Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Cañada’s Joe Marcucci was a hard-luck loser Tuesday, giving up just three runs.
Mission College marched out its ace Tuesday and he delivered.
Sophomore right-hander Brett Solano fired 7 1/3 of shutout ball to lead Mission past Cañada 3-0 in a critical Coast Conference matchup.
Solano took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before surrendering a single to Cañada leadoff hitter Kyle Zirbes on a two-strike fastball that caught too much of the plate. Solano said he was cognizant of the no-no, even though he was trying not to break the unwritten baseball rule of thinking about it.
“I tried not to think about it because it’s a baseball sin of knowing you have a no-hitter,” Solano said. “So, I was trying not to think about it, but it was still in the back of my mind.”
Cañada center fielder Maurice Fuller toyed with breaking an unwritten baseball rule as well, by trying to break up the no-hitter with a bunt single. As the batter previous to Zirbes’ sixth-inning single, Fuller dropped a surprise bunt down the third-base line. But Saints third baseman Justin Hearn was equal to the challenge in making a nice charging play to gun down Fuller at first.
“I knew they were trying to get something down to try to break it up,” Solano said. “And I knew I had a third baseman … who can make any play. So, I was pretty confident in that.”
Solano said he threw one no-hitter in his life as a member of the Campbell Little League All-Star team when he was 12. He was still happy with Tuesday’s performance though.
“Today we played great,” Solano said. “The defense was money. I had a no-hitter for five innings. It felt good … and I just kept pounding the zone.”
With Cañada freshman right-hander Joe Marcucci also dealing, the game was scoreless until the fifth. But then the heart of the Mission batting order broke through.
Saints first baseman Jon Hughes has been one of Mission’s best run producers all season. But in his first two at bats, with Saints runners in scoring position, he failed to come through. When he received a third chance, he did not miss it.
“After the first two at bats he came in the dugout all mad, “ Solano said. “And we told him, ‘Hey Jon, you’re good. Do what you do,’ and sure enough, he did the job.”
Hughes responded in the fifth by stepping to the plate with one on and two outs and shooting an RBI double to left-center to score Reed Kienle with the game’s first run. Hughes’ swing of the bat sparked a two-run rally as Erik Colombini followed with a sharp double into the left-field corner to plate Hughes, giving Mission a 2-0 lead.
In the seventh, Mission scored an insurance run on a throwing error by Colts reliever Tyler Rios. With Saints runners on first and third and one out, Canada put on a pickoff play at third, but Rios’ throw went wide of the mark to allow Hearn to score, giving Mission a 3-0 lead.
It could have been much worse had it not been for the Cañada defense, which flashed some stellar glove work to keep Mission off the board through the early innings.
In the first, Canada’s middle infield of Zirbes and Dominic DiFiesta turned a sweet double play on a high bounding ball off the bat of Hughes to end the inning. The Colts turned two double plays throughout. In the third, the Saints loaded the bases with one out. But Hughes came up empty by popping out to short for the second out. Colombini followed with a shot to center field, but Fuller got an outstanding first step to track it down coming straight in with an all-out diving catch. In the fourth, Colts left fielder Michael Camel ran down a fading liner in shallow left-center to end the inning with a diving basket catch.
Marcucci worked six-plus innings, yielding three runs on 10 hits to take the loss. His record falls to 2-2. Solano’s record improves to 6-2.
“We’re getting good pitching, we’re just not getting [any] runs,” Colts manager Tony Lucca. “We’re asking a lot of our pitchers if we’re not scoring them any runs. Our offense just can’t get it going. It’s like the guy from that movie ‘Life.’ We just can’t get right.”
With the loss, Cañada (11-6 in Coast Pacific, 17-10 overall) missed a chance to move into a first-place tie with Cabrillo, as the Seahawks did not play Tuesday. Instead, the Colts fall one full game back in the Coast Pacific Conference standings, remaining in a second-place tie with Ohlone after the Renegades fell to West Valley 7-6.
With the win, second-place Mission (13-3 in Coats Golden Gate, 20-7) gains a game on third-place College of San Mateo, as the Bulldogs fell to Monterey Peninsula Tuesday 5-4. The Saints remain two games back of first-place Chabot in the Coast Golden Gate race.
The win is the second straight shutout for the Saints, who previously defeated CSM 7-0 on April 5. Mission has not been scored upon for 22 consecutive innings, dating back to April 3 against West Valley.
“It was an important win,” Solano said. “We just came out from a nine-inning shutout from … (pitcher) Nick Moorehead at San Mateo. So, we had to follow that up somehow.”