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Flanagan’s Gonzalez Tosses No-Hitter For Key District Win

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Late in the action of his no-hitter thrown on Tuesday night, Flanagan’s Frank Gonzalez reached a gut-check moment within himself. His pitching had kept him on the mound this far, and the moment had come where the pitcher needed to know if he had enough left to make this accomplishment happen. Gonzalez found what he needed, as he carved his way through the final batters to deliver Flanagan a 1-0, no-hit victory over Cypress Bay.

“Just going up there I knew the team was going to pull through, and they were telling me, ‘We’ve got you’ and I believed in them. They believe in me, so I’ve got to believe in them. I found something deep within me and I just kept going,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez faced the minimum batters possible, allowing but one base runner that broke up the perfect game. He piled up 12 strikeouts on the night while filling each frame with zeroes. After the game he admitted that he was not focused on the no-hitter and was more concerned with earning the win that now has the Falcons (12-2) alone atop the 9A-12 standings with a 7-0 mark, two games ahead of Cypress Bay’s 5-2 mark in second place.

“That is just a plus to winning the game,” Gonzalez said of the no-hitter. “It felt great knowing that after the game, because I wasn’t really thinking about it.”

Gonzalez lived low in the strike zone the entire night, working both sides of the plate and mixing lower locations with perfection. The senior has issued just four walks all season, with his only free pass on Tuesday night coming to the first batter he faced, Carlos Salaverria. That base runner was caught stealing, and the Lightning never managed another.

Senior right-hander Ben Pelman allowed one earned run on five hits in five-and-a-third innings for Cypress Bay.

“It’s normal for Frankie, and it’s hard to say that with a no-hitter,” Falcons catcher Miguel Useche said. “Frankie does this day in and day out, every night. He just comes out here, throws his tail off for us and keeps us in every single game. I can’t say enough about him. Being able to get a district win is always big, especially right now.”

Rarely is a team still in the game with a chance to rally and win until the very end even despite the benefit of a base hit. Yet the way the Lightning pitched and played defense had them exactly in that position to spoil Flanagan’s night at any moment. Cypress Bay (6-6) played excellent defense, committing just one inconsequential error while making several key plays, highlighted by an incredible diving catch by right fielder Andrew Boorom.

Lightning starter Ben Pelman also shined to keep his club right in the ball game. The right-hander carried his team into the sixth inning while scattering five hits and three walks and recording a strikeout.

“Your hats off not only to our pitcher, but to their pitcher,” Flanagan mamnager Ray Evans said. “He did a phenomenal job; he pitched totally different with a lot of offspeed all night. So it was tough to get a read on him. Even though we knew things were coming at certain times we just couldn’t get a good swing on it most of the time, except for Noah at the end. That was a huge at bat for him, and a huge hit for us.”

That hit came from senior Noah Martindale in the bottom of the sixth inning to account for the only run of the contest. Flanagan got things going when Daniel Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and was replaced on the bases by Alec Ducasse, and Jordan Rodriguez followed by lining a single past the shortstop. Jesus Delgado advanced the runners with a great sacrifice bunt and Martindale then delivered with an RBI single up the middle for the winning run.

“Once I got down in the count, I kept saying to myself, ‘I’m not going to go down here. I’m going to put us up and win the game’,” Martindale said. “The first pitch, I think I should have swung, because it was right there. But I picked up early in the game that if I loaded too early I was not going to be on time. But once I got my timing down I was able to put a good swing on the ball. It feels good, because you just have to do everything you can to win the game for your team.”

Noah Martindale connects to drive in the winning run for Flanagan in the bottom of the sixth inning.

With a no-hitter still intact there was never any question that Gonzalez would take the mound for the seventh, but with a lead it made things that much easier knowing those final three outs were all that was still needed. After Useche tracked down a foul pop along the netting for the first out, the ending seemed inevitable. Daniel Rodriguez cleanly fielded a grounder and made the toss for a 3-1 putout, and Jordan Rodriguez hauled in an infield flyout that sealed the no-no.

“Other than that first walk of the game that took away his perfect game, he was flawless,” Evans said of Gonzalez. “He sat there and dialed in and almost every pitch was around the zone. He did a great job and I am just so proud of him right now. We knew that this was a big game and that we had to come out on top, especially with a district win that gives us a two-game lead.”

As is always the case in no hitters, the defense also did its part. Flanagan did not commit an error on the eight balls put in play, and left fielder Jesus Delgado made an impressive diving catch to rob Salaverria of a hit leading off the top of the fourth.

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