April 15, 2009

Clovis West turning into No-Hitter High

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Clovis West High School baseball coach Kevin Patrick knew he had a lot of pitching talent going into the season. He just didn't know the school, located in Fresno, Calif., was on its way to becoming No-Hitter High.

When J.D. Salles struck out the last batter during a tournament victory, it was Clovis West's third no-hitter in the first six games this season.

Two of the three pitchers who threw no-hitters Salles, Sean Silva, and Aaron Garabedian are Division I prospects. (Salles has signed with Fresno State, but Silva has not decided on a school.) Moreover, since none of the pitchers played football last fall, the entire pitching staff was able to work during the offseason and fall ball on mechanics with pitching coach Shawn Hannah, a former pitcher with the Detroit Tigers.

The team's remarkable run started Feb. 27 on the first day of the season with Silva on the mound during the second game of a doubleheader against Rocklin Academy. Salles said teammates didn't mention the potential no-hitter to the pitcher, as tradition dictates. Then when the last pitch crossed the plate, Salles said, "Everybody just ran to the mound. [Silva] was excited. He doesn't show much emotion, but he showed a smile for that one."

It didn't take long for Clovis West's pitchers to strike again. The next game was on March 3, the first game of the Coca-Cola Baseball Classic Tournament, and Aaron Garabedian, a senior making his first varsity appearance, was pitching against Beyer High School. As the game reached the late innings, Salles said players once again tried to avoid broaching the subject with the pitcher, but they did discuss it with each other.

"People were talking about this one in the sixth inning, because two in a row was pretty shocking, and Aaron was excited too," Salles said.

After the game, Salles said, "He was excited. He ran off the mound and pumped his fist. We ran out there and attacked him pretty much."

Salles' no-hitter came later in the tournament during a 14-0 drubbing of El Diamante High School. He said he tried to stay focused on throwing strikes, though as the game progressed he was aware what was happening. Lee, playing right field, saved the no-hitter with a diving catch in the sixth inning.

Patrick said it wasn't surprising that Salles would have a chance to throw his own no-hitter.

"J.D. has the 'stuff' to be very effective every time he toes the rubber," he wrote via email. "With him, if he struggles it's usually in the early innings, but he had it working all day."

Asked about the key to all of this pitching success, Patrick credited Hannah and the pitching staff but said other factors also contribute.

"In order to throw a no-hitter, everything has to be working stuff and location, defense and sometimes a little luck," he wrote.

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