cutters team which has proven for the first week to have plenty of offense. In fact, it was the offensive outburst of six runs in the first inning which helped Anderson settle in to help start one of the most impressive Williamsport pitching performances in recent memory.

The 19-year old right-hander averaged just 13 pitches over his final five innings, pounding the strikezone and letting his defense work. The only threats to giving up the no-hitter came on a come-backer in the third inning which left a red welt on the inside of his left knee, and a sinking line drive in the sixth inning in which Samuel Hiciano made a tremendous diving catch.

With a six-run lead, Cutters catcher Gabriel Lino got fastball-heavy with his pitch-calling. Anderson estimates he threw only about 10 off-speed pitches in his 86-pitch outing. But it’s something he’s been known to do with Anderson since they’ve been working together.

“The fastball was just working for me. Lino is a great guy and all he likes for me to throw is fastball,” Anderson said. “I think in extended I had 2 innings where I threw nothing but fastballs. I was just spotting up and it was working great and he didn’t want to call anything else.”

That fastball command is a big part of the progression for a pitcher who was contacted by only one Major League team during his senior year of high school. A self-admitted thrower in high school, Anderson has had to learn how to pitch instead of just rearing back and throwing as hard as he can the way he did in high school.

In fact, Anderson said, it’s everything when pitching in professional baseball. The Phillies have even taken to tweaking his mechanics and getting him behind the ball to get a little better velocity and consistency out of him.

“I’m hoping soon I’ll be at that point where I can locate the fastball wherever I want,” Anderson said. “Honestly, I want to say I’m really close, but in (pitching coach Les Lancaster’s) eyes I’m probably not that close.”

From his performance Sunday, he sure looked close.