February 9, 2013 - North American League (NAmL) - Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings
Steve Nikonchik pitched threw six no-hit innings to lead the Brownsville Stars to a 7-1 victory against the Edinburg Roadrunners Saturday afternoon at Harlingen Field in Texas Winter League baseball.
Nikonchik, a 6-3 right-hander from suburban Houston celebrating his 25th birthday, pitched a no-hitter into the bottom of the seventh inning before Phil Rowland connected with a leadoff double off the wall in left centerfield, spoiling the no-hit bid.
"I didn't challenge him with my fastball," Nikonchik said.
"I gave him a cutter."
Nikonchik (1-0) was then relieved by Austin Fraker, who pitched to the final three Roadrunners batters.
"Confidence, really," Nikonchik said when asked why he was so effective. "Everything was working today. Mainly my slider and fastball."
Nikonchik struck out 10 batters and walked just one hitter in his six plus inning stint. He has now fanned 17 batters in 11 innings, where he has allowed only seven hits and two walks with an earned run average of 0.64.
But for much of the game the Katy native looked as if he was going to lose the game. The Roadrunners (3-2) scored an unearned run in the first when Jimmy Williams reached first base after catcher Jared Gore dropped a third strike. Williams advanced to third when Thomas Schull reached on a throwing error by second baseman Masa Takahata and scored when Mike Mobbs forced Schull at second base.
The 1-0 Roadrunners lead lasted until the top of the sixth as for much of the game Selby Brummett (0-1) was Nikonchik's match. The right-hander from Salem, Utah struck out 10 and scattered four hits for the first five innings before the Stars scored seven runs in the top of the sixth off Brummett and his lifelong friend, Tyler Hanks, a new arrival to the Winter League who previously pitched in the Washington Nationals organization.
Fraker, who arrived in town that morning and started the game for the Stars in right field, singled to right in the sixth and promptly stole his third base of the game. Sean Gaughn then singled into the hole at shortstop, which allowed Fraker to tie the game when shortstop Jumpei Hayashi threw the ball away trying to retire Gaughn at first.
Gaughn, who went to second on the play, then scored the winning run when Takahata reached on a throwing error by Hanks, then playing third base. After Hanks and Brummett flopped positions, the Stars' big inning continued for nine more hitters as Alex Foltz and Justin Juneau both collected 2-run hits while Gore drove in Juneau for the game's final run.
"I was holding out for the big inning. We've always had them," Nikonchik said when asked if he was concerned him might lose his no-hit bid.
Harlingen native Danny Gidora and former Farmingdale State ace Chris Phelan engaged in a classic pitchers' duel resulting in a 2-2 tie between the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings and McAllen Thunder.
Gidora, who led Harlingen South to the 5A Texas state championships in 2007, allowed only four hits to the first place Thunder (3-1-1) and one earned run in five innings. The 6-4 right-hander struck out four batters while walking one. Before giving way to newcomer Michael Oros, Gidora retired the last five batters he faced.
Phelan, meanwhile, also allowed only one earned run in his six-inning stint, striking out nine WhiteWings batters without walking a hitter and allowing seven hits.
Despite this dominance, the right-hander from Patchogue, N.Y. said he did not have his best stuff following the game.
"My change-up stunk. I couldn't control it. Usually that's my best pitch," Phelan said.
Following Albert Carpen's run-scoring double in the bottom of the first, designated hitter Brian Williams accounted for the WhiteWings' (1-3-1) first run with a home run over the 20-foot wall in left centerfield in the top of the second inning.
"I left a curve over the plate," Phelan said, an explanation Williams picked up on.
"I used to get beat on curves," Williams said. "So I've changed my stance. I now spread my legs further and stay back on my back leg."
The two teams traded runs in the third inning. The WhiteWings scored an unearned run when Cody Bishop came home on a two-out error by third baseman Masaki Iwagami, and McAllen's Derrick Pyles singled home Daiki Komori with two outs in the bottom of the frame.
Pyles' hit came immediately following a double play Gidora turned off a line drive hit by Iwagami when the pitcher picked Masanari Kato off third base after catching the blue dart.
Gidora now has allowed only eight hits in nine innings pitched in the TWL with a 1.56 ERA.
Phelan, meanwhile, has fanned 11 in eight innings.
The Thunder hosts the Roadrunners at 11 a.m. on Sunday,
while the Stars try to even their record against the WhiteWings in the second