Titans senior pitcher doesn’t allow runner until seventh inning
It was a special day for Ricky Tibbett. It was nearly perfect.
The Eastlake High senior right-hander retired the first 18 batters he faced Wednesday morning before Alex Chacon grounded a clean single to right to start the top of the seventh. Tibbett then struck out the next hitter, issued his only walk of the game, and ended the contest on a pop fly double play as the No. 1-ranked Titans edged visiting Hilltop 4-0 in a Metro Mesa League game.
Asked if he had ever thrown a no-hitter, let alone a perfect game, Tibbett said, “Maybe in Little League … minor A or something like that.”
Someone, however, violated the cardinal rule in baseball: Never mention an on-going no-hitter.
“I didn’t know a thing until the last inning,” the San Diego State-bound Tibbett said. “Then I heard a TV cameraman who was in our dugout say something.”
Tibbett struck out 10, walked only one and went to three balls on just two hitters before the seventh-inning walk. He got six ground ball outs and five more in the air.
There were a couple nice plays behind him — a nifty scoop and toss to Tibbett covering by first baseman Iran Fuentes in the fourth, and a play up the middle and throw by second baseman Keoni Cavaco in the sixth.
“It sucks I got that close and gave up a hit, but once it’s over all you can do is re-focus,” Tibbett said. “It wasn’t like we had a big lead, so I had to get over it, and preserve the win, and hopefully the shutout.”
Tibbett is 4-0 on the season as Eastlake improved to 13-1-1. The loss was 2-1 to Granite Hills. The tie was 3-3 in eight innings against Westview in the first game of the season.
In 40 innings, Tibbett has 45 strikeouts and has walked just four.
Wednesday, before more than 20 pro scouts, who had come to see Cavaco and Tibbett, he needed just 88 pitches to beat the Lancers (6-7, 1-2).
His fastball sat at 88 mph and touched 90.
He got the majority of his strikeouts on breaking balls — a knee-buckling overhand curve and a sharp-breaking slider.
“To start the game, things were normal,” Tibbett said. “Then I broke out my new pitch — the slider.
“I mixed that in with the fastball and change-up, and it helped a lot.
“This was a league game and league games are extremely important. And I noticed the scouts stayed around till the end. Usually, they see what they need to see and leave.”
The Eastlake pitching staff has allowed just 29 runs in 15 games this season, but the Titans have scored just 83.
Eastlake gave Tibbett all the runs he’d need in the second when Fuentes doubled and scored on a squeeze bunt by Jake Cekander. The Titans scored three times in the fourth with Adrian Hinojosa driving in one and a Marcelo Mayer double scoring two.
“What an outing,” Eastlake coach Dave Gallegos said of Tibbett. “He has been pitching well, but this was his best outing. He had everything working.
“Our pitching has been phenomenal, our defense has been great, but we’re not hitting right now.
“But this is a really good group of kids. If it all comes together, we’ll be OK.”