James Jones didn’t think it would happen, even up to the very last pitch. In fact, the Royal High right-hander didn’t think his bid for a no-hitter had a chance because of the very last pitch.
It was a little too good, a touch too sweet. And, with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning and nothing but zeros across the board, Jones’ pitch had been turned around in a hurry and was headed toward the hole between shortstop and third base.
“When I think about it,” Jones said, “that’s what always sticks out because I thought it was a hit. I had a feeling he was going to get a hit, but everyone on my defense was rallying behind me.”
Specifically, third baseman Richie Naranjo, who ranged a few yards to his left, smothered the grounder and let fly a strong throw that beat the St. Monica runner by a step. Royal won the nonleague game, 5-0, and Jones, a senior who had not pitched since his sophomore season, had his no-hitter.
“It was like a dream,” he said. “When I woke up the next morning, I still didn’t believe it.”
In his most magnificent game Jones had 13 strikeouts, and 10 of those batters watched the third strike go by. Jones didn’t walk a batter but he did hit one, with one out in the fifth inning.
“I let one get away,” he said. “I tried to aim it that time.”
After the fifth inning, Royal Coach Mike McCurdy glanced quizzically at assistant Ted Calvert.
“Has he given up a hit yet?” McCurdy inquired discreetly.
“Shhhh,” Calvert answered. “You’ll jinx him.”
Each inning began the same way for Jones. To warm up, he’d throw two fastballs, two curves and a fastball.
“After I went through the whole lineup I had an idea, but I tried to keep it out of my mind,” Jones said of his no-hit bid. “I had to remember to just keep calm. In the dugout, I heard the whispers.”
Jones mastered the St. Monica lineup more with finesse than power. His fastball tickled the edges of the strike zone like never before.
“The inside fastball was working,” Jones said. “They’d be waiting for curves on two strikes, and I’d throw the high and tight fastball.”
Said McCurdy: “I could tell he was going to have a good game right away. The first thing we look for in our pitchers is, ‘Do they have command of the strike zone?’ And he had excellent command. He worked the inside and outside halves of the plate with pinpoint accuracy.”
And as if Jones the pitcher wasn’t enough, Jones the batter had three hits.
BASEBALL TOP 10 Selected by sportswriters of The Times
Last Rk Wk Team League Record 1 3 Simi Valley Marmonte 10-1 2 4 Notre Dame S.F. Valley 7-0 3 2 Hart Foothill 5-1 4 1 San Fernando North Valley 4-1 5 5 Chatsworth West Valley 6-2 6 6 Kennedy North Valley 6-2 7 NR Hoover Pacific 7-1 8 NR Taft West Valley 62 9 9 Monroe Mid-Valley 3-0 10 10 Newbury Park Marmonte 9-1-3
Through Tuesday’s games.