No-hitters. They’re kind of like a big deal.
The Cal Poly softball team hadn’t had one since 2009 before freshman pitcher Sierra Hyland accomplished the feat in just her fifth collegiate start last month.
Yet, two outs away from her second no-hitter of the season Friday, Hyland wasn’t even aware of how close she was. Only pitching coach Chelsey Barclay’s wails after a seventh-inning single brought the reality home to Hyland.
The freshman phenom had to settle for two one-hit shutouts in a two-game sweep to open the Mustang Classic at Janssen Field, a 7-0 victory over Stony Brook and a 6-0 win over Fairleigh Dickinson.
Hyland struck out 15 in 14 innings, walking only two. Only one of the two hits against her left the infield. She was also 4 for 6 with three RBI at the plate, but her postgame comments showed little satisfaction in her sparkling home debut.
“I missed my spots a little bit more than I should have,” Hyland said, “but I feel like my catcher helped me out, and the defense helped me out. It was kind of like an all-around success.”
While no-hitters have been a rarity for the Mustangs, Hyland is no stranger to dominant victories. She was 101-14 in four varsity seasons at Visalia El Diamante High, allowing only two extra-base hits in her prep career.
Hyland was 24-1 with a 1.16 ERA her senior year.
“She’s so composed,” Cal Poly head coach Jenny Condon said. “She’s been here before. She’s had the game on her shoulders for so long. It’s nothing new, and when you’re getting offensive production, it takes the pressure off, too.”
It’s true. Hyland was not alone. Junior left-fielder Emily Ceccacci also continued her breakout start to the season for Cal Poly. So did senior centerfielder Lauren Moreno as the Mustangs evened their record at 9-9.
Leading off, Moreno was 5 for 8 with a double, three runs and two RBI. Paso Robles High product Kellie Reynolds was 0 for 2 with two strikeouts against Cal Poly for Stony Brook (4-8).
Coming into the game ranking fifth in the Big West Conference with 21 hits and batting .382, Ceccacci had a nine-game hitting streak snapped in the second game Friday but was 3 for 3 with a triple and three RBI in the opener.
Though she was 0 for 3 in Game 2, Ceccacci’s fourth-inning sacrifice bunt moved runners to second and third and allowed Hyland to break a scoreless tie with a one-out RBI single.
“Even her outs have been hard outs,” Condon said of Ceccacci. “She’s definitely earned it, and it’s fun to see her get that success.”
Ceccacci came to Cal Poly with much potential as a hitter but struggled early on. The Placentia El Dorado High product hit just .222 as a freshman and .250 as a sophomore last season.
But, Condon said, Ceccacci has always shown promise as a hitter in practice. For her, it was all about translating that success to the games.
Ceccacci showed a glimpse of what she could do late last season when she hit .303 in 15 Big West games
“She’s taken it to another level,” Condon said. “She’s swung the bat really well all of last year, but she struggled just in the games. She had played herself out of the lineup but she kept getting opportunities, and when we hit conference, she just started hitting and she came back this fall just like she hadn’t missed a beat. She put the work in and she’s swinging at good pitches.”
Said Ceccacci: “At the end of last year, I just kept the positive attitude, just working hard and I’m just seeing the ball really well right now. I haven’t changed much since I’ve been doing well.
“A big thing with me is attitude. If I had a bad at-bat, don’t let it carry over into every at-bat, Brush it off and always stay aggressive, stay positive.”
With four more games left for the Cal Poly to play in the Mustang Classic, the entire team is hoping to keep the positivity going.
The Mustangs play Stony Brook once more today at 2 p.m. before facing Sacramento State at 4:30.
Cal Poly will wrap up play with another doubleheader Sunday, taking on Santa Clara at 11:30 a.m. before a rematch with Sacramento State at 2 p.m.
Friday’s wins “feel so good,” Ceccacci said. “We want to go 6-0. We’re going to go 6-0 this weekend. We’re ready for that.”