Mike McCarthy was completely cognizant of what was transpiring around him.
The Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks pitcher was in absolute control of Tuesday night's game against the Peninsula Oilers, throwing a no-hitter through seven dominant innings, the lone baserunner reaching on an error in the third.
With two outs in the eighth, however, McCarthy put it out of his mind.
"As a pitcher you understand where the game's at and ... usually about the fifth inning on, you start to realize what's going on," he said. "And great pitchers have always talked about how it's been difficult to separate themselves from the stats.
"I started to see it in the seventh and then right there in the eighth I felt it."
Two pitches later it was gone.
And he didn't care one bit.
McCarthy eventually finished off his complete-game masterpiece, allowing just the one base hit and striking out 11 as the Panners held on for a fast-paced 1-0 win over the Oilers in the third game of a four-game set at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
"The funny thing is that two pitches before is when I actually got my head back fully focused and then I actually had it out of my head," he said. "I was no longer thinking about the fact that there was a no-hitter going and I was fully back focused."
Jake Johnson ended all of that, breaking up the no-no with a looping single to left that seemed to spark the Oilers (11-15 ABL), who lay dormant until then.
Dearth Parker and Joe Kohan, Peninsula's No. 8 and 9 hitters, respectively, followed Johnson's base hit with consecutive walks, loading the bases for Garry Kuykendall.
But McCarthy wisely aided his own cause, quickly covering first on a grounder to first baseman Andrew Pollak, whose throw to McCarthy just beat the head-first slide of Kuykendall in maintaining the shutout and stranding three runners.
The 6-foot-2 junior from Cal State Bakersfield promptly finished off his gem in the ninth, needing just 10 pitches to close the game with a pair of strikeouts.
"It'd be nice to have that, but it doesn't change the fact that we got a win," McCarthy said of the no-hitter. "I'm very much happy that the team won, especially coming off a tough loss yesterday. We really needed to get back in there and get on the winning column. Hopefully we'll pick up one tomorrow and win the series 3-1."
After the Panners (13-13) on Sunday took the first game of the series, 3-2, on a wild pitch in the ninth inning, the Oilers provided their own theatrics on Monday with a 2-1 victory, the winning run crossing on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth.
McCarthy was the feature presentation on Tuesday, facing little adversity in flying through the Oilers lineup with ease.
Retiring the first eight batters he faced, he didn't allow a baserunner until Parker reached first on an error. It went for naught, though, as McCarthy whiffed Joe Kohan with a blazing fastball for his fifth strikeout in just three innings and then got Kuykendall to fly out in foul territory.
Making it look easy, he effortlessly recorded a perfect fourth, including catching Chris Ellison looking at a filthy curveball, and retired the side in the fifth, Bushyhead and Johnson going down swinging.
McCarthy then required merely five pitches to mow down the Oilers in order on three ground-outs in the sixth, needed just 10 pitches to carry his no-hitter through seven innings and nearly gave up a one-out, infield single in the eighth, but shortstop Justin Schafer charged a slow roller by Bushyhead and made a perfect throw to first to preserve the no-no.
But only for two more pitches.
"Jeremy (Rodriguez) did an amazing job behind the plate," he said of his catcher. "He called an amazing game, the best game I've seen him call before."
Taking this past college season off after transferring from a Division III school to a D-I program, McCarthy said he's still regaining a feel for the game.
"Things like that that you can't see as a fan or as an observer but you can feel as a pitcher," he said. "It's still something that I'm fighting with.
"It's getting there. It still has room to go."
While this start was a self-proclaimed huge improvement, McCarthy's still not satisfied.
"We want to continue to work forward to getting better because I know I can pitch better than that," he said. "I have before."
Peninsula starter and loser Kyle Barraclough, on the other hand, wasn't so bad himself, allowing just three hits and three walks over seven impressive innings while striking out seven.
After walking the first batter of the game, he worked his way out of the first with a pair of strikeouts, but wasn't as lucky in the second.
Brennan Gowans sent Barraclough's second pitch of the inning over left-fielder Michael Miller's head to the wall, easily trotting into second with a leadoff double before taking third on an infield single by Ryan McIntyre.
Following a walk to Rodriguez that loaded the bases with no outs, player-coach Bobby Davis hit into a double play, scoring Gowans for the only run Alaska would need.
He settled down over the ensuing innings, though, sitting down 12 of the next 13 Panners he faced, including back-to-back strikeouts to begin the top of the fifth.
"He did a good job," Peninsula manager Jeff Walker said. "He had some trouble, bases loaded, no outs and limited them to one run which is what you want to do in that situation."
With one out in the sixth, Evan Simonitsch appeared to single to right field for Alaska's third hit of the game. But for the second time on the night, right-fielder Ellison, playing shallow in a generously proportioned park, recorded a put-out, this time gunning down Simonitsch before he could reach first.
Simonitsch was then ejected after arguing in short center field with the field umpire during the middle of the sixth inning, and ill-advised move for an already shorthanded team.
And for the second time in three games, the Panners had to resort to filling the field with pitchers.
It made no difference, however, as McCarthy single-handedly owned the Oilers.
"He's the best pitcher we've seen all summer," Walker said. "He threw four pitches for strikes and was never really behind in the count the whole game. He kind of had a little bit of a lapse there in the eighth and that was pretty much our only shot to score any type of runs.
"He was in command the whole game, throwing strikes, letting his defense play."
David Brown, an Anchorage Glacier Pilots pitcher in 2008 who recently signed with the Oilers, arriving in town on Monday, made his debut in the eighth and allowed just one hit over two innings of shutout relief.
"(Barraclough) did his job and then David Brown came in and did his job," Walker said. "We just couldn't do anything offensively.
"It's kind of hard to win when you don't score any runs, you hit maybe two balls hard the whole game, strike out 11 times and only walk twice," he added. "It's kind of tough to win a game like that."
Goldpanners 1, Oilers 0
Panners AB R H BI Oilers AB R H BI
Trrz 2b 3 0 0 0 Kykndl cf 4 0 0 0
Sntsh cf 4 0 0 0 Mllr lf 4 0 0 0
Pllk 1b 4 0 1 0 Ellsn rf 4 0 0 0
Schfr ss 4 0 1 0 Kskw 1b 4 0 0 0
Gwns rf 3 1 1 0 Mllns dh 3 0 0 0
McItre lf 3 0 1 0 Bsyhd 2b 3 0 0 0
Rdrgz c 2 0 0 0 Jhnsn c 3 0 1 0
Davis dh 3 0 1 0 Prker ss 2 0 0 0
Mdina 3b 3 0 0 0 Kohan 3b 2 0 0 0
Totals 29 1 4 0 Totals 29 0 1 0
Alaska 010 000 000 --1
Peninsula 000 000 000 --0
E -- Schafer. DP -- Oilers 1. LOB -- Panners 2, Oilers 4. 2B -- Gowans. SB -- Simonitsch. CS -- Gowans.
IP H R ER BB SO
McCarthy, W 9 1 0 0 2 11
Barraclough, L 7 3 1 1 3 7
Brown 2 1 0 0 0 1
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