NORCROSS - Mother Nature finally warmed Gwinnett County with some spring-like weather, while Wesleyan starter Michael Hutts scorched Greater Atlanta Christian batters on Tuesday afternoon.
Hutts came within one strike of a no-hitter as the senior went 62D3 innings with 13 strikeouts, five walks and one hit allowed as Wesleyan topped GAC 4-0 for its first-ever win over the Spartans.
Hutts literally came within inches of the no-no. With two outs and one runner on in the top of the seventh and a 4-0 lead, Hutts faced Brock Bennett and worked the count to 0-2. Bennett fouled off the next pitch and then hit a squibber off the end of the bat at first baseman Tony Plagman.
Plagman scooped up the dribbler and tossed it to Hutts, who chased after Bennett down the line and tagged him as he reached first. Bennett was called safe and GAC had runners at first and third, even though Bennett told Hutts after the game that he thought he was out.
Hutts walked the next hitter to load the bases with two outs and freshman right-hander Kevin Ruiz was called upon in relief and struck out Jeff Ordner for the save.
"It feels good to beat this team," Hutts said. "They were in it the whole game. I thought about the no-hitter throughout the game but it was more important to get the win. Its a huge win for us because we have never beaten them in baseball."
Hutts, who has committed to play baseball at Georgia Tech, improved his season record to 4-0 and his career mark to 24-4. As a team, the Wolves moved to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in Region 8-AA , while GAC dropped to 5-8 overall and 3-5 in the region.
GAC starter Jason Cunningham nearly matched Hutts pitch for pitch by going six strong innings with seven strikeouts, two walks and six hits allowed. Cunningham also surrendered four runs, but three of those were unearned as a costly error turned the tide in favor of Wesleyan.
In the third inning, Wesleyan loaded the bases with one out on hits by Andrew Donovan and Phillip Freeman and a walk to Hutts. Connor Winn came up to bat next and hit a sharp grounder at baseman David Shida.
Shida misplayed the ball, and it went right under his glove into left field, scoring Donavan. GAC leftfielder John Wood threw out Freeman at the plate, leaving Wesleyan with runners at second and third with two out.
GAC had a chance to get out of the inning with just the one run allowed, but Plagman hit a 2-1 pitch over the head of centerfielder Landon Bennett to plate two more runs for a 3-0 lead.
"I thought our pitcher (Cunningham) threw a pretty good game but when you can't hit any better than that you are going to struggle," GAC head coach Cliff Shelton said. "That's been our pet peeve this year. The error at third hurt us, too."
Wesleyan added another insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by John Carr.
"Michael's performance tonight, that was fabulous," Wesleyan head coach Mike Shaheen said. "Both pitchers were awesome and we knew it was going to be a great duel. I wouldn't call this our biggest win but I would call it a good win."
Six Wesleyan hitters had one hit each, three of which were doubles. Winn scored twice while Donovan had a stolen base and run. Wesleyan catcher Chris Jensen also played a solid game behind the plate - recording four assists on third strikes that were in the dirt.
Wesleyan 4, GAC 0
GAC 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 1 1
Wesleyan 0 0 3 0 0 1 X - 4 6 1
WP - Michael Hutts (4-0)
LP - Jason Cunningham