Sports

Sparling pitches no hitter in La Habra victory over Troy

By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

LHHS_SHS_Baseball__SperlingCWith the season series tied, Sean Sparling threw a no-hitter against Troy on the road in a 7-0 win as La Habra pushed itself into a second-place tie with Fullerton in the Freeway League.

The senior right-hander allowed a walk and hit two batters, but did not allow a runner past first base as he struck out seven to earn his third win of the season. A fourth batter reached on a fielder’s choice.

After allowing two to reach first base in the second inning, Sparling retired the next 13 batters before hitting Turner Acosta to lead off the seventh inning.

“I think the key for Sean today was his secondary pitches and his ability to throw them for strikes,” said John Sothern, La Habra head coach. “The few times he shook off my sign, he went with the pitch I was going to call next anyway, it was a great performance.”

The Highlanders spotted Sparling a run in the top of the first inning after Austin Saad drove in Zach Ferreira with two outs.

Troy starting pitcher Joe Richardson got help from his defense in the second with an inning-ending double play and cruised through the following two innings.

But the sophomore right-hander struggled with his command in the fifth inning, allowing a lead-off single. Ferreira was intentionally walked after Richardson fell behind in the count.

After a sacrifice bunt, Brett Mays was issued an intentional walk to get to Saad for the second consecutive game.

Again, Saad made Troy pay with a RBI-single to left field. Garrett Molnar followed with a RBI-single and Andrew Gallegos drove home a third run on a groundout as La Habra stretched the lead to 4-0.

“He’s got the perfect attitude for that situation, it genuinely makes him mad when pitchers intentionally walk to get to him,” Sothern said. “I wish more of our guys had that approach at the plate.”

The Highlanders tacked on some insurance runs in the seventh as Troy’s bullpen struggled to throw strikes, walking the first four Highlanders in the inning. Three more runs crossed despite no hits by the Highlanders.

But the day belonged to Sparling, who struck out two of three in the bottom of the seventh and perhaps breathed a sigh of relief after Gallegos almost misplayed the final out in right field.

Sparling only seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, making Luke Fuller swing well ahead of a nasty changeup for the first out of the seventh inning in what was perhaps his best pitch of the afternoon.

The celebration was rather mild as the team gave him a simple round of applause in the team meeting afterward.

Saad and Gallegos both went 2-for-3, driving in two runs each. La Habra drew 10 walks on the afternoon.

Troy left two runners aboard, one each in the first and seventh innings. In the second inning, one runner was retired at second base on a fielder’s choice by Sparling during a sacrifice bunt attempt.

Sparling ended the inning by picking off the runner at first base.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.