POTTSVILLE — It became a familiar sound at Steidle Field on Thursday night, the thud of the ball landing in the glove of Lancaster Catholic catcher Bryce Behmer, followed by a strike call from the umpire.
When Behmer closed his glove on the final pitch of the game — a PIAA Class 3A baseball quarterfinal — Crusaders pitcher Dillon Marsh turned his back to home plate, embracing third baseman Danny Gonzalez and shortstop Cam Barto in celebration.
Marsh threw strikes all night, but there was one thing the senior hadn’t done in Catholic’s 7-0 victory over Mid Valley — given up a hit.
The lefty tossed the first no-hitter of his career, striking out 16 and walking just one walk as the Crusaders (18-5) posted their fourth shutout in their last seven games.
“It was a pretty special day today; it was exciting,” Marsh said. “I felt very good today and that was probably the best I’ve had all year.
“It started as soon as we started to put runs on the board,” he continued, quick to give credit to his teammates. “It was just kind of automatic. All I had to do was throw strikes today, and that’s what I did.”
The offense gave Marsh the only runs he would need in the first inning. Devon Atkinson hit a stand-up double into center and moved to third on a passed ball before quickly scampering home as the throw to third bounced into the outfield.
Behmer followed with a two-out solo homer to left field to make it a 2-0 game.
Mid Valley leadoff hitter J.J. Glinsky would reach on an error, but Marsh responded by striking out the side — getting all three batters looking and picking up his 100th strikeout of the season.
Marsh would strike out the side twice more, first in the second and then in the seventh. Mid Valley’s only other baserunner would come via a walk, while the Spartans (14-5) only got a ball out of the infield just once.
“Dillon executed and did exactly what we talked about on the way up here. I think he shook me off once,” Catholic coach Ty Book said with a laugh. “We just rode the wave. That’s a good team over there and we just battled through.”
From there the Crusaders turned six hits and two Mid Valley errors into five runs in three innings.
Nick Breznak singled and then scored as Ethan Baddick reached on an error in the fourth. When the throw went to second to try to catch Baddick stealing, Alex Kukic took off from third to make it a 4-0 game.
The score went up again in the fifth, as Marsh drove in Barto with a double and came home on a bases-loaded walk. Jack Krady turned a single and two-base error into the final run of the game, scoring on Barto’s grounder in the sixth.
The win not only made history for Marsh, but also for Lancaster Catholic, which advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in school history.
The Crusaders will face Montoursville, a 12-2 winner over Oley Valley, on Monday at a site and time to be determined.
“Those are my brothers out there and it was just a great moment to spend with them,” said Marsh. “Lancaster Catholic baseball hasn’t gone this far yet, so I think it’s awesome that this team has done it. We’ve just got to keep going. We’re not done yet.”