Christian Sadler pitched the game of his life for the UH-Hilo baseball team, coming close to his first no-hitter and striking out as far as receiving recognition from the PacWest.
Sadler, a senior right-hander, pitched eight innings of one-run ball and finished with a one-hitter with two walks and five strikeouts in a 2-1 win over Hawaii Pacific on Saturday at the school’s campus stadium.
But he didn’t get the PacWest pitcher of the week award, which covers the three pods. His teammate, reliever Brandyn Lee-Lehano, did for his two appearances against the Sharks.
On Sunday in a 6-3 loss, Lee-Lehano pitched two innings of shutout ball. He allowed two hits and struck out two. On Saturday, he pitched three innings of scoreless relief to earn a save in a 6-3 win. He gave up one hit, walked none, and whiffed six.
Sadler’s eight innings of one-run ball (no-hitter though seven innings) should easily trump Lee-Lehano’s five shutout innings of relief, right?
Not according to the PacWest PR person Jared Pine, who does the voting.
Unfortunately, it’s not the Oscars where Faye Dunaway announces the wrong winner, and a correction is made mid-speech, and the correct winner is honored.
Still, highway robbery or not, nothing can diminish Sadler’s work against the Sharks. He used 109 pitches, got 13 flyouts and six groundouts.
Sadler lost his no-hitter in the eighth when Joe Gallagher hit a solo homer on a 3-2 fastball.
“He was awesome. I couldn’t ask for any more,” coach Kallen Miyataki said. “He’s an experienced guy, and he changed speeds on them. We were talking a lot about his fastball, changing speeds, elevating the ball, up and down, and throwing his breaking pitch. And it worked. He commanded the game and pitched to contact.
“The thing on Gallagher is not to throw him anything middle of the plate, and we’ve been successful keeping it away. He made a mistake, came inside and Gallagher hit the ball.”
Sadler, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound pitcher from Hercules, Calif., is 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA in 15 innings. He’s allowed only five hits and three walks and struck out 13. He’s got the best ERA on the staff and is tied with Lee-Lehano for most wins.
“My fastball location was working and my curveball as well,” Sadler said. “Those were the two main things working for me. I focused on getting in on the hands, getting weak contact, and it worked out.”
In high school, he threw a pair of no-hitters, but hasn’t come close to a no-hitter at UHH or his previous stop, Contra Costa College.
His teammates followed proper no-hitter protocol and stayed away from him on the bench. Sadler actually thought he’d given up a hit earlier in the game.
“I thought they gave the guy a hit in the second inning, so the whole time I thought I was throwing a one-hitter,” Sadler said. “I felt kind of bummed out. I almost threw a no-hitter. But I guess they gave him an error.
“I threw him a BP (batting practice) fastball, so I took something off that fastball. That pitch was working for me all game. That was the pop-up pitch, so I was expecting a pop-up. But he geared up and took it out. Once he took me out, I was disappointed, but I didn’t want to give up any more runs after that and just focused.”
Sadler didn’t get the PacWest pitcher of the week honor, but at least he got a consolation prize. He snagged the game ball, not the one that went over the fence but the one he finished his one-hitter with.
“I got a hold of that one,” he said. “That’s special.”
Senior middle blocker Ashton Jessee produced the best match of her career to earn the PacWest Hawaii player of the week honor.
Jessee had her best match against Chaminade with 14 kills, no errors, 10 digs, and three blocks. She had a .611 hitting clip in the first two matches and finished with nine blocks. She ended the week with 35 kills, 19 blocks, and 17 digs as the Vulcans went 4-0 against Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific.
“That might be the best all-around match that I have seen Ashton play in all of her time here,” said coach Chris Leonard after the match. “She was outstanding. It’s not often you see a middle reach double figures in digs, but she has worked really hard to get into top shape after missing most of 2019 with an injury.”
The Vulcans will host their own tournament this coming weekend against Hawaii Pacific and Chaminade again, with Alaska Anchorage in the mix. The tournament will run Friday through Sunday and will be streamed live at hiloathletics.com.