Getting the first win of the season is inevitable, but for some teams and players, the game can be more than just a win. Whether it is a debut, the first time back on the field in a while after an injury, or just a special way to begin a
Getting the first win of the season is inevitable, but for some teams and players, the game can be more than just a win. Whether it is a debut, the first time back on the field in a while after an injury, or just a special way to begin a season on the right foot. For the 2023 Clearwater Threshers, the first win of the season was not just a celebration because of the victory, but because it came in rare form. On April Eighth, the Threshers earned their first win of the season with their fourth nine-inning no-hitter (fifth overall) since 2005, beginning the season with one of the rarest feats in baseball, holding the Marauders hitless in Bradenton for a 3-0 win in the second game of the season.
The season opener for the Threshers was a hard-fought game. They fell behind 3-0 in the fourth inning and worked their way back to within one run in the late innings. Cade Fergus doubled in a run and later scored on an error to put the Threshers within one. Clearwater put both the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the ninth but were unable to overtake the home team for a comeback win on Opening Day. “There are so many games in the season, it’s really easy to see a first-game loss,” said lefty reliever Andrew Walling. “The guys did a great job of sticking to the process and playing their best ball, and I think that’s a big reason that game two turned out the way it did.” There is certainly nothing bad about a one-run, tightly contested loss after not playing a minor league game in over 200 days, but the Threshers players all play to win every day. The team came out of the season opener confident that they could bounce back quickly, and they did so even better than they could have imagined.
Game two started as well as it possibly could, thanks to starter Samuel Aldegheri coming out perfectly in his first start of the season. Perfection was no hyperbole, as Aldegheri retired all 12 batters he faced in the first 4.0 innings with seven strikeouts. “I wanted to pitch more but I don’t make the rules” he said, jokingly. “I did my job out there and I’m just glad I put the team in position to win.” He exited the game with a lead on top of a perfect start, as Freylin Minyety gave the Threshers a 1-0 lead in the third after he scored on a throwing error.
The Marauders got their first baserunner on a leadoff walk in the fifth and drew four walks in the game. With each Thresher striking out at least one-third of the hitters they faced and the few scattered walks, the potential of the no-hitter was lost on almost everyone involved. Obviously, the catcher, Caleb Ricketts, knew that the team hadn’t allowed a hit but none of the pitchers knew when they were entering the game. “The way the bullpen is set up [at LECOM Park] you can’t see the scoreboard” said Wesley Moore, who earned the save and recorded the final out of the no-hitter. “After Aldegheri had his seven Ks we were just counting up the Ks after that.” There were plenty of strikeouts to count, as the Threshers staff combined for 16 strikeouts, the highest mark for the staff through the first two series.
No one can complete a no-hitter without help from the defense, and the Threshers got that in spades. Ricketts and the entire staff lauded the infield, particularly Bryan Rincon, for making difficult defensive plays without an error throughout the game. Perhaps the best defensive play of the game, however, came late in the seventh inning. Walling struck out the first two batters of the frame, but walked Marauders catcher Wyatt Hendrie with two outs. On a 1-1 pitch, Bradenton’s centerfielder Tres Gonzalez hit a high fly ball near the foul line in the left field corner, and the hearts of Threshers fans (and broadcasters) stopped for a second. “He threw the barrel at it, got enough on it and I saw it tailing towards the line. You almost have that little bit of heart drop like ‘oh no...’” said Walling of the at-bat. It was up to Emaarion Boyd, the speedy 11th-round pick of the Phillies in last year’s draft to step up and make the play. “As soon as I saw Boyd out of the corner of my eye I didn’t even look anymore,” said Walling. “As soon as I first saw him take that route, I started walking off the field once I heard everyone clapping, I knew he made the play.” The applause came from fans of both teams, as Boyd made an impressive sliding catch to corral the baseball and preserve the no-hitter. With Hendrie off-and-running on contact, there’s a chance he didn’t just save the no-hitter, but perhaps a run as well.
Clearwater’s bats carried the momentum into the eighth inning, responding to the defensive brilliance with two insurance runs on a throwing error the Marauders and Gabriel Rincones Jr.’s first career RBI that made it 3-0. Late in the game, the Threshers hurlers weren’t even aware that they had a no-hitter going. “[Aldegheri] told me in the dugout, he kind of motioned towards the scoreboard” said Walling after he left the game. “He didn’t say anything about it and I couldn’t figure out why he was so excited other than the fact that I knew he had a great outing. Then I looked up and said ‘oh, ok, let’s keep this going.’” They did just that, with Orion Kerkering striking out the side in the eighth to set up Wesley Moore for the Thresher’s first save opportunity of the season with Bradenton still hitless heading into the final frame.
Like the other four pitchers who preceded him, Moore didn’t know that he was closing out a no-hitter when he came in. “I didn’t know until guys were running up to me [after the game], so I wasn’t even thinking about it” said Moore of the beginning of his outing. “I was just thinking about getting ahead of the first hitter. Once I did I was just thinking about putting him away and going for the strikeout.” He retired the first two hitters before allowing a walk with two outs. But with a runner in scoring position for the Marauders, Moore got Javier Rivas to swing at strike three and secure the first win of the season, and the no-hitter.
For a group of five pitchers and a catcher, none of whom had been a part of a no-hitter in their entire baseball careers before April Eighth, they were quite non-chalant about achieving one of the rarest feats in baseball. Between most of the pitchers being unaware of the no-hitter until it was secured and it being the second game of the season, the whole squad really treated it like another game. But for Eduar Segovia, it felt extra special. The 22-year-old right-hander was pitching in his first competitive game since 2021 after missing 2022 due to injury. He struck out two in 2.0 innings to earn the win in his first game in almost two years. “It feels really good,” said Segovia of earning the victory. “I lost a year and eight months where I wasn’t able to play, and to come back with these guys and earn the win in a no-hitter, I just felt so happy.” The game sparked a four-game win streak, and helped the Threshers finish their first six-game series of the season in a tie for the West Division lead and the overall best record in the Florida state league.
Clearwater’s entire team reveled in the win, with celebrations lasting well into Bradenton’s post-game fireworks display. But one thing that was on the minds of everyone involved was that this was just a great start to a long season. “It was one game” stated Kerkering of his mindset during the no-hitter. "If we lose, then we lose and we learn from our mistakes...just keep going hard every day and learn from it.” Though it is important to celebrate milestone victories such as this, the Threshers are united in the fact that there must be many more victories to come, no-hitters or not. It was a special start to the season for the Threshers, and now this team is set to continue showing how special they are.