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No-Hitter Gives Suppan Something to Chew On

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The traditional pinch of tobacco tucked between the lower lip and gum of a ballplayer doesn’t appeal to Jeff Suppan. Besides, using it might get Suppan, a 15-year-old freshman, grounded.

Yet Suppan doesn’t eschew chewing altogether. While pitching for Crespi High, he has been known to gnaw on as many as 15 pieces of gum at a time, even blowing bubbles in the middle of his windup.

Last Saturday against Torrance, in the consolation final of the Redondo-Palos Verdes tournament, Suppan tried a different approach. Instead of adding to the wad, Suppan popped a fresh piece of cherry gum in his mouth between innings.

Then, he blew through the Torrance lineup, recording a 3-0 no-hitter on just 89 pitches.

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It was the first no-hitter in Coach Scott Muckey’s four-year tenure at Crespi. Which is appropriate since Suppan, a right-hander, is the first freshman pitcher to make the Celts’ varsity roster in the Muckey era.

Suppan (3-2) secured his place on the team April 6 when he threw a one-hitter to beat Lynwood, 4-0. He has a 2.58 earned-run average and has struck out 32 batters in 35 1/3 innings.

Both the Torrance and Lynwood games took place at Pierce College. Suppan lives in nearby West Hills.

“I feel comfortable there,” he said. “It’s my area. I like Pierce because I can wake up later.”

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In case he needed one, Suppan provided his own wake-up call in the fourth inning Saturday. He walked a batter--one of two walks that afternoon--and had a flashback of a bad outing at Blair Field in Long Beach earlier in the season.

“I started thinking about Blair,” he admitted. “I said, ‘You’ve gotta come out and pitch your game, now .’ ”

He did. Although he struck out just four batters, Suppan displayed superb control.

“He just hits his locations really well,” catcher Kevin Walsh said. “When he gets his breaking ball going for strikes, everything falls into place.”

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Suppan was merely the leading man in an ensemble against Torrance. Teammates assisted with a few acrobatic plays on defense--second baseman Brodie VanWagenen fielded a hard chopper between first and second in the second and center fielder Rick Marino made a diving catch to record the first out in the seventh.

“Torrance hit three or four balls pretty hard,” Muckey said. “Lots of bouncing balls. We had to make three or four tricky plays to preserve that thing.”

Suppan was disarmingly nonchalant in victory.

“He keeps his emotions pretty well in check,” Muckey said. “The game was over and he just kind of walked off the mound. He might have been a little scared to (celebrate) because he’s a freshman playing with juniors and seniors.”

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Nonetheless, the Bubble Gum Kid produced a pair of perfect bubbles that didn’t burst: 0 hits and 0 runs.


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