Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - It has been over a year since Thunder Mountain baseball fans have seen the Falcons on the field, but the wait was worth it.
Junior Preston Williams threw the first no-hitter in the history of the TMHS baseball program in a 5-0 win over Juneau-Douglas on Saturday at Sitka’s Invitational Round-Robin Tournament.
“It was definitely a good feeling, to say the least,” Williams said. “I had no clue it was the first one going into that game.”
Williams stepped on the mound in the bottom of the first with a one-run lead thanks to Isaiah Nelson reaching base on a single and being brought home by Kaden Quinto.
Williams’ first three pitches to sophomore catcher Rory Hayes were balls. Then two strikes. Then a ground ball out.
The next two batters hit only air. One was looking for it, the other was not.
“I knew JD had a pretty strong beginning of their lineup so it felt good to go one, two, three and get out of there real fast,” Williams said.
In the bottom of the second all three batters lofted balls into the air, two to center and one to shortstop but Williams didn’t flinch.
“It didn’t worry me too much because I knew they were swinging at my pitch,” he said. “I gave them ones that they would possibly want to swing at and drive and they didn’t, they ended up swinging at my pitch and popping up.”
Heading into the bottom of the third, Williams had another run in his pocket as he himself scored after earning a walk and being hit home by senior Oliver Mendoza.
Mendoza would have his pitcher's back in the field as well, gold gloving a sure base hit into a laser throw out to junior first baseman Peyton Lewis.
“Knowing my middle infielders I had confidence he would get there,” Williams said of Mendoza. “That was a nice shot up the middle and he definitely robbed him of a base hit.”
Williams then worked his pitches into a pop-up fly to Lewis, and then he got his own glove dirty fielding a shot hit back to the mound.
“Knowing I am ahead at the beginning definitely carries through the at-bat,” Williams said. “Once I get ahead it becomes a confidence builder and it just builds your control throughout the whole at-bat.”
The fourth inning came and went and included outstanding work behind the plate by Hayes. The Falcons added two more runs in the top of the fifth as freshman Anthony Anderson doubled in Lewis and Mendoza singled in Anderson.
“I knew I was on track to throw a no-hitter if not a perfect game by that fourth inning,” Williams said.
Williams opened the bottom of the fifth getting his third strikeout to go with no walks.
Just one batter would reach base, on an error in the next at bat of the inning.
That batter was Williams’ good friend, JDHS sophomore Caden Mesdag.
“He is still my good friend,” Williams said. “Knowing the guys that I play with through the years I know what they swing at and what they struggle with. Getting out on the field was a first for a lot of guys, especially after not being able to play last year because of COVID, let alone taking down our cross town rival and we only had 11 guys in this early tournament, so this felt pretty good.”
Williams’ fourth and final strikeout was next, then a pitch that lofted slowly into orbit and broke back to a pop-up fly at shortstop.
Both teams paid their respect to the pitcher.
“I had a lot of congrats by the other team,” Williams said. “Most of my buddies I played with in Little League they are all pretty proud of me even though I may have struck them out one or two times.”
Williams threw just under 50 pitches in the time-shortened game, and walked no batters. He said his first thought when the game ended was “this was a momentum starter for the team.”
“With the low number of guys that we have and JD probably has about twice the players we have, this is really a confidence builder and I feel like it will help bring the team up to a level some of the guys are at now,” he said. “I hope that this outing was something that the kids on this team can look up too. We have good pitchers on this team. I might not have been one of the strongest but I am glad that I was able to go out there and show them how it is done and how to get ahead and how to work the counts.”
Falcons coach Joe Tompkins said he became more of a fan and spectator during the game.
“When you see something that special going, you don’t even talk to him,” Tompkins said. “I wouldn’t even look at him. From the very beginning you knew it was special, the way he was hitting targets, the way the team was backing him up and they were pumped. The whole team was involved in the whole game.”
Juneau-Douglas coach Chad Bentz, a former JDHS, college and professional baseball pitcher, said it was like watching one of his peers.
“I’m a big fan of that kid,” Bentz said. “To watch him do what he did was just fun for me as a coach, even though we lost… that was the first one in the history of Thunder Mountain, no one can ever take that away…. Preston just absolutely proved to everyone that attacking the strike zone, and letting your defense work for you, can be successful. And it couldn’t happen to a better kid. I just wish he did it against another team. He doesn’t throw the ball hard but it doesn’t matter, he kept the ball down, he threw off speed, he was pitching. He wasn’t throwing, he was pitching.”
The outing even inspired Shawn Williams, Preston’s father, to write and give his son a poem:
The season was to begin, and some teams were stacked.
We were struggling to get 9 with a total of fifteen at max.
Each day was a struggle to just field 9, with COVID, grades and injury each time.
Wondering if we would get to play at all, the coach said suit up and we will play ball.
Not sure what to think, we scrambled with gear, in hope we would play in a town southeast but near.
It sounds so simple to those who can drive, but money was sparse and we need a plane ride.
Somehow we did it, while wondering how, we are here in Sitka to play ball now.
Game one seemed written in stone, as we struggled to pitch, and cross the plate called home.
One game down, and things seemed bleak, it was destined to be a long, long week.
Game two came quick and we thought there was a chance, but things went downhill like a bad batters stance.
The day is done, and I don’t know what to say, other than, maybe we will get them another day.
As we took the field in hopes of a win, we had no idea what was about to begin.
The team was fueled with something to win, so now, this story is about to begin.
With the fourth string pitcher on the mound at best, a mighty stacked team was put to the test.
One thing that helped him, was a first at bat, where he learned the strike zone a gem at that.
The bottom of the second came so quick, but the fourth string pitcher was ready and quick.
Hitting his spots, that he knew were true, he was able to control this team he knew.
Pitch after pitch, he did his best, while often putting his defense to the test.
A team that believed in the kid on the mound, he kept on throwing as batters lay down.
It was amazing to see, and it stunned them all, this kid had managed to stop them all.
A no hitter is amazing and hard to believe, until you see the scorecard, pack up and leave.