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Warthogs pitch no-hitter and lose

Zaleski watches helplessly as two-run lead evaporates
April 30, 2008
Matt Zaleski pitched five hitless innings for the Winston-Salem Warthogs in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader. Then he watched his team complete the no-hitter -- and lose.

The Potomac Nationals became the first Carolina League team in 30 years to win a game in which it was no-hit, rallying for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and a 3-2 victory over the Warthogs.

Potomac (16-7) took advantage of an error, four walks and a passed ball during the big inning to complete the doubleheader sweep. Lynchburg was the last Carolina League team to get no-hit and win, beating Henry Mack and Peninsula, 3-2, on July 1, 1978.

"The guy out there wasn't throwing strikes," Nationals manager Randy Knorr said. "My players noticed that and they were going to wait them out. You don't see this too often. They had patience and it worked out for them. It was a little amazing if you ask me."

Amazingly, it was the second time in Knorr's three-year career that he managed a team to victory despite getting no-hit. On May 19, 2005, he watched his Savannah Sand Gnats parlay five walks, two hit batters and two wild pitches into a 4-3 victory over the Greenville Bombers in the second game of a South Atlantic League twinbill.

"Maybe I have lucky charm on me somewhere," Knorr said.

Making his 11th career start and second this season, Zaleski was perfect until walking two batters in the fifth.

"It was pretty interesting," the 26-year-old right-hander said. "I kept looking up at the scoreboard and saw I had a perfect game in the fifth. You try not to think about it. I just tried to execute pitches."

Zaleski, who had not gone more than 2 1/3 innings this year, got out of the jam and threw a season-high 69 pitches. He went into the clubhouse for treatment with a 2-0 lead and thought he could relax, but the drama was just beginning for Winston-Salem (9-12).

"I am shocked," he said. "I went in and did my shoulder program. I walked back out. I saw we had bases loaded and I saw the rest of the inning unfold. It was unbelievable to see it."

Brian Peacock started the Nationals' sixth by reaching on third baseman C. J. Retherford's error. Matthew Long (1-2) walked the next two batters and was replaced by Kanekoa Texeira.

"I was telling them to be smart up there," Knorr said. "Young kids want to get a hit and be the hero. For them to show the patience and to understand what was going on, you have to recognize that."

With one out, Peacock raced home on Billy Killian's passed ball. Leonard Davis was intentionally walked to set up the double play, but Edgardo Baez was walked to force in the tying run. Jemel Spearman raced home as Dee Brown beat the relay on a potential double-play grounder.

"[Texeira] actually kept the ball down to get a ground ball, but he kept missing down," Knorr said. "If Dee doesn't hustle right there, it's a tie ballgame."

Yunior Novoa (1-0) gave up a hit in a scoreless inning for the win and Zechry Zinicola struck out two in a perfect seventh for his second save, ending the anticlimactic no-hitter.

"I think it's kind of a testament to the kind of players we have. You're getting no-hit and a few mistakes here and there and you get a few runs," said Potomac's Cory VanAllen, who allowed one hit over seven innings in the opener.

Rehabbing Washington outfielder Elijah Dukes ended the first game with an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.

VanAllen was the story early Tuesday as he yielded only a fourth-inning double to Lee Cruz and retired his last 10 batters he faced.

The 2006 fifth-round draft pick went 4-10 for Class A Hagerstown and Potomac last season. After adding a slider to his repertoire, the 23-year-old southpaw is 3-0 and ranks second in the Carolina League with a 0.66 ERA.

"Van Allen did a nice job," Knorr said. "He was feeling his way around last year, he's really learning how to pitch now. I like his focus. He's working on a slider. You have to give a pitcher time to develop a new pitch, and it's really working now."

"I think one thing that I learned really from last year was trying not to be too fine, not trying to make the perfect pitch, trusting my ability and the rest will take care of itself," Van Allen said.

Adam Carr (2-2) nailed down the win in the opener after giving up a hit and striking out two in the eighth.

Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca went 0-for-3 in the first game of his rehab assignment.

Warthogs starter Michael Dubee (2-1) gave up a run on six hits and one walk with six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.

Eric Justic is a contributor to