By John Miller
You could say Tony Caldwell had a decent game.
The Strafford sophomore tossed a complete game no-hitter on the mound and cranked a grand slam at the plate, leading the Indians to an 8-0 Class 3 sectional win over Stockton at Strafford High School on Monday evening.
The Indians will now travel to face the No. 2-ranked team in Class 3, South Callaway, on Wednesday in the state quarterfinals.
“I’ve been around a lot of baseball,” Strafford coach Shane Pierce said. “I don’t think I’ve seen a day as good as (Tony’s) day. That’s pretty impressive. The kid just shows up and competes.”
On Sunday, Caldwell had some soreness in his arm and Pierce wasn’t sure he was going to be able to start. Thank goodness he felt better on Monday.
“He’s just a kid that goes out and competes every day,” Pierce said. “I’m so proud of him.”
It wasn’t a crisp, dominant no-hitter from Caldwell. He walked four and hit two and had base-runners on against him in five innings. But he never gave up any loud contact or allowed the Tigers to square anything up.
“Historically, he struggles sometimes and gets behind guys, throws a lot of pitches,” Pierce said of Caldwell, who struck out nine. “For him to finish a game, this was the first time he’s finished a game all year … he really competed and did a nice job.”
Offensively, the Indians were quiet for the first four innings against Stockton starter Clayton Hubbard. But after stringing together a pair of hits in the fifth, Hubbard was pulled from the game and Jacob Wheeler took over. Austin Tipton laid down a bunt single up the third-base line, and then, with two outs in the inning, Caldwell clubbed a grand slam over the fence in left.
“He gave me a fastball and I just barreled it up,” said Caldwell, who hit the dinger on the ninth pitch of the at-bat.
“He broke it open for us,” Pierce added.
Strafford scored two more runs in the inning, courtesy of a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and bases-loaded walk. They added two more in the sixth on a sac fly from Caldwell and RBI single from Bryce Boswell.
The Indians worked nine walks and had two hit-batsmen. Pierce was pleased with the team’s two-strike approach.
“We started letting the ball travel, and we did a good job with two strikes,” he said. “That’s something we pride ourselves on.”
Monday’s win lifted Strafford into the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2009.
“It’s been awhile,” Pierce said. “That 2009 team played for a state championship and had a bunch of young sophomores on it. This team is pretty similar to that. We’re just hoping to compete and keep having fun.”
Strafford 8, Stockton 0
Strafford 0 0 0 0 6 2 0 8 6 0
Stockton 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
Strafford: Foley, Tipton, Caldwell (HR), Maples, Boswell, Turner