RALEIGH — After two pitches Friday night, Sanderson’s Daniel Dulaney was down in the count 2-0.
Dulaney came back to strike that batter out, setting the tone for a night no one at Optimist Park will soon forget. Dulaney proceeded to throw three perfect innings on his way to no-hitting Apex in a 9-0 win in the opening round of the NCHSAA 4-A baseball playoffs.
“It’s one of the coolest things ever – honestly,” Dulaney said with an ear-to-ear smile on his face. “It’s too cool to describe.”
Dulaney struck out five and walked three to efficiently dispose of the scrappy Cougars (10-12), who’d won five of their last six in conference play just to make it to the postseason.
“We scored nine, and it was great to have a team offense that came together and put up those runs, but the way Daniel threw, we only needed one,” said Sanderson coach Todd Laughlin. “He was dominant, probably one of his strongest outings of the year. It helps when that happens in the playoffs.”
Sanderson (17-6) scored one run in each of the first four innings to build a 4-0 lead before putting the game away with five runs in the bottom of the sixth.
After Cory Wood scored on a wild pitch to give the Spartans a 5-0 lead, Ryan Jeffers and Tim Smiley drove in four runs with back-to-back base hits to push the lead to 9-0.
Dulaney stepped to the plate facing an enviable situation. With a runner on second, an RBI hit would end the game on the 10-run mercy rule and he’d have his no-hitter without having to go back out to the mound and pitch the final inning.
“That was hard,” Dulaney said. “I really wanted to go out for the seventh.”
He smacked the ball through the right side of the infield, but Smiley held at third base, and the inning ended with the duo on the corners.
Third baseman Cas Silber kept the no-hitter alive to start the seventh, charging in, bare-handing a dribbler and throwing out Apex’s Cooper Grissom by inches at first.
“I just had pretty good stuff today,” Dulaney said. “It felt like a normal start. My arm felt pretty good, but it was nothing different. I just threw strikes and the defense did a good job.”