Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Since the New Mexico Activities Associations started compiling records, from classifications 1A to 5A there have been 26 no-hitters. The earliest in the record books is dated 1999, and after Tuesday’s no-hitter against Clovis, Goddard coach Gilbert Alvarado will have to give the NMAA a call and let them know another one needs to be added to the list.
Owen Alsup took the mound against Clovis Tuesday in hopes of giving his team a chance to win. The players were focused on winning the first inning and having good at-bats. The coaching staff had a pitching plan in place that included two pitchers after Alsup.
“We had a pitch count in place for Owen,” Alvarado said. “We were hoping he would give us four to five solid innings in 85 pitches. Little did we know Owen would throw seven complete innings in 80 total pitches.”
The Rockets were unable to score to start the game. In the bottom of the first inning Alsup toed the rubber, and with his first pitch induced a ground ball to third base for the first out. Alsup’s pitch would foreshadow what was to come for the Wildcats.
The perfect game was lost when the second batter walked. Owen quickly righted the ship by picking him off first base for the second out. The third batter would be the first strikeout victim of the game, getting caught looking at a curveball.
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In the top of the second inning, Goddard would score two runs when Gabe Campos led off the inning with a base hit. He then reached base on an error by the pitcher. Freshman catcher Cinco Holloway would score Campos with a hard-hit ball past the third baseman. Luke Fulkerson was a courtesy runner for Holloway and stole second base, eventually scoring.
Alsup used his fastball like an artist using a paintbrush. He masterfully painted both sides of home plate with it, moving it up and down the strike zone to keep Clovis hitters off balance. His curveball was breaking sharp and late, freezing many Clovis hitters.
Alsup struck out seven in the game. The real story was his ability to use the aggressive approach by Clovis against them. He would need only 10 pitches in the second inning and 10 pitches in the third inning to sit the Clovis hitters down in order.
Alsup’s mastery of Clovis continued as he outdid himself in the fourth inning by retiring them on nine pitches on three ground-outs.
“We knew going in that the lineup from Clovis was swinging early,” Alvarado said. “To Owen’s credit, he pitched not for the strikeout, but to induce hitters to hit the ball where he wanted them to.”
In the fifth inning, Alsup struck out two of the three batters he would face. Both swung late on his fastball. Alsup seemed to be throwing harder and getting stronger as the game progressed. By this point the zeros on the home side of the scoreboard were becoming more and more apparent. The rule in baseball is, if the pitcher has a no-hitter going, you don’t jinx it by mentioning it. The dugout kept quiet and the rest of the lineup took pressure off Alsup by scoring 11 runs in the game. Every hitter for the Rockets either had a base hit or scored a run.
The sixth inning would be Alsup’s most efficient inning, throwing only seven pitches. He had a strikeout and two pop-ups. Goddard pitching coach Ed Henry kept a stopwatch going. He timed each inning, reminding Alsup to be efficient and work with a purpose. When the defense came off the field in the bottom of the sixth, Henry’s stopwatch would read three minutes exactly.
When Alsup walked to the hill for the seventh inning, he had thrown only 64 pitches. With the win seemingly in hand, and three more outs needed to secure the no-hitter, the first batter worked Alsup to a full count. Fastball inside at the knees, on the inside corner, strikeout looking. One out. The next Wildcat hitter worked Alsup to a 2-2 count. Alsup would throw a curveball as Holloway framed it.
The batter would eventually walk. With a runner on first and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Alsup attempted a pick-off move, but the ball would get past the first baseman allowing the runner to move over to second base.
“For the first time all game Alsup seemed a bit flustered,” Alvarado said. “I quickly dropped my clipboard and walked to the mound. I am the one calling pitches and I honestly didn’t know he was throwing a no-hitter until on the walk to the mound I can hear the fans talking about it, ‘Coach Alvarado is going to take Owen out.’”
Alvarado said he wanted Alsup to collect himself and catch his breath. The next batter in the inning would come the closest to a base hit. On the second pitch, the batter hits a hard ground ball up the middle. The fans, coaches and players all seemed to hold their breath at once in suspense.
The Goddard second baseman cut the ball off with a great backhand, set his feet and threw the runner out at first base by one step, no-hitter saved. The second baseman was Ryan Alsup, a freshman and Owen’s younger brother.
The last batter of the game would fly out to left field, the only baseball to leave the infield all night. The Goddard fans and players erupted in celebration as Alsup walked off the mound. After pitching the game of his life, even the Clovis fans recognized the significance of what just happened and begrudgingly applauded.
“I have never been a part of a no-hitter in my 12 years of coaching,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado said he isn’t sure about the Goddard record books, but knows there hasn’t been a no-hitter thrown by a Rocket since his tenure started in 2018. The performance by Alsup has been indicative of his leadership and work ethic this season. At a time when the young Goddard team needed a win, Alsup led the way.
The second game would end up in a 6-4 loss by the Rockets, with one inning in which Clovis scored five runs, sinking the chances of a sweep. Goddard ends their pre-district season 3-5, all against 5A opponents.
Alvarado said the no-hitter will forever remain a part of Goddard Rocket baseball history and most certainly be forever stored in the memory of the players involved. If you ask the Goddard players today what their thoughts are, they simply reply, “Win the first inning against Lovington on Saturday.”
The Rockets will open district play on Saturday at Lovington at 11 a.m.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.