At some point during the fourth or fifth inning Monday, one of baseball’s unwritten rules was violated during Tuscarora’s home playoff game with Frederick High.
A junior-varsity player for the Titans who was sitting in the team’s dugout mentioned that tall junior left-hander Ryan DeSanto was working on a no-hitter.
Not one to show much emotion or clue people in on what he is thinking, even DeSanto had to react to that one.
“Come on, man,” he said with an accompanying why-would-you-do-that glare.
Not one to let superstitions, jinxes or a snide comment get in the way of the task and hand, DeSanto went back out and finished the job anyway.
When freshman third baseman Luke Marunyez put the squeeze on a lazy fly ball in foul territory, near the line between home and third base, DeSanto had the first no-hitter of his career and Tuscarora a 2-0 victory over the Cadets in a Class 3A West quarterfinal.
The fourth-seeded Titans (5-4), who will face top-seeded Thomas Johnson at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals, mobbed DeSanto on the mound.
“Just filthy,” junior catcher Kade Linton said of DeSanto’s performance. “Every [pitch] was moving like crazy. He just threw it, and everything was right there. Gave us the confidence we needed.”
DeSanto’s no-hitter tacked an inauspicious ending onto the 30-year tenure of Frederick High baseball coach Phil Rhodes, who coached his final game for the Cadets.
“You know, I am going on my last bus ride now,” Rhodes said after hugging most, if not all, of his players following the postgame huddle.
Rhodes coached Tuscarora baseball coach Mike O’Brien when he was a student at Frederick High.
“It’s always tough to face someone when you respect them so much,” O’Brien said after the game. “I have learned so many life lessons from Coach Rhodes that I carry on with these guys here [at Tuscarora] and carry it on with my own kids.”
DeSanto provided an early indication that something special was in the works when he struck out the side in the first inning.
He finished with 15 strikeouts to match his jersey number. Frederick’s only base runners reached on a pair of walks and a pair that were hit by pitches.
“Ryan has been a really great surprise for us this year,” O’Brien said. “Two years ago, before COVID hit, he got a little taste of it as a freshman. He came in during an Urbana game and shut those guys down a little bit. So, we knew the potential was there. He is a really great kid, a good student, a good hard worker.”
DeSanto has served as a very dependable third starter for the Titans this season, along with seniors Jackson Van Tassell and Ryan Blaszczak.
The way O’Brien laid out the rotation, Van Tassell started most of the Monday games, DeSanto took most of the Wednesday starts and Blaszczak started most of the Friday games.
However, with Van Tassell and Blaszcak at the beach for Senior Week, the task of keeping Tuscarora’s season alive fell onto the shoulders of DeSanto.
“I really just go out there thinking, ‘Throw strikes and don’t do anything outside yourself.’ Stuff like that,” he said. “I stay within myself.”
Being a lefty that throws a good fastball, curveball and change-up, he likes to go after right-handed hitters on the outer half of the strike zone.
“I know my ball has a little tail on it,” he said. “So, every time I see a righty, I attack him outside.”
The Titans didn’t provide him with a ton of run support Monday.
They scored their only runs against Frederick starter Jack Surdez on a dropped ball four that allowed junior center field Kyle Sanger to sprint in from third base and a RBI double from Linton in the bottom of the fourth inning that scored junior second baseman Dominic Gomez from second.
“He started me [in the second inning] with curveball, curveball, fastball,” Linton said of Surdez. “I got the same sequence [in the fourth] and just unloaded on it.”
That was all DeSanto needed, as Tuscarora earned its first playoff win in baseball during O’Brien’s four seasons on the job.
“He pitched an outstanding game,” Rhodes said. “He mixed his pitches very well. He had complete command of the strike zone, obviously. We really didn’t get a chance to challenge their defense at all. He was outstanding.”