In the 19 years Central Arizona College head coach Jon Wente has been involved with college baseball as a coach and player, he had never heard of such a thing happening before. Several internet searches couldn’t uncover any instances of it ever happening previously, either.
That’s not to declare with any sense of certainty that the back-to-back no-hitters twirled by Central Arizona right-handers Nicco Blank and Tatum Hendrix in both ends of a double-header at Glendale Community College on Saturday (April 13) was a first in a college baseball double-header, but it was a first for Wente and the nationally second-ranked Central Arizona Vaqueros.
“I have about 15 years of college coaching (experience) and four years of playing in college, and I’ve never heard of it,” Wente told Perfect Game on Monday.
Blank, a freshman out of Catalina High School in Tucson, got things started by throwing a seven inning no-hitter in the twin-bill’s opener, a 10-0 CAC victory. Blank threw only 68 pitches, and struck out one Glendale batter and walked two. He allowed three base runners but faced only 22 batters because the Vaqueros turned a pair of double plays. The no-hitter was Blank’s second of the season; he threw one against Eastern Arizona on March 9.
Hendrix, a sophomore from Litchfield Park, Ariz., wasn’t quite as sharp in the nightcap, a 14-1 CAC victory. Hendrix didn’t allow a hit in seven innings and struck out six, but also walked four and hit a batter. Two errors led to a Glendale unearned run in the third inning.
“Both guys know how to pitch and they compete really hard,” Wente said. “Their stuff is good; they certainly can get out of the zone and I guess when maybe you’re looking at no-hitters some of those are the guys that if they throw strikes their stuff is so good that they can throw a no-hitter. Both of those guys, on Saturday, they were throwing strikes consistently.”
The two right-handers got plenty of support from their teammates. The Vaqueros combined for 34 hits in the doubleheader, and when the hitters weren’t bashing the ball all over the field, they were content to let the pitchers do their own thing.
“Obviously with a no-hitter, things always get a little tighter in the dugout and things get a little bit quieter and nobody’s talking,” Wente said. “Both guys were kind of hanging out by themselves, typical of what you see on TV with no-hitters.”
Wente said there was discussion during both games of the need to get some of the staff’s other pitchers some much-needed work.
“Both games we had guys warming up in the bullpen with no-hitters going, which usually you don’t see,” Wente said. “We were ahead in both games and we were thinking that if anything happens has far as a hit, we were going to get somebody in there to get some work and keep our pitch-counts down.”
Blank improved to 5-1 with a 1.13 ERA after his second no-hitter of the season; he has allowed 22 hits and walked 20 while striking out 60 in 55 2/3 innings. Hendrix upped his season record to 7-0 with a 1.61 ERA; he has allowed 31 hits and 31 walks with 42 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings.
“If you look at their numbers, they don’t give up many hits when they pitch,” Wente said. “When you look at Nicco … he’s got the stuff to overwhelm hitters at times, but his thing is he gets out of the zone every once in awhile and that might cause him to have a couple of bad outings.”
The Vaqueros, which opened the season ranked No. 1 in Perfect Game’s Preseason Juco Top 25, stood 37-11 (23-7 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) heading into this week’s play. They hit the ball a ton and boasted a .327 team batting average with 17 home runs through 48 games.
The program recently announced that shortstop David Masters, who played a season at Arkansas, has now signed with Missouri State; right-hander Jess Amedee (Northern Colorado) has signed with Texas-Arlington; right-hander Jordan Kipper has signed with Texas Christian; and righty Brandon Zywicki has inked a letter with the University of San Francisco.
“Sometimes you feel like you’re underachieving sometimes at certain parts of the season but we’re right where we need to be,” Wente said. “As we’ve learned in the past it comes down to who plays the best here at the end of the month of April and the beginning of May and on into June.
“I know we’re certainly talented enough and we’ve got the right pieces to do it, but we need to go out and consistently play our best.”
And the Vaqueros will always have Saturday, a day that will live on in the program’s history books. And this is a program with a ton of history.
“It was just a cool day,” Wente said. “Obviously, our pitchers were outstanding but they certainly couldn’t have done it without the defense that we played. Besides the two bad errors (in the second game) we played really good defense for the day.”