The likelihood of a high school baseball player pitching a perfect game borders on next to impossible while the odds of a youngster doing it in back to back outings are probably about a hundred gazillion to one.
Chattanooga Christian’s Matthew Mercer beat all the odds at home against Notre Dame Monday evening.
It was just a five inning game as the Chargers scored one in the first, four in the third and five more in the fourth, but the senior southpaw retired all 15 Irish hitters he faced.
In defense of Notre Dame, the Irish hitters put the bat on the ball and really had some hard smashes, but the CCS defense was up to the challenge and made great play after great play to keep the unbelievable feat in order.
Notre Dame’s Trea Johnson probably came the closest to getting a hit as he lined a shot down into the right-field corner to end the fourth, but Nathanael Kapp made a spectacular running catch for the 12th straight out.
While Mercer was doing his thing on the mound, CCS shortstop John Rhodes gave him all the offensive support he needed with a run-scoring double in the first and a towering three-run homer to center in the third.
The Chargers took the pre-game challenge from head coach Ben Wharton to be aggressive at the plate, especially with two strikes, and they came through as instructed as four of their nine hits came with two strikes and three of the 10 runs came in the same situation.
“That’s two in a row,” said Wharton after a post-game chat with his guys.
“I realize it’s two five-inning games, but that’s 10 consecutive innings where nobody got on base for any reason. Maybe it’s been done before, but that’s a testament to him and the hard work he puts in to be a successful high school pitcher.
“He was really going after them today. A lot of folks don’t realize that he hasn’t given up an earned run this year. He’s now 3-1, but the game he lost was a result of unearned runs.
“Maybe the best compliment to his pitching was the fact we came out aggressive on offense. We had some great two-strike approaches and that’s what we had urged them to do today,” the first year coach continued.
Mercer on threw 48 pitches on the day, including 10 balls and 38 strikes. Only in the first inning did he reach a full count, but he struck out Johnson swinging.
The middle son of Aaron and Jennifer Mercer was as humble as always when the game ended and was even throwing a bit more afterward to get in his full workout.
“I really wasn’t expecting it, but everything seemed to just fall into place,” the slender 18-year-old senior, who has already committed to play baseball next year at East Tennessee State, expressed afterward.
“I started thinking about it after the fourth inning and thought about trying to get fancy with some off-speed stuff, but I figured I’d just throw was the coach was calling and if it was meant to be, it might happen. I just went out and did the best I could,” he added.
The Fighting Irish are currently going through some growing pains with first-year coach Trey Hicks, but with only two seniors on the Notre Dame roster, it’s a process that probably won’t happen as fast as some would wish.
“These last five games haven’t exactly gone our way, but we have a young team and are in the middle of a growth process. We’re just learning how to compete,” Hicks said later.
“I give a lot of credit to their pitcher because he pitched a great game, but we had a great approach at the plate and hit several balls really hard, but right at people. On the other hand, it seems like everything they hit found a hole, but we’ll keep working and I’m sure things will get better soon,” he concluded.
Alex Phillips and Rhodes were the only two CCS players with two hits.
Justin Wheeler reached on an infield error to lead off the CCS first and scored on a double by Rhodes. Wheeler and Davenport both walked to start the third and both scored ahead of the three-run homer to center. The Chargers added a fourth run in the same inning when Austin Vincent’s double drove in Aaron Anand, who had singled with two outs.
Then in the fourth, the Chargers added five more runs with Kapp driving in the first with a double before Wheeler and Mercer plated one each with singles. The last two came on Notre Dame’s third error when a come-backer to the pitcher was thrown wide of first and ended up in the right-field corner.
CCS is now 14-2 overall and 9-1 in District 7-AA with its ninth-straight win while Notre Dame falls to 5-7 overall and 4-5 in 7-AA.
These same two teams will play again Tuesday afternoon at Notre Dame.
NOTRE DAME 000 00 – 0 0 3
CHATTANOOGA CHRISTIAN 104 5x – 10 9 0
Dickens, Stone (4) and Cannon; Mercer and King.
(email John Hunt at email@example.com)