Tyler Thorn was in complete control Friday night in Kalispell.
The veteran left-handed pitcher picked apart the opposition from Priest River, tossing a complete-game no-hitter as the Cranbrook Bandits cruised to an 11-0 victory in American Legion Baseball action.
“To be perfectly honest, I had no clue until we had one out in the last inning,” Thorn said. “Then I looked at the scoreboard and thought, ‘Oh, they don’t have a hit yet. That’s kind of cool.’
“I was just focused on keeping the shutout the entire game and making my teammates jobs easy. I owe a lot to my teammates as well. It’s not like I struck out all 15 guys I faced. There were several great plays that were made to keep the no-hitter alive, so I’m very grateful for that.”
The Cranbrook native worked his way through five efficient innings, striking out five batters, only needing 75 pitches to finish off the opposition.
“He got ahead early in the count and then was able to change [pitch] speeds,” said Bandits head coach Paul Mrazek of Thorn, his ace pitcher. “At times, he had hitters way off balance. The defense behind him made all the plays and we kept generating runs.
“Next thing you know there’s only a few outs [left], we’re going into the fourth [inning] and you can see there’s no hits. Now it’s the fifth and people aren’t talking to him about it. Just letting him do his thing. Nobody wanted to jinx anything.
“To go and pitch five innings with a no-hitter at this level is impressive.”
The only blemishes on Thorn’s resume came courtesy two walks, the first a four-pitch free pass issued in the first inning and another walk early in the third inning.
The no-hitter is a pretty rare accomplishment for any pitcher at any level.
According to Major League Baseball, there has only been 289 officially recognized no-hitters since 1876 at the highest level of professional baseball.
For the best of the best in the sport, there are only an average of two no-hitters thrown per 4,860-game MLB season.
So for Thorn (3-3) to achieve such a feat while playing American Legion Baseball, it’s pretty special.
While Thorn took care of business from the mound, his teammates took care of the offensive side of the ball.
A six-run first inning gave the Bandits a big cushion and by the end of the second inning, the lead was an insurmountable 9-0.
Outfielder Jake Bromley was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate, knocking in two runs and scoring twice himself.
Thorn’s no-hitter was the highlight of the weekend for the Bandits, who dropped the other three contests they engaged in south of the border in Kalispell.
Prior to Thorn’s no-no, the Bandits surrendered a 13-11 decision to the Kalispell Lakers, before losing to Medicine Hat 13-9 on Saturday and the Okotoks Dawgs by a 10-5 to wrap the weekend on Sunday.
With this past weekend’s results in the books, the Bandits sit 15-21-1 heading into the Montana State ‘B’ championship this coming weekend (July 16 to 19).
Against the Lakers, rookie Shayne Walker (6-5) started the game on the mound, giving up four earned runs in one inning of work. He was tagged with the loss.
The Bandits jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the top of the first inning before surrendering seven consecutive runs to the Lakers.
Trailing 13-4 heading into the fifth inning, the Bandits slapped home seven consecutive runs of their own to get within striking distance, but that’s as close as they managed to get as Spencer Pisk was credited with victory.
Brendan Bird helped pace the Bandits’ offense against Kalispell, going 3-for-4, driving in two runs and scoring twice himself.
In Saturday’s 13-9 loss against Medicine Hat, the Bandits cruised to a 7-0 lead after two innings before losing focus and ultimately losing the game in extra innings.
“It’s not the first time we’ve had a big lead and lost it,” Mrazek said.
“We just have to keep that mental focus and play every inning, every out until it’s over…We can’t go out on defense and relax, thinking we have a seven-run lead. Next thing you know, you go to sleep, you have a nap, everything’s good. Then you wake up and now it’s turned into a nightmare.”
Connor Armstrong (2-2) started the game on the bump for the Bandits, lasting 4.1 innings and only giving up one earned run.
Walker was eventually shackled with the loss as he gave up two earned runs in 0.1 innings of work.
Offensively, Caden McCormack went 2-for-4 at the dish, knocking in two runs and scoring once. He also drew one walk. Bromley also contributed a pair of RBIs as did Devon Marra.
For Medicine Hat, it was Matt Rath claiming victory. He came on in relief of starter Austin Ward and worked through 6.2 innings, striking out three batters, walking two and surrendering no earned runs.
In the final game of the weekend, the Bandits fell behind early as the Dawgs jumped ahead 6-0 after two innings.
“We battled back,” Mrazek said. “The kids have seen that they can battle back when they’re behind.”
A three-run effort by the Bandits in the top of the third made the contest close for a brief while but the Dawgs responded with four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a commanding 10-3 lead.
Devon Marra (3-4) was saddled with the loss after starting the game on the mound. He lasted two innings, only giving up one earned run while striking out two batters.
Brandon Ouillette and Marra both went 2-for-4 at the plate, each driving in a run and scoring once.
Next up, the Bandits head to Hamilton, Mont., for the state ‘B’ championship, beginning Thursday, July 16.