DULUTH — The last time Chris Raash pitched against Duluth, his no-hitter bid unraveled in the fifth inning. This time, he allowed a hit in the second, but Raash liked the finished product a lot more.
“I was hoping to keep it going this time,” Raash said.
Using two breaking balls, the Norcross right-hander went seven innings for a 2-1 victory on Monday night to win a second straight pitchers’ duel with the Wildcats’ John Clark. Raash struck out four, walked two and hit a batter. Clark, meanwhile, nearly matched him pitch for pitch with eight strikeouts, five hits allowed, a walk and hit batsman.
“It was a battle,” Norcross coach Andy Collins said. “I give a lot of credit to both pitchers. (Clark) kept us off stride and had us guessing good. And I don’t even know what (Raash’s) pitch count was, it might’ve been 70 at most.”
Raash said he threw two different curveballs, with the harder one being more effective, as he turned in a third straight solid outing. Raash has only allowed six runs combined in his last three starts.
“Hopefully that trend continues,” he said. “Hopefully it turns into a playoff berth for us.”
But a season-long theme for Duluth continued: a lack of offense. Coach Matt Champitto said the Wildcats have won several games with a timely hit, but that didn’t come this time.
“We just didn’t have runners on base,” Champitto said. “Every time we had a guy in scoring position, it was with two outs. We just haven’t hit the ball very well all year.”
Because of the lack offense, Clark’s record of 2-4 with three saves doesn’t reflect the kind of season he’s had.
“He’s pitched like this and lost two or three games,” Champitto said. “Even when we didn’t hit, he kept us close enough to maybe get that one hit. It just didn’t happen today.”
The Blue Devils put their first three batters of the second inning on base with a double, single and bunt. Then Clark walked third baseman Zach Shirah to force in a run, and a ground out scored another. That was all Raash needed.
A baserunning mistake on a potential bunt sacrifice limited the Wildcats to just one run in the third inning. They had two hits, a hit batsman and a walk, but couldn’t tie the game.
The result keeps Region 7-AAAAA a logjam. Entering this week, four teams, including Norcross (11-10, 7-6) and Duluth (14-8, 8-6), were separated by two region losses.