NEW WASHINGTON - The ball rested in the glove of first baseman Braden Nagel when the game ended, but it now likely rests on a mantle in the McWilliams household.
Mason McWilliams has accomplished many things in his career. But before Monday, a no-hitter on the varsity level was not one of them. McWilliams sat one out away from claiming his first when the ball shot back to him off the bat of Buckeye Central's Nash Ehresman. The Ohio University signee, though, was able to knock it down and flip it over to Nagel and finish off his first career no-hitter in a 1-0 Seneca East victory over the Bucks.
After the game, he made sure the memento of the accomplishment won't soon be lost.
Seneca East’s Mason McWilliams pitches in Monday’s game against Buckeye Central in New Washington. McWilliams pitched a no-hitter in a 1-0 Tiger win.
Seneca East’s Nate Snavely slides into third base safely under Buckeye Central third baseman Grant Loy.
"My first in high school. I had a couple in junior high, but this is probably the best one," McWilliams said. "I'm about to go give (the game ball) to my mom."
"He loves the game. He loves to compete," Seneca East coach Frank Lamoreaux said of his senior pitcher. "He wants the ball in his hands. I don't care if he's throwing 25 pitches or 125 pitches, he wants to play. He wants to go out there and compete and mow people down and just win. That's what he's all about. He's a baseball player, through and through."
McWilliams kept Buckeye Central's hitters off balance all afternoon, striking out 14. Only a handful of balls got put in play, and none made their way to the outfield.
Buckeye Central coach Chad Jensen said McWilliams was simply overpowering the Buck hitters.
"Well he throws really stinking hard, so that's one thing. That's the bottom line," Jensen said when asked what made McWilliams so effective. "He mixed it up well, got his curveball over for strikes. But he throws mid-80s. That's the biggest thing; he throws hard."
As good as McWilliams was pitching, if it wasn't for a great defensive play, there's no telling how much longer the game would've went on.
Seneca East clinged to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Buckeye Central's Eric Hanes led off the inning with a walk. A sacrifice and a stolen base later, Hanes sat on third base with one out. Grant Loy laid down a bunt, attempting to squeeze home Hanes, but Seneca East third baseman Ben Cramer fielded the ball and shoveled it off to catcher Nate Snavely, who tagged Hanes before he could cross the plate.
"He's been with me for I don't know how many years, and he always seems to make stuff like that happen," McWilliams said of Cramer. "I got great teammates surrounding me. All I can do is let them play behind me."
"Defense wins you games. You cant rely on pitching to win you a game just striking people out," Lamoreaux said. "You have to be ready and willing to play your position. Ben was ready. He's played down there quite a bit; he was ready to make that play. We knew there was a bunt situation going on. Right place, right time. Made a good play."
Lamoreaux credited the senior leadership on a young team for coming through in the clutch.
"At the end you got a couple seniors making big plays. Ben down there at third base with that backhanded flip to get the guy at home. That's a senior making a play," Lamoreaux said. "And Mason, bearing down, getting the last out. Braden with a nice stretch (at first base). Those are seniors right there. Four seniors in the infield, that makes a big difference. We're young, yeah, but we do have some pretty good senior leadership."
Every great defensive play and every strikeout was needed as Buckeye Central's Austin Lutz was matching zeros on the scoreboard with McWilliams. Lutz allowed just three hits and one run.
"Austin pitched great for us. He kept us in the ball game and that was our goal," Jensen said. "We knew it would be tough against Mason. He's a a great pitcher, probably one of the better pitchers in the state in Division IV. Great pitcher. And, our pitcher is a good one, too. And we knew that he would keep us in the ballgame, and he did. He did everything we asked him to do. We couldn't ask for anything more, and then I couldn't be more proud of Austin and our kids for staying in the ball game against a great pitcher."
McWilliams also acknowledged Lutz's effort, adding that it pushed him to be his best.
"I like it. I like the pressure a lot," McWilliams said. "(Lutz is) a great pitcher; he's the best I saw in a while. I hope he's got a bright future ahead of him to. But, I love the pressure. It makes me bear down a little bit more, get a little bit more mean up there against the batters."
There were only three hits the entire game. Two came off the bat of Caudill, with the third driving him home for the winning run.
Caudill opened up the top of the seventh in a scoreless game with a single and McWilliams followed with a walk. Cramer sacrificed them over and Snavely was intentionally walked. Nagel came up next and sent a fly ball to right field that dropped in for a base hit. Caudill scored, and although McWilliams was thrown out trying to score, it was enough to secure the win.
"Again, that's another senior stepping up and making a play," Lamoreaux said. "When guys see how well Mason's throwing, how hard everyone's working, you want to come through. That's what Braden did right there. He came through in a big way."