INDIANA COUNTY LEAGUE: Martin fires no-hitter as Bovard takes 2-0 series lead
BLAIRSVILLE — For Joel Martin, contributing to a win has always taken precedence over attaining personal accolades.
That unselfishness, along with many other qualities, have made the talented left-hander one of Bovard’s most valuable assets in its near four-year reign over the Indiana County League.
Martin continued his dominant ways and fired his third no-hitter in two years in a 3-0 win over Blairsville that put the Bison ahead 2-0 in the best-of-seven championship series Tuesday at One River Field.
Top-seeded Bovard (26-2) plays host to second-seeded Blairsville (17-12-1) in Game 3 this evening.
The three-time defending champion swept the Colts in last year’s championship series. In the first two games of this series, Bovard has outscored the Colts 7-0 and outhit them 16-3.
Martin, a Marion Center High School graduate who was a 30th-round pick by the Cleveland Indians in the 2005 major league baseball draft, has starred on the mound for Creekside, Indiana’s Amfire Mining and Bovard during his fruitful tenure in the ICL.
He threw a no-hitter in the semifinal round of the playoffs during his last season with Amfire Mining in 2011.
“I don’t keep track,” Martin said when asked how many no-hitters he’s tossed in his ICL career. “I just go out there and throw.”
Martin threw 137 pitches, struck out 12 and walked six, three of which came in the bottom of the third inning. Martin said his ability to get ahead in counts enabled him to shut down a typically venomous Colts lineup.
“As a pitcher you always want to try to get ahead of hitters,” Martin said. “First-pitch strikes are obviously always important, and the Colts are a really good team, so that brought out the best competitor in me.”
Matt Moyer put Bovard on the board first when he smacked an RBI single to right field to score Sam Mattei from second in the top of the fourth.
In the top of the seventh and with the Bison still leading 1-0, Steve Anderson gave Martin some breathing room by ripping an RBI single to left field that scored Zak Zimmerman. Left fielder Romulus Marino misplayed Anderson’s base hit, which also allowed Anthony Marazza to score on the play, making it 3-0.
“It’s a close game when it’s 1-0, and any mistakes are going to be costly,” Bovard player-manager Mike Johnson said. “Like I said, (Steve) Janik pitched a great game and kept our guys off balance. We were fortunate to get those extra insurance runs.”
The Colts threatened to score for the first time in the series when Ben Doak drew the third walk of the bottom of the third to load the bases with two outs. But on the next at-bat, Blairsville player-manager Joe Culler replaced starting designated hitter Scott Thompson with Cory Manarelli, who struck out on four pitches to halt the rally.
Martin struck out five and allowed just one base runner over the next three innings.
Then, after walking David Doak and pinch-hitter Culler in the top of the seventh, Martin fanned Nick Draghi on three pitches to end the game. Martin struck out Draghi swinging three times.
“We’ve seen Joel a couple times and he hasn’t changed much,” Culler said. “He throws strikes and works his way out of jams, but hats off to Bovard again. It was the same story again tonight: leaving guys on base. That was about typical for Joel Martin, and we expected that, but hats off. We weren’t able to capitalize in the right situations.”
Janik struck out three, walked none, scattered 10 hits and allowed two earned runs in a complete-game losing effort.
Johnson, a standout pitcher at IUP in the early 1990s, talked about the significance of having aces like Game 1 winner Tim Buzzard and Martin to combat Blairsville’s stellar pitching staff.
“Pitching’s the name of the game in this league, I’ll tell you what,” Johnson said. “Their pitcher pitched a fantastic game on his own. We just got a couple breaks in the hits, a couple breaks in the fielding, and Joel pitched a magnificent game.
“It was pretty similar to last night. (Buzzard) threw a three-hitter last night, and we got a no-hitter tonight. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a no-hitter, so it was fun.”
Bovard, which entered the ICL in 2000, has won 12 consecutive championship series games. In six championship series games over the last two years, Bovard has outscored Blairsville 35-7.
Mattei went 2-for-4 with a double, and Doug Gallick and Marazza each singled twice.