BY JIM DOLAN
After an uncharacteristic display of offensive power (24-7 runs) on the road, the Cyclones completed a three-game sweep of the Lake Monsters in Vermont to advance within one and a half games behind the first place Aberdeen Iron Birds in the McNamara Division.
With the season entering its final week, once again the pitching propelled the Cyclones to reach their season-long quest for first place on the back of one of their All Star pitchers, John Gant, with a one-hit complete game 1-0 win over the Tri-City Valley Cats.
Reminiscent of Hansel Robles’ one-hitter that lifted the Cyclones into playoff contention in last year’s 2012 season, the 21-year-old Gant demonstrated why he was chosen as one of the team’s All Star pitchers this season by flirting with a no-hitter.
In his first complete game of the season, John Gant struck out six while only facing the minimum number of 27 batters. After getting on base on a hit in the sixth inning, the Tri-City runner was erased on a caught stealing play, while the next runner who reached base on a walk in the ninth inning was also erased on a double play.
Admitting that he didn’t have his best stuff that night, Gant simply used a limited pitch selection to get batters out, stating, “My curve wasn’t working tonight, so I just stuck with my fastball and changeup.”
Crediting catcher Eddie Rohan for his performance, Gant added, “Eddie called a great game; I never shook him off once, he knew what I had tonight.”
“By the time I took the mound in the sixth inning, I knew I had a no-hitter just looking at those zeros on the scoreboard,” stated Gant. Although being cognizant of his no-hit bid, in order to stay focused, Gant said, “Once I reached the mound, I just kept concentrating on getting the next batter out.”
Commenting on the critically completed game that finally put the Cyclones into first place, Cyclone Manager Rich Donnelly stated, “That was a no-spit game,” referring the dry mouth the he experienced down to the last out. “Both pitchers pitched well and our defense came thorough for us tonight, especially Chavez at third and Mazzilli at second.”
However, on the following evening, the Iron Birds would again take over first place by half a game with a strong 7-0 win. Subsequently, for the Cyclones’ last home game of the season, the Ironbirds lengthened their lead again by a game and a half with a 5-4 win despite a valiant four-run Cyclone rally in the ninth.
As these two teams battle it out to take top spot in the McNamara Division, Manager Donnelly shared some feedback from other managers stating, “All the teams in the league this year seem pretty even. We don’t have anyone running away like last year; the team that will probably win is the one that gets hot the last week of the season.”
With a subsequent Cyclone loss and Aberdeen win on Labor Day, so far that hot team appears to be the Aberdeen Iron Birds (38-32) as they’ve increased their lead to two and a half games over the second place Cyclones (37-36) with two games left to finish the regular season.