Weber Tosses No-Hitter for 'Wolves

Thad Weber was almost perfect Saturday night at Jerry Uht Park, but one errant pitch and a defensive miscue prevented him becoming only the seventh pitcher in Eastern League history to reach perfection. Still, despite those few missteps, Weber will gladly have his most perfect night on the mound go down as an imperfect one in the record books.

With his parents in town all the way from Nebraska to watch him pitch, Weber almost did the impossible. Over nine-innings and 88-pitches, he struck out ten batters and held the division leading Akron Aeros (77-48) hitless, becoming the first Erie player to record a no-hitter since Elvin Hernandez shut down Oneonta on August 24, 1995 in a 7-0 win, back when Erie was affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"Obviously it's very special. I think it really started with fastball command. Right from the very beginning I felt good with it then, as the game went on, I was able to spin some breaking balls and mix things up," Weber said. "It's a whirlwind for me—a pretty special feeling."

Throughout the game, Weber only allowed two Akron batters to reach base.

His bid for perfection ended early after Danny Worth misplayed a routine grounder on a ball hit to him at second by Cristo Arnal with two outs in the third inning.

"You know, it's probably better that way for the defense. In a perfect game your so uptight on every pitch, every hit ball. With the no-hitter you don't have to worry about booting a ball. If you mess, up, oh well, you didn't blow it and your pitcher still has the no-hitter," said manager Tom Brookens, who was a member of the Detroit Tigers' when Jack Morris threw a no-hitter against the White Sox on April 7, 1984.

He would then retire the next 13 men he faced in order before coming out and plunking Matt McBride with his first pitch in the eighth inning, after sitting in the dugout through a three-run seventh inning that saw seven men come to the plate and a pitching change on the Akron side.

Undaunted, he would strike out two of the next three men on a heavy array of change-ups and fastballs.

"He was on both sides of the plate. He was just so effective. I just set the glove up and he hit it every time. He just got a lot of ground balls and there was no solid contact all night," catcher Jeff Kunkel said. "His change-up was really good, and they came out aggressive, so later in the game we started mixing more in and he kept getting outs."

Weber actually spent more time in the dugout waiting on the high powered Erie offense to cool off long enough that he could take the mound. Erie would go on to put 16 runs in their winning effort on 18 hits, moving them a game and a half behind the wild card leading Reading Phillies.

"I felt comfortable with what I was doing, but [pitching coach] Ray [Burris] came to me a few times to remind me to stay loose during those innings," Weber said.

Ironically, Weber, 7-3, 3.95 ERA, stayed loose and kept his head in the game by bucking baseball's traditions and doing what he would normally do in between innings. He wanted no part of the typical treatment that a pitcher gets when throwing a no-hitter, where everyone acts as if nothing is going on.

"I'm not too big of a fan of the ‘sit on the end of dugout, no one talk to me' thing. I was trying to talk to everyone and keep my mind off it as much as possible," Weber said. "I think they were trying to stay away from me. I was trying to go over and talk to them and they were kind of like, ‘uh huh, yeah', and just walked away. I don't think for the last four innings I sat down."

Whatever Weber did, it worked, because he was in complete control the whole way. There are no other lasting images of his gem of a performance other than him, the ball, and the mound. There will be no last memories of an outfielder robbing a home run, or a third baseman making an improbable diving catch on a ball screaming down the line.

That's because there wasn't one. The game was largely bereft of the drama that typically accompanies a no-hitter.

The signature moment of the game was simply Weber and his unmatched control and feel for the strike zone.

"By the eighth and ninth inning I was running about 16 different scenarios through my mind where it could have been blown- a check-swing, a bloop here. I wanted to stay as aggressive as I was in the eighth and ninth inning as I was in the first, and that's why I think I was able to carry through," Weber said.

Weber struck out four of the last six batters he faced, including Jose Constanza and Josh Rodriguez to finish the game. He was still hitting 92 on the Jerry Uht Radar gun on the final pitch of the game.

With how efficiently Weber was pitching, the only real drama was whether or not Weber would stiffen up while waiting in the dugout between frames.

After dropping eight of their last 11 behind an anemic offense, the SeaWolves (65-59) exploded for 11 runs against Akron to keep their playoff hopes afloat for at least one more evening.

Erie put up four home runs, coming from Deik Scram, Michael Bertram, Kunkel, and Chris White, who was in his second game up from Lakeland.

Scram fell a triple short of the cycle, and would have gotten it, had a ball he hit to deep center in the eighth not taken a high hop over the fence and bounced off the scoreboard for a ground rule double.

Along with his home run, Kunkel added two doubles, eight total bases, and four RBI to Erie's offensive effort.

Still, the undisputable star of this game was Weber, Detroit's 16th round pick in the 2008 draft out of the University of Nebraska.

Weber was 4-4 with a 2.95 ERA before being sent up to Erie in June. He improved to 7-3 with a 3.95 ERA after the win.

"It's kind of weird. I've been battling a tight back and some fatigue in my arm. It's just one of things where it's a normal day and now here we are. You never think it's going to happen."

Well, if this game has taught us anything, it's that you should always expect the unexpected.

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