Under normal circumstances, Catholic High pitcher Brian Fairbanks would have conceded his bid for a no-hitter was over.
Denham Springs’ Cam Abate sent a two-hopper up the middle with designs on center field before Catholic shortstop Josh Smith intervened to keep Fairbanks’ achievement intact.
Smith, an LSU signee, ranged from his position to behind the second base bag, gloved the ball and nabbed Abate at first to finish Fairbanks’ no-hit effort and cap Catholic’s 11-1 run-rule victory in five innings Tuesday over Denham Springs.
“I thought it was going to be a single the whole time,” said Fairbanks, who threw 39 of 68 pitches for strikes and fanned three. “Only he can make that play. It was amazing.”
Catholic’s 11th consecutive victory was equal parts pitching — Fairbanks only faced one over the minimum — and offense with 11 hits and defense with Smith, second baseman Will Ethridge and right fielder Daniel Guilbeau turning in gems.
“I really like the way our guys are swinging the bats right now,” Catholic coach Brad Bass. “They’re playing hard, playing fast and they’re playing tough.”
With both teams starting district play Thursday, Catholic (17-4) — which travels to East Ascension — is riding plenty of momentum after Fairbanks threw his second career no-hitter and four players registered multiple hits with six driving in runs.
Fairbanks (5-1) walked Abate to lead off the third, but he was caught stealing third to end the inning.
The lone run for Denham Springs (13-6) came in the fourth when Tristian Spedale drew a leadoff walk, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Brock Batty’s groundout.
Run support came in droves with Catholic scoring four times in the first, twice in the third and five more times in the fourth.
Fairbanks’ twin brother — first baseman Brandon — led a hit parade of four players who went 2-for-3 and drove in a pair of runs on doubles in the first and fourth.
Smith (2-3), designated hitter Tristen Welch (2-3, RBI) and Ethridge (2-3, two RBIs) were all part of Catholic’s offensive surge against Grant Schiltz (1-3), who allowed seven runs and nine hits in three-plus innings.
Brian Fairbanks delivered a key hit during Catholic’s five-run fourth with a bases-clearing double to the right-center gap, the sixth straight batter to reach base in the inning.
“You want to come out to compete — win, lose or draw,” said Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll, whose team opens district at Live Oak on a four-game losing streak. “They’ve got to come out and play hard and compete, and I don’t think we did that.”