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Major strikes out 16 in Wildcats’ win

As hard as he tried blocking it out, Aidan Major understood exactly on what he was working.

Seemingly every time he pitches, Major dominates these days, but he was at his best Saturday and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning at Giles Field. He did not throw the no-hitter he coveted but came within a strike of doing so.

And as great as a no-hitter would have been, Major earned what he came for Saturday. The West Virginia-bound pitcher threw his latest gem, striking out 16 in 6 2/3 innings of dazzling one-hit baseball as Central Mountain defeated Montoursville, 8-1, and won its seventh straight game.

“It’s in the back of your mind or at least it was in the back of my mind. It’s one of those things that you try not to think about but realistically you do,” Major said. “Going into that inning fans were chirping a little bit to try and get into my head, but I just stuck to what I try to do and get the last three outs of the game.”

Only two errors prevented Major from doing so. He bounced back from a one-out error and collected his 16th strikeout before working ahead of Dylan Moll 1-2. Moll, though, went the opposite way with the next pitch and lined an RBI single into right field. Following another error, Major reached his 100th pitch and Landyn Carson recorded the final out.

The no-hitter would have been the icing on a cake baked to near perfection. Major walked two in the first six innings but went to only two other three-ball counts as he shut out Montoursville and struck out 15. He had command of all four pitches, spotted them all well and often worked backward on hitters, constantly keeping them guessing about what was coming next.

“He had his command (Saturday). He was mixing pitches, throwing curveballs in 3-2 counts, having confidence in any count. That made him very effective,” Central Mountain coach Mike Kramer said. “He was locating fastballs on the outside corner, getting on top and he did extremely well.”

“I knew right from the bullpen it was going to be a good day. Me and (catcher) Cy (Probst) worked very well in the pen together and figured some things out and got some kinks out,” Major said. “We were able to start locating pitches in the pen and it just transferred into the game. It actually got better as the game went on which makes it easy when you can trust your catcher.”

Probst, a Maine-bound senior, did a beautiful job framing pitches and calling the game. Together, he and Major worked in harmony for the second time in 12 days against Montoursville. Two weeks ago, Major had struck out 15 in 5 2/3 innings of an 8-0 win. He was even better Saturday, retiring the first 11 batters he faced, eight via strikeout.

Only two batters reached base in six innings and Major made it four straight starts without allowing an earned run. In 12 2/3 innings against Montoursville, the hard-throwing right-hander allowed just six hits and struck out 31.

Major really has been untouchable over his last four starts, surrendering seven hits and striking out 46 in 21 innings. In the three games he went more than two innings, Major has topped 10 strikeouts each time.

“The last four starts are something I haven’t been able to put together through a season yet, so for me to get through those starts and be able to do what I’ve done feels good,” Major said. “Everything definitely is clicking.”

“When you start talking about elite guys that have gone through this area in the last 10 years, he’s a top 2-3 guy,” Montoursville coach Jeremy Eck said. “You got Datres, you got (Bloomsburg’s Colton) Hock … What he’s doing now and what we’ve seen, he’s right there with them.”

And Montoursville felt like it was sitting at the bottom of Mount Everest after Central Mountain scored three first-inning runs and built a 3-0 lead before Major took the mound. Peyton Johnson ignited the rally with a one-out single before Probst hit an RBI single and Cayde McCloskey a two-run single.

Grayson Rinker and Cameron Francis retired the next 11 Wildcats, but Central Mountain excelled when batters reached base and hit 5 for 10 with runners in scoring position.

“It makes my job a lot easier being able to pitch with a lead. I don’t have to worry about giving up a hit and this, that and the other,” Major said. “You have a cushion to work with so it takes a lot of pressure off me and lets me know I can throw my game.”

Probst and McCloskey again delivered in the fifth inning, hitting consecutive RBI singles which put Central Mountain up 5-0. Levi Schlesinger added a pinch-hit RBI single two innings later and five of Central Mountain’s seven hits produced runs as the Wildcats continued surging following a 1-3 start.

“We’ve had good practices coming in and these guys work hard every day,” Kramer said. “They trust in the process, and they believe in working hard and that’s what I love about this group. They come every day and put work in.”

Central Mountain 8, Montoursville 1

Central Mountain 300 022 1–8 7 2

Montoursville 000 000 1–1 1 3

Aidan Major, Landyn Carson (7) and Cy Probst. Grayson Rinker, Cameron Francis (3), Dylan Moll (6) and CJ Signor. W–Major. L–Rinker.

Top Central Mountain hitters: Probst 2-,3, 2 RBIs, 2 R; Cayde McCloskey 2-3, 3 RBIs; Levi Schlesinger 1-1, RBI; Kaden Falls 1-4, R, 2 SB; Peyton Johnson 1-4, R. Top Montoursville hitters: Dylan Moll 1-3, RBI.

Records: Central Mountain (8-3). Montoursville (8-4).

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