By Jeremy Balan
DALY CITY — On the surface, the move looked like a head-scratcher.
St. Ignatius senior left-hander Johnny Mrlik was dealing, striking out four in three innings of no-hit ball against rival Sacred Heart Cathedral at Marchbank Park.
But still not in perfect baseball shape after an extended run in basketball, Mrlik was pulled at the beginning of the fourth for junior right-hander Nick Formanek. Formanek lost the no hitter in the fifth, but held the Irish scoreless the rest of the way in a 4-0 win in both teams’ West Catholic Athletic League opener.
“We would have loved for him to go longer, but we were a little concerned with how his arm was doing after he came in late from basketball,” St. Ignatius coach Matt Stecher said. “He’s a little bit behind, but he’s definitely got the skills to be our No. 1 [starter].”
Mrlik wasn’t even supposed to start, but got the call just hours before the game after scheduled starter Collin Monsour was ruled out due to an illness.
“My arm’s just not in shape and hopefully in a couple of weeks, I’ll be able to go five or six [innings],” Mrlik said. “I was definitely getting the tingling a little bit, but I’m just happy we won.”
The Wildcats (6-3, 1-0) only had six hits of their own, but cashed in when they needed to.
Senior center fielder Kevin Barker opened the scoring with a RBI double that one-hopped the left-field wall in the first inning, then a two-out, two-run single from junior third baseman Kyle Tillinghast put the game out of reach in the fifth.
“We didn’t unload with the bats, but we got key hits when we needed to,” Stecher said. “We had runners in position to score with that. It was nothing amazing or spectacular, but we’ll take it.”
While the Irish (5-1, 0-1) bats struggled, only recording two hits in the game, the patient Wildcats’ lineup made Sacred Heart starter Chris Miguel work and chased him from the game after the fifth inning.
Miguel allowed four runs (two earned), but struggled with location at times, walking three and hitting two batters.
“They had a couple well-hit balls, but he did what he was supposed to do, keep us in the game on the road,” Sacred Heart coach Brian Morgan said. “He pitched well enough for us to win.”
Because St. Ignatius won both Bruce-Mahoney football and basketball games, the game doesn’t actually count as a part of the series, but for the Wildcats, any win over the Irish, regardless of circumstance, is a good day.
“It was a little lower key than last year, but it’s still our first league game and any game against [Sacred Heart] is important to us,” Stecher said. “Especially after a shaky preseason, it was nice to hit league the way we did.”
SI — Kevin Barker doubles, Jack Klein scores
SI — Matt Krook sacrifice fly, Luke Pappas scores
SI — Kyle Tillinghast singles, Klein and Barker score
Slideshow by Devin Chen