A veteran of numerous innings on the mound during his four-year varsity baseball career, Walt Whitman High School senior Michael Flack felt the pangs of nervousness when he toed the rubber in the seventh inning of Thursday's road contest with Sherwood.
While closing out a victory is nothing new to Flack, doing so as part of a bid for a no-hitter, the first in his illustrious career, was a whole other story.
“I realized they didn't get a hit [through the] fourth inning and I tried to keep it going but in the seventh inning, I felt my legs were kind of shaking,” he said. “I started getting nervous a little bit. Then … the first kid [struck out] so I was like, ‘Two outs left, we can do this maybe.'”
And finish the no-hitter Flack did, working a strikeout of Daniel Johnson and a groundout by Matt Chanin for a 2-0 victory and the first no-no of his career to push Whitman to 4-0.
Flack, who dominated Sherwood with his fastball, slider and split-finger pitch and finished with 14 strikeouts, came within a sixth-inning walk of completing a perfect game.
“That's on me,” said Flack of the walk. “I had him in a 3-2 count; I just couldn't locate my fastball but a win's a win. The catcher called a great game so it was easy for me. It's a great, especially coming in my senior [year]. It's great to do it with these kids. I've know these kids since I was five years old.”
Flack's performance, which included six straight strikeouts that spanned the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, overshadowed a solid outing by the sophomore Chanin, who surrendered two hits against one of Montgomery County's most potent lineups.
“He's had two good outings,” Sherwood coach Sean Davis said. “He's been matched up against two good teams so he's 0-2 but we try to line him up with the big guns because we feel he gives us the best chance to win. Flack's performance was unbelievable but we're pretty happy with Matt's performance as well.”
One of those hits surrendered by Chanin, plus an error on the play, helped Whitman score its first run in the second inning. Drew Aherne singled to open the second inning and moved to second base when the left field was unable to corral the ball. He reached third on a groundout by Michael Yang and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan McGill.
Catcher Josh Biel's courtesy runner, Jacob Rasch, scored the final run of the game in the sixth inning. Biel walked to lead off the inning and Rasch stole second and reached third on a wild pitch. Sam Avayou then belted a sacrifice fly to deep left field to score Rasch for the final 2-0 lead.
Flack closed out the win by striking out nine of the final 11 batters he faced; he struck out the side in the first and fifth innings.
“They came down last year and kicked our teeth in pretty bad and they hit Michael around pretty bad,” said Whitman coach Joe Cassidy of last year's 16-2 loss to the Warriors. “This is one I had circled because when you get beat 16, 17-2, it's one you do remember. Michael's been our best player for four years and he steps up in big games and this is a big game for us.”
Walt Whitman 2, Sherwood 0
Whitman (4-0) 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 2 0
Sherwood (2-2) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
WP Michael Flack (2-0). LP Matt Chanin (0-2). 2B: Walt Whitman Michael Flack. RBI: Walt Whitman Sam Avayou, Ryan McGill.