Tiny Colfax High (20-8) proved to be no match for Yuba City's Chandler Eden, who tossed a rare playoff no-hit, no-run game while striking out a season-high 14 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Championship game at Union Stadium.
Eden(6-2), who has never thrown a no-hitter in his life, said this game was a culmination for a group of kids who "grew up and developed as a team throughout the years."
For second-year coach Dave Rodriguez tonight's victory was super-sweet. The 1985 Yuba City alumnus has coached in the Honkers' program for a good part of his adult life. Taking over a program that saw former head coach Jim Stassi culminate his final season in 2010 with his fourth consecutive section Division III title, Rodriguez felt the pressure to bring the pennant back to Yuba City (21-11).
But he also felt tremendous support and backing from his school's fans and former players, who sent him e-mails of encouragement that were posted in the dugout as inspiration for the 2013 Honkers team.
The messages must have gotten through.
For six innings, neither team scored in this old-fashioned pitcher's duel between Eden and Colfax right-hander Devon Loomis, who himself was throwing a one-hitter.
To start the seventh, Loomis got the leadoff hitter on a groundout, then allowed a single to Cooper Goldby, who tried stealing second. Senior catcher Mike Wilson gunned him down for the second out. Senior Hayden Mejia singled to extend the inning. While pinch runner Rocky Moreno took his position, Loomis (8-2) said he began to feel the momentum slide over to the Yuba City side.
That brought Eden to the plate. Despite his lowly .222 batting average, Loomis pitched him tough. He tried to get him with a high-outside fastball, but the pitch was down in the zone, and Eden laced it into right field for a double, where it was finally corralled by the foul pole. In that time, Moreno easily raced around third and scored the game's first run.
The next batter, senior Damon Bugarin, knocked in Eden to spot Yuba City a 2-0 lead.
The way the flame-throwing right-hander was dealing it looked ample. Eden fanned the first two batters in the seventh inning ratcheting his strikeouts to 13. Then he induced a simple grounder which his third baseman underthrew, allowing the batter to reach second. Eden simply rared back and struck out Paskey, his 14th of the afternoon and the Honkers celebrated with a familiar dogpile near the mound.
Colfax junior David Campbell, who came in to tonight's game hitting .500, has played alongside Eden on the Hard 90 travel team for the past few years. "It was cool to get a chance to play against him," Campbell said of his former teammate. "He's an amazing pitcher and will do good wherever he goes next."
Eden shared some light on where he expects that will be.
Regarding the upcoming Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Eden said "It's exciting. But I'm going to school (Oregon State); I don't think I'm going to sign this year." He plans to pitch for the Marysville Gold Sox this summer in the Horizon Air Summer Series, a Central Valley collegiate wood bat league.
Last summer, the Beavers became aware of Eden when he played for Oroville Post 95 American Legion. Although they came out to scout another player, after seeing his whip-cracking fastball which topped out in mid-90s this spring, Oregon State got Eden's commitment last fall.
That's just about the same time the Honkers began their quest to bring back the Division III pennant to all those loyal Yuba City fans, coaches and former players.