San Luis Obispo Blues starting pitcher Ryan Woolley and his Rattlers counterpart Richie Mirowski certainly saved their best for last in the season finale between the two intracity rivals.
Each pitcher turned in a scoreless gem before Blues catcher Rafael Neda singled in the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 1-0 win Thursday at SLO Stadium.
“I really enjoy this kind of game,” Neda said. “Especially when our starting pitcher is as on as he was today.”
Woolley and Mirowski both worked at a frenetic pace, continuing to put up scoreless innings in a game that lasted just more than two hours.
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Woolley, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves but chose to return to the University of Alabama-Birmingham after redshirting, had a no-hitter going into the sixth before Bobby Buckner roped a solid single up the middle with one out.
No-hitters are not a foreign phenomenon in the California Collegiate League. The Rattlers (9-15, 3-14) were no-hit by former Cal Poly pitcher Matt Leonard, who needed 149 pitches to reach the milestone for the Santa Barbara Foresters last year.
Blues manager Chal Fanning said that he wasn’t going to let Woolley pitch beyond the seventh inning whether he’d given up a base hit or not.
“The thought was crossing my mind,” Fanning said. “But that was going to be his last regardless. It’s a big-picture plan and he’s worked very hard on a plan.”
Woolley has been putting in extra time with pitching coach Michael Lara on ways to improve once he returns to college for his junior season.
“Ever since I got here, I’ve been working with coach Lara on mechanics and trying to find some consistency,” Woolley said. “And I felt like finally tonight I found something where I could really throw the ball at a decent rate.”
Woolley, who struck out 11, didn’t have much time to think about mechanics between innings as Mirowski, who entered with a 1.35 ERA, matched Woolley out for out and required just 58 pitches to get through six innings.
In all, Mirowski allowed three hits while striking out six and walking none.“He was great tonight,” Woolley said. “I think it was his changeup that was giving us fits. The moment I’d sit down I’d be getting right back up.”
Fans remained excited about the game, even as base runners reaching second base became a rarity. While the spectators may have enjoyed it, Fanning said he didn’t find it fun until Neda’s ball rolled into the gap to give the Blues (15-8, 14-6) the win to finish off the season series with a 5-1 edge.
“You know, they’re only fun when you come out on top,” Fanning said. “But we got the big hits when we needed them.”
No one was happier for Neda than his battery mate.
“He was awesome tonight,” Woolley said of Neda. “From receiving to calling the game, he was great. It was awesome to see him get that last hit for us tonight.”