The mound where Ashwin Chona’s attempt at joining a select few changed on Thursday.
Forty-five minutes before Chona and his Sage Hill School baseball team planned to leave campus to play at Brethren Christian, the site of the game moved. Sage Hill was staying put and playing host to the Academy League.
The reason for the switch of venues was due to Brethren Christian’s field. Sage Hill Coach Dominic Campeau said it was unplayable because he learned the infield was flooded.
The way Chona has been pitching, he has been unhittable. Hitters have been swinging the bat against Chona as if they were in two feet of water.
The sophomore left-hander entered Thursday having thrown three straight no-hitters. One more and Chona would become the fourth pitcher in the state’s history to toss four consecutive no-hitters.
But Brethren Christian said, “No, no” to Chona.
Two days after Brett Super no-hit the Warriors on the same field, Chona’s no-hitter bid ended with two outs in the bottom of the first inning.
Eric Alexander hit a grounder to the left of the third baseman, forcing the shortstop to field it, and Alexander beat the throw to first for an infield single.
The hit marked the first off Chona since March 8, when he gave up a hit in the fourth inning at Temecula Rancho Christian. Chona would give up another hit in the fourth to Alexander, and that’s all.
Chona threw his fourth shutout, striking out 10 in Sage Hill’s 10-0 win in five innings. Other than one batter, the Warriors couldn’t touch Chona, who struck out nine swinging.
“He was disappointed,” Sage Hill Coach Dominic Campeau said of Chona, who didn’t walk a batter. “You can’t start a game thinking that if you don’t throw a no-hitter it’s a failure.
“He pitched really well. He had good stuff today. His fastball was explosive, especially at the end, the last couple of innings.”
Chona, who improved to 5-0 and lowered his earned-run average to 0.54, had quality stuff to keep going for the defending league champion Lightning (16-1-2, 6-0 in league). The game was called after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.
Chona also played an offensive role to stopping the game early.
While he wasn’t perfect on the hill, Chona hit 1.000. The No. 9 hitter went three for three with a run batted in and he scored twice. The three-hit game is Chona’s first of his career. He didn’t bat as a freshman.
After losing the no-hitter streak, Chona got a hit off starter Kieron Reynolds in the top of the second inning. He and Drake Mossman came around to score on Jack Pelc’s triple over the right fielder’s head.
Chona turned it on after giving up his first hit. Chona struck out the next seven batters he saw.
The Sage Hill outfield played shallow for the most part, not wanting to give up a cheap hit. When Alexander singled to right field in the fourth, Edward Pelc almost threw him out at first base.
“We just didn’t want to get no-hit again because we’ve gotten no-hit here a lot in the past,” said Alexander, adding that he was a little disappointed about not being able to play the game at home. “But there’s a perk of [not playing at home]. You don’t have to clean up the field when you’re done, and this is a great field.”
When Chona heard he would be pitching at Sage Hill, he said he was excited about trying to record a fourth no-hitter in a row in front of the home fans.
Two of his no-hitters came at home, a seven-inning outing during a 9-0 win against Cerritos Whitney in league play on March 20, and seven days later, in a five-inning outing during a 10-0 win against Menifee Santa Rosa Academy in the Anaheim Lions Tournament. His previous no-hitter was on the road last Thursday, as Sage Hill beat Downey Calvary Chapel, 16-0, in a five-inning affair in league.
The number of strikeouts during the no-hit span matched Chona’s No. 34 jersey number.
“I had a chip on my shoulder, just out there to prove something,” said Chona, who walked five in his three no-hitter performances, all caught by sophomore Conner Hatz.
For a young pitcher, Chona has produced a lot. The 5-foot-9, 155-pounder has the CIF Southern Section record for consecutive no-hitters, and he’s 17-0 during his short time with the Lightning.
Campeau said Chona had pitched 19 straight hitless innings in his previous four starts.
Only three Brethren Christian batters reached base on Chona, the other was George Miller on an infield error to lead off the fourth inning. Chona wound up getting Miller out, picking him off at first base.
Before Chona makes his next start, he will try to help Super go after a second straight no-hitter. Super is getting the start in a nonleague game at home with Newport Harbor on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a fun game, a lot of friends on that team,” Chona said of Newport Harbor, which competes in the robust Sunset League and is a CIF Southern Section Division 2 program, one division above the Lightning. “Let’s show those batters that we’re for real.”
Sage Hill 10, Brethren Christian 0
Sage Hill 020 26 – 10 11 1
Brethren 000 00 – 0 2 3
Chona and Hatz; Reynolds, Alexander (5) and Hughes. W – Chona. L – Reynolds. 3B – J. Pelc (SH).