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BASEBALL: Ocker no-hits Palmyra in 2-0 road win

PALMYRA>> A hard groundball scooted past a diving Middletown first baseman Brandon Harper and into the moving mitt of Kyle Finsterbush, who had slid over from his position at second. Finsterbush then bobbled the ball, recollected himself and froze in a throwing motion as Harper and Blue Raiders starter Nathan Ocker rushed to get into a defensive position at first.

But Palmyra's Nick DeCarlo, the parent of the bouncing ball, reached safely for what would soon register as a different play in each team's respective scorebook.

For depending on the pine you rode Friday, DeCarlo's sixth-inning grounder was either a deserved hit or a tough Finsterbush error. But no matter where you took in the incident, there was no debating that the afternoon ultimately belonged to Ocker, who otherwise dominated the Cougars in a complete-game victory.

The senior hurler tossed seven innings of no-hit ball and struck out 11 during a 2-0 Middletown win in Mid-Penn conference play. Originally scheduled to be a Palmyra road test, the game was moved north to the same field where the Cougars (1-4) had won their home opener less than 24 hours earlier over Northern Lebanon. Trevor Gill and Isaac Blatt had combined to one-hit the Vikings Thursday, a feat Ocker repeated Friday, per the Palmyra scorebook.

Regularly working ahead of Cougar hitters with his blistering fastball and devastating curve, the College of Charleston-bound righty was in control from the get-go. And when the Blue Raiders (2-3) managed to plate one run in both the sixth and seventh, he was finally able to grab hold of a win.

"Everything was working today," Ocker said. "We weren't even sure if we were going to play and then we were supposed to play at home. Everything was thrown off to start, but it all turned out pretty well."

Working the last three innings in relief, Palmyra's Mike Arndt was saddled with a loss after taking the ball from Tyler Julian, who exited earlier with upper arm soreness. Julian entered in the third after senior Bobby Dorta, recovering from his own arm troubles, pitched his scheduled two innings at the game's start.

"(Ocker)'s good, there's no question. But I thought our pitchers pitched pretty well, too," Cougars coach Tim Gingrich shared. "We just didn't make anything happen offensively today."

The trio surrendered a collective three hits and two unearned runs, the first scored by Finsterbush, who beat a wide Blatt throw from third to home plate in the sixth. Harper came across in the next frame, after reaching base on a dropped pop-up in shallow right. Both runners were quickly moved over on sacrifice bunts and pass balls.

"Our offense isn't really lighting it up, so what we worked on this week was being aggressive," Middletown coach Steve Shuleski said. "And that meant trying to jump on that first fastball we saw."

Aggression at the dish did not serve Palmyra at all through five innings, as Ocker didn't even break a pitch count of 60. But a later, more patient approach proved just as fruitful, when seven of the final 11 Cougar hitters went down on strikes.

"We couldn't pick it up," Gingrich said of Ocker's curveball. "But I've got a lot of 16-year-olds facing a Division I player. And that's what happens."


W — Nathan Ocker; L — Mike Ardnt

SO-BB — M: Ocker 11-0. P: Bobby Dorta 0-0, Tyler Julian 1-0, Ardnt 0-0.