By REID TUCKER
Josh McLaney and Zach Forehand threw a combined no-hitter as the Bobcats rolled on an overwhelming 10-0 victory over visiting Pensacola Christian.
McLaney was a terror from the mound throughout his four-inning stretch, chalking up six strikeouts and allowing just one walk. Forehand (who hadn’t had much more than a day to get ready for the game after a year off the field) spelled McLaney at the top of the fifth and walked his first two batters but then summarily struck out three in a row to bring the game to a close.
However, the Bobcats also needed to put the bat on the ball in order to walk away with a five-inning win and get hits they did: 11 to be exact. What’s more, seven different members of the team scored a run, with Forehand, A.J. Neale and Mason McCormick notching two apiece.
Paxton coach Jeff Bradley said a night like the one the Bobcats had on Friday, March 4, is pretty astounding, considering that the team (which basically consists of the starting basketball lineup plus three others) has had just a few days to recoup and get some practice time in. Also, Paxton beat East Hill 8-2 the night before but only had three hits. Furthermore, the majority of this year’s infield and the entire outfield are up-and-comers, as Paxton graduated several of its best players last season.
“We just came out here today and really squared it up well,” Bradley said. “I was very pleased with our plate appearances. This is what I was hoping for after you lose seven of your top 10 guys from last year.”
Paxton “squared up” early after McLaney’s fastball wrecked the first three Pensacola Christian batters and scored three runs by the time the second inning rolled around. The Bobcats added a further four runs by the top of the third and extended the lead to 9-0 by the start of the fourth. Paxton drew blood for the final time in the last at-bat of the bottom of the fourth inning, as Bubba Infinger (who Bradley said hadn’t seen the field in two years after recovering from surgery) scored on a sacrifice force-out from team mate Forrest Wibbing.
For all that, Pensacola Christian (which finished just 4-14 last season) had some good looks late in the game. In the top of the fifth inning, when McLaney was retired from the mound and exchanged for Forehand, Tyler Gellos stole his way to second, capitalizing on a Paxton fielding error at second base. When Forehand walked Trevor Shoemaker it looked as though the Warriors might be able to put something together, but the bloodletting of the past several innings wore them down and Forehand struck out the next three batters to give Paxton the 10-nothing victory.
Though Forehand threw against only five batters in the game against Pensacola Christian, the junior pitcher, who was the day before cleared to play for the Bobcats after spending the first half of the school year at Walton High, still has the goods to keep Paxton at the top of the district pile. For starters, Forehand has not only a game-winning presence on the mound, he’s also a capable hitter and can play short stop as well, but Bradley said those attributes aren’t what makes him a great player. Rather, it’s his experience that will be most valued on a team where the majority of players moved up from JV just this season.
“Zach struggled until he got his rhythm there but that’s the first time he’s been on the mound all year because he wasn’t with us for a while,” Bradley said. “He’s a great player for us. He’s been playing for us since sixth grade and started on varsity when he was a seventh grader. He’s a leader for us after being a part of our program over all these years. It’s a confidence boost for the young kids to have him back as a big leader. It’s been great to see him back out here with us.”
The Bobcats will face district opponents on three occasions this week, as they went on the road against Rocky Bayou on Tuesday and will play in a double header at home against Poplar Springs on Friday.