SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Harrison Paige wasn’t so much concerned about keeping his no-hitter intact as he was protecting his club’s slim lead.
With little run support being generated behind him, everything fell squarely on the shoulders of the Springfield Cathedral senior righthander. Looking the least bit fazed, Paige maintained total command of his pitches yesterday afternoon, mixing an 86 mile per hour fastball with a lethal slider and baffling changeup, to record his first high school no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over Valley League foe Agawam at Walker Stadium.
“I just wanted to attack their line up and stay ahead in the count,” said Paige, who will attend American International College next season. “It was important to allow our defense to make the plays behind me and I just tried to make things simple out there.”
Simple indeed. Paige tossed only 77 pitches to complete his seven-inning gem, while striking out 12. At no time did he allow the count to exceed two balls against any batter he faced.
“At any time Harrison can throw any of his three pitches for strikes,” said Cathedral coach Pat Moriarty, who calls all the pitches. “His fastball has ton of movement on it and his slider moves in the other direction and then you have his change up. All three pitches come out of the same arm slot. He can be very tough out there. He had a great mix today.
"I felt we kept (Agawam) off-balance a lot and we thought when they were guessing fastball we went off-speed against them which proved to be effective. Harrison was very impressive out there today.”
Just a quarter of the way into the season, things could not be finer for the Panthers as they improve to 5-0. This is a program, mind you, that expects to win and expects to be a major contender in its quest for a Division 1 state championship.
"We always feel like we want to be one of the top teams," Moriarty said. "We want to feel that the (Western Mass.) title goes through Cathedral. When tournament time comes we'll go at it and see what everybody's got, but I'm pretty comfortable in what we have here."
Moriarty, however, is also quick to point out that in order for his Panthers to get out of Western Mass. and move onward, the offense needs to be more consistent. Against the Brownies, Cathedral managed just six hits. Twice late in the contest the Panthers had opportunities to tack on a few more runs in support of Paige's effort. In the bottom of the fifth Cathedral opened the frame by loading the based with none out.
Josh Beliveau reached on an error followed by back-to-back bunt singles from Pete Crinella and Tim Danehy. But Agawam junior righty Joe Viens, in his first game back since coming off academic ineligibility, tightroped his way out of danger by striking out Josh Coon and Frank Crinella and getting Mike Krupczak to fly out.
In the sixth, with one out, consecutive errors by the Brownies put Panther senior Tom Weldon at third. A botched suicide squeeze attempt ensued resulting in Weldon being tagged out at the plate to snuff out the threat.
“Their pitcher got real tough on us in those situations," Moriarty said. “He started basically just throwing sliders and we were getting on top of them. As a team we know we need to be better in those situations."
Cathedral’s inability to supply Paige with added insurance could have easily left him a bit flustered knowing a mistake here or a timely hit there could spell disaster. Instead, the lanky righty stayed calm and collected, retiring the side in the each of the final two innings to secure the no-no.
“It’s a good feeling but it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Paige of his accomplishment. “I think by us not adding more runs late in the game kept my adrenaline up and I knew I had to execute my pitches.”
The Panthers’ only run came in the second when Cullen Geary blasted a triple and scored on Andrew Noonan’s line single to center field.
“We played with some heart today because we’ve sort of been in a down swing of late,” said Agawam coach Austin Kimball, whose club has now dropped four straight after starting the season 3-0. “That was Joe’s first game back for us and I think he learned his lesson. He’s got his grades up and is expected to make the honor role. I thought he pitched very well for us today but their pitcher did a great job keeping us off-balance throughout.”