When is the pitcher of a no-hitter not the player of the game for the contest in which they pulled off the feat? Perhaps when they throw a no-no but still lose the game.
As impossible as that may sound, that's precisely what happened on Sunday, when Audubon (N.J.) High knocked off Camden (N.J.) Catholic High, 1-0, in a Rancocas Valley Elite Softball Tournament quarterfinal. Incredibly, Audubon overcame nine innings of no-hit pitching from Laura Messina, who started the game and went the distance.
While Messina may have technically absorbed the loss, she was quite literally perfect on the afternoon. According to the Cherry Hill Courier-Post, Messina struck out 20 and didn't walk a single batter. In the end, it took a daring suicide squeeze to hand her a loss, with Audubon base runner Shannon Logan beating a tag from the Camden Catholic catcher after batter Alex Gravinese's pop up of a bunt gave Logan just enough time to score from third.
"I thought they were going to catch it, because it was a pop fly for a bunt," Logan told the Courier-Post. "They came home. I was scared I was going to be called out, but I knew I was safe. My adrenaline was rushing."
Logan's coach made it clear that the win was a significant one for the team, despite coming so early in the season.
"It was a huge win for us," Audubon coach Erin Small told the Courier-Post. "We were struggling even getting a bunt down. You can't take anything away from Messina. She is a phenomenal pitcher. But, Alex Gravinese, who's one of our better bunters, she had attempted more than once to bunt. It just fell into place and we were able to push the run across. I'd told the girls the entire game, as long as we played good defense, we were in the game."
Of course, Logan was only put on base because of softball's bizarre international tiebreaker rule, which stipulates that if a game is tied after seven innings, the batter who made the final out of the previous inning starts the following frame on second base. From there, she moved to third on another sacrifice bunt. So, it took more than an amazing suicide squeeze to beat Messina; it also took a forced runner starting the inning on second base.
Despite leaving with an empty feeling from the loss, Messina and her teammates could only point to their own struggles against Audubon pitcher Hunter Urban, who allowed only two hits and one walk during her nine innings of work.
"You've got to give credit to Audubon for sticking in there," Camden Catholic coach Mavreen Hering told the Courier-Post. "They came out and Laura was mowing everybody down."
Perhaps equally amazingly, Audubon's miraculous Camden Catholic victory wasn't even the school's first of the weekend. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Audubon trailed St. Joseph (N.J.) High 2-0 entering the seventh inning of one of the tournament's first round matchups. That's when Audubon came through with a shocking offensive explosion. First, slugger Amanda Hauske delivered a two-run double to tie the game and was quickly replaced at second by -- you guessed it -- Logan. The pinch runner then advanced to third on a sacrifice and came around to score when a pitch during an intentional walk attempt went wide, allowing Logan to race home with ease.
Two games made for a wild weekend in New Jersey softball, even if the purveyor of the most notable feat of all didn't finish with a win.
"I was scared, I was nervous," Gravinese told the Courier-Post. "I'm pretty sure all of us were mentally down earlier because she [Messina] kept striking everyone out, but we needed to keep our heads up. We came back in the seventh inning in our first game, so we know what to do."