Sawyer fires third no-hitter of season in county tourney opener
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It’s safe to call Corey Sawyer “The No-Hit Kid.” When a baseball pitcher throws one no-hitter, it could be perceived as a fluke. A second one might be a trend.
But a third? In a span of five weeks? That’s bordering on habit forming.
Well, Sawyer, the Kearny High School sophomore, earned his nickname last Saturday, firing his third no-hitter of the 2014 season, not surrendering a single hit against Dickinson in the Kardinals’ 2-0 victory over Dickinson in the opening round of the Ed “Faa” Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournament.
Sawyer struck out nine and walked two in his second no-hitter of the season against Dickinson. Sawyer had previously thrown a perfect game against the Rams in the regular season April 21.
In his varsity debut April 3, Sawyer tossed a no-hitter against Memorial.
Sawyer had just joined the Kearny baseball program this season, after transferring to the school. Last year, Sawyer attended St. Joseph Regional in Montvale in Bergen County, but did not participate in varsity baseball.
Kearny head baseball coach Frank Bifulco said that he never heard of a Kearny pitcher ever throwing one no-hitter in a season, never mind three.
“The last one I remember was (former Kearny teammate and current Harrison head coach) Jairo (Mendez)’s in the state tournament,” Bifulco said. “That was it. It’s really remarkable, three no-hitters, one of which is a perfect game, among his first seven starts.”
Even Sawyer is having a tough time believing the no-hit phenomenon himself.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Sawyer said. “I was just hitting all my spots. Everything was working. My curveball was really working. I think that was my best pitch. I’m able to get a lot of people out with it.”
There’s a superstition involved with pitching a no-hitter, one that Sawyer is obviously well aware of now. No one is supposed to speak a word about flirting with the milestone pitching performance, because it’s apparently bad luck.
But Sawyer knew he was flirting with another gem Saturday.
“I knew, but I didn’t tell anyone,” Sawyer said. “I just had to go out there and pitch.”
Bifulco didn’t know Sawyer had the no-hitter going.
“We have a tradition that before the final out, the entire bench stands up,” Bifulco said. “Well, I looked over and they were all sitting down. I wanted to know what they were doing, but they said they didn’t want to jinx the no-hitter. I couldn’t believe he was doing it again. So I just yelled, ‘Strike the kid out.’ That’s what he did. He got into little jams, with an error and a walk, then struck out the side. Not even one ball was hit hard. He just got into a groove.”
Bifulco used the most descriptive term about Sawyer’s performance this season.
“It’s shocking,” Bifulco said. “You always want your pitchers to do well, but no one could have imagined three no-hitters. He pitches well every time out.”
Incredibly, Sawyer has a 4-3 record this season with a 1.09 earned run average. One has to wonder how the “No-Hit Kid” could actually have three losses.
One of the losses was a 1-0 setback to Hudson Catholic, a game where Sawyer surrendered only two hits.
“He never gets flustered, never gets upset,” Bifulco said. “You want to make sure your pitcher keeps focus. Well, that’s never a worry with Corey. It’s focused all the time. It’s really just a pleasant surprise. He has matured so much this year already. He just gets the ball and goes.”
Sawyer said that he was in a good pitching rhythm all game.
“Every time I caught the ball from (catcher) T.J. (Witt), I just went right back out to the mound and threw another pitch,” Sawyer said. “I like the mound (at Franklin School Field). I pitch well there.”
All three of his pitching masterpieces this season have been at Franklin.
“I don’t know what it is,” Sawyer said. “I just feel more comfortable there. It’s definitely a good feeling.”
Sawyer doesn’t want to jinx his great streak.
“I just want to find a way to keep it going,” Sawyer said. “After the first no-hitter, I never thought I could pitch a perfect game. Now, after this one, I don’t even know what to think. It’s all a little ridiculous now.”
And how about the nickname of “No-Hit Kid?”
“Yeah, I like that,” Sawyer said. “It’s a good one.”