The Falcons lead the Federal League with a 6-0 record.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
NORTH CANTON -- Minutes before Thursday's Federal League baseball game at North Canton Hoover, one of Austintown Fitch's coaches went up to senior pitcher Alex Oles and said, "You've got a good defense behind you. Don't be afraid to let them hit it."
Not to worry. Oles wasn't necessarily looking to dominate the Vikings. He just wanted to beat them.
"Hoover's a good team," Oles said. "I just went in knowing that we had to get a win."
He did a lot more than that.
Oles pitched his first career no-hitter -- at any level -- on Thursday, striking out nine and walking three as the Falcons stayed unbeaten in the league with a 1-0 victory.
"Everybody did their part," Oles said.
"I did the best I could and the defense got to everything. We didn't hit as well as we liked, but we did enough to win."
Oles, a University of Pittsburgh recruit, improved to 5-0. Earlier in the year, he tossed a one-hitter to beat Massillon Perry. Toward the end of Thursday's game, he knew he had a chance to make history.
"Oh, I definitely knew it," he said, laughing. "I tried not to think about it. I didn't want to jinx myself."
Fitch (11-3, 6-0) broke through for its only run in the fourth when Mike Eliseo led off with a double and was removed for pinch-runner Matt Ruble. Dave Diyorio followed with an RBI single.
Fitch hadn't played since last Thursday, so head coach Wally Ford knew his team might struggle offensively -- especially with Hoover starter Ryan Scheller (2-1) pitching so well. Oles benefited from three double plays as the Falcons' defense helped him stay out of trouble.
"Early on, our defense was kind of a weakness," Fitch coach Wally Ford said. "But over the last four or five games, it's been really solid."
Oles wasn't even a varsity starter last season. He was used primarily as a relief pitcher, but worked extensively over the winter with his pitching coach to improve his velocity and mechanics. He now throws around 87-88 miles per hour.
His ability impressed the Pitt coaches, where he'll join area standouts John Hay (Poland), Chad Baker (Canfield) and Dan Ford (Boardman) next spring.
"He's been having a great year," Ford said.
"There's been a couple nights when he's had his best stuff and tonight was one of them."
Oles didn't think about the no-hitter during the game, he made sure to enjoy it afterward.
"It felt great because that's when I could say I got the no-no," he said. "Everybody did their part, we came together as a team and we got the job done."
Fitch, the top seed in next week's Division I tournament, sits atop the league standings, but Ford knows plenty of tough games remain. Boardman, Canton GlenOak and Uniontown Lake all have a chance to overtake the Falcons.
"It's still a wide-open race," Ford said. "I like where we're at, but there's still a long way to go."