It’s tough to think a player might take some heat from his teammates and coaches after tossing a one-hitter.
But Waterloo senior Noah Thaggard had to endure just a little of that after pitching the Bulldogs to an 8-0 win over Marion in a Wednesday semifinal at the Triad Class 3A Sectional.
The only hit Thaggard allowed was a single to right field by the Wildcats’ Connor Followell with two outs in the third inning.
The issue was, it was the first hit allowed by Waterloo pitcher this postseason.
The Bulldogs had tossed a perfect game in a 13-0 five-inning semifinal win over Cahokia at last week’s Mascoutah Regional. They had followed it up with a 1-0 no-hit win over Columbia in the regional title game. The only baserunner pitcher Tyler McAlister allowed in that game came via an error in the first inning.
So when Followell collected his single, Waterloo already owned a 6-0 lead by that time, it brought an end to 14 2/3 innings of no-hit ball tossed by Waterloo’s pitchers in the postseason.
Followell was promptly thrown out trying to steal second for the inning’s third out.
“I think this is at least the third time Noah has taken a no-hitter three or four innings into a game,” said Waterloo senior standout Jordan McFarland, “so I guess we’ll be OK if he gives up one hit the rest of the season.
“But we always have to give him a tough time.”
McFarland was not the only one offering Thaggard flak.
“(Pitching coach Brian) Unger gave me some stuff after the game, about how I didn’t do as well as the other guys, and I really did want to keep it going,” said Thaggard, who improved to 8-1 for the season with an ERA of 2.21. “But, really we just talk about going out there and competing as best we can.
“Just trust your stuff, do what you have been taught, and everything should work out for you.”
Outside of that hit, however, Thaagard was dominant.
After Followell was thrown out to end the top of the inning, Thaggard retired the final 12 Marion hitters to help the Bulldogs breeze to the victory.
For the game, Thaggard allowed just the one hit while striking out nine and walking just one. That walk came with two outs in the first inning.
With the win, Waterloo (27-6), the No. 2 ranked team in Maxpreps.com Class 3A baseball poll, advances to play the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between Freeburg and Mount Vernon in the title game on Saturday.
What may have been most impressive about Thaggard’s performance was of his nine strikeouts, seven of them came on a called third strike – usually a slider which left the Marion’s batters with their knees buckled.
“He just absolutely painted each side of the plate, he didn’t throw a thing down the middle,” said Marion coach Marty Manfredo, whose team bows out at 16-12, “and because of that, it looked like we were constantly in defensive mode.
“He is what I try to get out kids to be. He’s a pitcher.”
The victory had some addition meaning for Thaggard, as a year ago the then junior was on the mound when the Bulldogs’ season ended with a 9-5 loss to Highland in a semifinal at the Salem Sectional.
Highland would go on to win the Class 3A state championship.
“I am so glad the coaches gave me the opportunity to redeem myself for what happened last year, it really meant a lot,” said Thaggard. “I knew it was going to between me and Erik (Kaiser) to make the start, and I am sure Erik would have done a great job, too.
“Once they told me I had the start, I knew I had be focused and ready. I got off to a great start and after that, I just ran with it.”
Waterloo did the bulk of its offensive damage in a six-run second inning.