Cougars’ Smith hits for cycle, tosses no-hitter in win over Jets
HERMANSVILLE — Clayton Smith couldn’t have drawn it up any better if he did it 1,000 times. The Munising senior, playing baseball for Superior Central, threw a no-hitter and hit for the cycle in a 12-0 triumph over North Central here Friday afternoon.
Smith struck out 11 in five innings, giving up just one walk. One other Jets’ runner reached on an error, but that was all the traffic on the bases. It was Smith’s first career varsity no-hitter.
“I sensed I had a chance to get one in the third inning. They couldn’t really touch my fastball, so I kept throwing that. I’m working on a slider so I got to work on that a lot,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, he also went 4-for-4 with a single, double, triple and a towering two-run home run to left field in the third inning. He also scored every time he got on base.
Asked how it felt to throw a no-hitter and hit for the cycle in the same game, he had a simple response.
“I’ve never done that before.. it’s awesome,” he said.
Smith pulled off this feat the same day he signed to play baseball at Mott Community College in Flint. Cougars’ coach Walt Smith was in awe of his performance.
“I’ve never seen a performance like that today — never,” coach Smith said. “I’ve been around baseball my whole life. It’s a little funny for me to talk about because it’s my son but you know.. you seen it. I think he had 11 strikeouts in the five-inning no-hit game.
“He’s got this stretch that continued. He threw three innings downstate of no-hit ball (April 6) .. then the home run today and he hit for the cycle. I guess all I can say is it’s a pretty epic performance. I’m not just saying that because it’s my son — I’d be saying that if it was anybody’s son. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
Zach Englund, Eli Werner and Parker Maki all added two hits and reached base three times for the Cougars in the Skyline Central Conference opener for both clubs.
“I seen some really good hitting. From being inside all the time I really didn’t expect it today because depth perception is different when you come out. I’ve seen the good swings in the gym but it’s usually a struggle when you come out here. The guys were hitting the ball. Yes, we had the great individual performance from Clayton, but the whole team played well today. They all were a part of that.”
Wyatt Riley pitched for the Jets, giving up 12 runs in five innings of work. The Jets’ offense struggled to find any kind of rhythm against Smith.
“He’s a hell of a pitcher. We just didn’t hit the ball and hats off to him,” Jets’ coach Chad Holle said. “He sat us down.. I think we had 12 or 13 strikeouts. You don’t win too many games when you have 12 or 13 strikeouts.”
The Cougars (2-2, 2-2 SC) drew first blood in the nightcap, taking a 1-0 lead on a RBI double to left by Smith. Werner followed that up with a hard ground ball past first base for an RBI for a 2-0 lead, and Kyle Frusti capped the scoring with a RBI double to center to make it 3-0.
The Jets (0-2, 0-2 SC) got two runs back in the bottom of the third on a wild pitch by Zach Englund that plated Carter Eichmeier, and some aggressive baserunning by Alex Naser allowed him to score when Frusti threw the ball into center field trying to throw out Carter Holle at second base. Holle tried to score and was called out at the plate to end the inning.
The Cougars added a couple runs in the fourth to make it 5-2, then added three more to make it 8-2 going into the bottom of the sixth before the Jets made a late charge.
Matt McLaury walked the first two Jets’ batters, then hit Carter Tietz with a pitch to load the bases with nobody out.
The Cougars brought in Jesse Duran to pitch in relief, but after striking out Caden Tietz he gave up a two-run single to Brady Anderson to bring the Jets within 8-4. Noah Gorzinski kept the rally going with a two-run triple to right make it 8-6 with just one out before Duran recorded the final two outs.
Coach Holle was happy with how his team didn’t give up.
“In the second game, the kids rallied and didn’t give up,” he said. “I think we got the bat on the ball a little bit and the kids got a little momentum. We had a couple players that kinda actually stood out who might get more time in the lineup.”
Coach Smith said the Cougars can use the end of the game as a learning experience.
“Well, I’m a coach so I’m still gonna have to find something to yell about,” he said. “The kids got kinda lax with the lead. Young players have to learn that this is a hard game full of details, and it’s got its ups and downs.”
Englund got the win, giving up four hits and two runs while striking out five and walking one in four innings. Holle took the loss, allowing six hits and two walks while striking out five in three innings.
The Jets visit Gladstone for a twinbill Monday, while the Cougars host a doubleheader against Stephenson Friday.