By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
GRAND PRAIRIE — There are nights when pitchers have pretty good stuff and give their team a great chance to win. There are nights when pitchers can’t find the strike zone to save their lives, and ultimately find themselves watching the game from the dugout after just a couple innings.
Then there are nights when it seems like nothing can go wrong, and for Waxahachie’s David Martinelli, Friday at QwikTrip Park in Grand Prairie was a prime example of one of those nights.
“He is really good,” said McKinney North head coach Jim Gatewood after it had ended.
Martinelli allowed no hits and struck out nine Bulldogs during a complete game 1-0 victory, as the Indians upset the Bulldogs to advance to the UIL Region II Quarterfinal series next week versus the winner of Mansfield Legacy-Longview Pine Tree. North finished its season 26-3.
Martinelli, a Dallas Baptist University signee, scattered three walks over seven innings, as the Bulldogs failed to have a base runner reach second base. Martinelli was making just his second start of the season for the Indians, as the senior right-hander worked most of the season in relief. He needed just 108 pitches to throw the no-hitter, and Gatewood said after the game that even in the late innings of the game, he still expected his team to rally and win.
“We haven’t been shut out all year, and we just felt like we were going to make a run there at the end and put a couple runs on the board, but we just didn’t,” said Gatewood.
While Martinelli had everything working on the mound, his third inning at-bat proved to be the difference in the game. With North starter Gabe Constantine on the hill, Martinelli stepped in the left-handed batters box to lead off the frame. On a 0-1 pitch, he golfed a off-speed pitch and crushed it into the vacant seats in right field, giving the Indians all the runs they would need.
“He just let one pitch out over the zone and he didn’t miss it,” said Gatewood.
Constantine picked up the loss for the Bulldogs, but was impressive over his four innings of work. The sophomore left hander struck out six and allowed just three hits and three walks. His most notable inning may have been the top of the first, when he hit Martinelli on the first pitch of the game. After a fielder’s choice and two walks, Constantine had loaded the bases full of Indians with just one out.
After a mound visit with his coach, Constantine struck out both Sammy Ernst and Alex Engelhardt to end the inning. Waxahachie would leave eight runners on base in the contest.
“We got out of a big jam in the first when Constantine was a little nervous, but he did a really good job and pitched out of it,” said Gatewood. “He gave us a chance to win. I thought our guys did a good job pitching and playing good defense.”
Senior Anthony Herrera pitched the final three innings, allowing two hits and striking out three. The right-hander finished the season without allowing an earned run in 27 innings. Despite Constantine’s pitch count only being at 69 after four innings, Gatewood said the situation called for Herrera to come in when he did.
“We could go to Herrera who hasn’t given up a run all year,” said Gatewood. “I told him (Constantine) in the dugout that in any other situation I would keep him in there, but in a one-game we have to go with Herrera because he has been so effective.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs and Indians created a solid roll of highlight plays in the field. For North, shortstop Montana Sadler made a handful of defensive gems, capped off by a nice running throw to retire Waxahachie’s Kyle Wood for the first out in the seventh. After fielding the slow chopper behind the pitchers mound, Sadler reared back and fired the ball to first baseman Preston Speers, nailing Wood by half a step for the first out of the inning.
Six seniors played their final game in a Bulldog uniform on Friday night, including Sidney Wiggins, Clayton Trout, Jacob Whitehead, JT Stevenson, Trey Segui, and Herrera. After the game, Gatewood said he was proud of his senior class and will miss the attitude that they brought the program over the course of four years.
“They have done a tremendous job,” he said. “I don’t think any of us have been apart of a team that every time you went out there we were going to win or have a good chance to win. Not many teams go 26-3, so it is a tremendous accomplishment. I hate the situation and that we ran into this guy, but that is the way it goes.”
To returning starters like Constantine, Sadler, Julian Pope, Preston Speers, and Travis Scalf, Gatewood hopes this loss and experience will be a learning lesson as the Bulldogs look to return to the postseason again in 2014.
“This just shows that whenever you get into the playoffs you have to be ready to beat anybody, whether that is a one-game or three-game series,” said Gatewood. “You have to be ready.”
Photos by Kellie Anfosso. Click here for more photos.