Dana Hills High School’s Hans Crouse strikes out 13 in dominant no-hit performance
By Steve Breazeale
The pitch was perfect. The timing could not have been better.
Dana Hills junior pitcher Hans Crouse had not allowed a hit through 6 2/3 innings against South Coast League rival Tesoro on April 12. His fastball had been electric all day, but his offspeed pitches had been downright dominant.
Facing Tesoro’s Jake Morenc, Crouse jumped out to a quick two-strike advantage. One more pitch would guarantee Crouse’s place in the Dolphins’ record books. He reared back and threw a tight, spiraling offspeed pitch that clipped the outside corner of the plate for a called third strike.
The Dolphins’ players sprinted to the mound to celebrate with Crouse, who had completed the no-hit effort and secured a 5-0 win.
Crouse had 13 strikeouts in the win and allowed one walk, which came in the first inning.
“It’s just crazy,” Crouse said. “I’m just really happy and proud of my teammates and proud of the way I pitched out there.”
After issuing the walk in the first inning, Crouse fell into a groove. The junior rattled off a streak of six straight strikeouts after issuing the free pass to Tesoro’s Brett Auerbach in the opening frame. Five of the strikeouts over the stretch came on called third strikes.
Crouse said he got in a zone following the first-inning walk, but his catcher, senior David Clawson, noticed something click even sooner.
“On the first pitch he had everything going,” Clawson said. “His fastball was probably 94 to 95 mph. His curve was dominant; his changeup was bending away—it was great. He had everything working for him. He was unbelievable today.”
As the Dolphins’ offense started to build a comfortable lead late in the game, Crouse noticed his team staying out of his way when he was in the dugout. The Dolphins’ players eventually stopped talking to him altogether, a baseball superstition designed to let the pitcher focus solely on his thoughts.
“Once they started not talking to me I knew something was up,” Crouse said. “I saw the zero in the hit column, and a lot of thoughts started going through my mind. It was nerve-racking out there those last two innings.”
The Dolphins’ (9-8, 3-2 league) defense helped ensure Crouse’s effort would not be wasted.
In the top of the fourth inning, Tesoro’s Spencer Heinsuis was robbed of a hit by center fielder Max Mircovich, who made a sliding catch to his left for the out.
In the fifth, first baseman Joe DeBaca stretched wide to his right to corral a throw and plant his foot on the bag, negating what could have been an infield hit.
In the seventh, Dolphins’ shortstop Shawn Kany made a charging barehanded play on a slow roller for the first out.
“The play at short (in the seventh inning) was huge. I thought that was a for sure infield single,” Crouse said. “Mircovich, he’s just really athletic out in center field and made a great play.”
Dana Hills took a 1-0 advantage in the fourth inning on a DeBaca RBI single. In the fifth, Jeremy Ciolek hit the first of two two-run doubles that pushed the lead to 3-0. Ciolek went 3 for 4 with four RBI and padded the lead with his second two-run hit in the sixth inning, giving Crouse extra breathing room.
As it would turn out, Crouse would not need the extra run support. His pitches in the seventh and final inning were sharp and, like they had been all game, unhittable.