MANTUA — Dane Sparks toed the rubber ahead in the count 1-2 Tuesday evening. He went through his windup, fired off his back leg and let his pitch go. It was a fastball on the outside corner. And strike three was called by the home plate umpire.
That pitch brought an end to a five-inning no-hitter for Sparks as the Grand Valley baseball team beat Crestwood 13-1.
“I’m happy,” Sparks said. “It’s weird being the one to throw it.”
The final out was recorded and the fans and players broke out in cheers outside Crestwood High School. But Sparks walked back to the dugout, showing that same business-first mentality he had throughout his start.
“He’s focused when he’s out there,” Mustangs coach Matt Brumit said. “He knows he has to throw strikes.”
JD Webb came up to Brumit to let him know about Sparks’ no-hitter. He responded by telling his first baseman, “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to be saying that.”
But even the traditional baseball jinx couldn’t take Sparks out of his zone.
Sparks only threw 15 balls out of his 57 pitches. Crestwood batters saw more than four pitches in only two of 16 at-bats.
GV’s pitcher attacked the strike zone with his fastball. Eventually he started mixing in his curveball and every now and then throwing a changeup.
Sparks also didn’t allow a walk, but he never had a shot at a perfect game. Sparks plunked J.P. Wrobel with his first pitch of the game.
“It was cold,” Sparks said. “First pitch. Got it back together after that pitch.”
Sparks didn’t need much offense, but received some in the early innings. Derek Jackson gave his pitcher a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Hagan Hejduk reached via an infield single to lead off the game and scored on an RBI groundout by Jackson.
In the bottom half of the inning, Jonas Honeycutt drove in Wrabel on an RBI groundout of his own. But GV’s offense continued to take advantage of fastballs as the game progressed.
The Mustangs (6-6, 4-4 Chagrin Valley Conference) scored four runs in the top of the second to retake the lead. And after a couple failed chances to capitalize in the third and fourth, finally broke through again with an eight-run top of the fifth.
Jacob Dustman took the loss for the Red Devils (2-10, 0-8 CVC) after pitching 4 1/3 innings.
He allowed nine runs — all earned — on 10 hits and four walks. He struck out one batter.
Jackson went 2 for 3 with three RBIs and two runs scored for the Mustangs. Hejduk finished 3 of 4 with two RBIs and three runs scored.
Webb added a bases-clearing double in the fifth against Honeycutt, who relieved Dustman, to set up the mercy rule.
“They’re starting to develop some confidence, first off,” Brumit said. “And second, they’re having a better approach — not getting themselves out as much.”
The Mustangs didn’t need the offense, however.
They had Sparks on the mound. And after the game he received the game ball from the coaches.
“Probably gonna keep it somewhere,” Sparks said.
GV goes to Lakeview for a 4:30 p.m. game on Friday.