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With his dad looking on, Cutters' Whitehead tosses 6 no-hit innings
June 15, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
Dave and Diana Whitehead still hadn't left their seats behind home plate at Bowman Field. They stood, waving toward the first-base dugout where their son David was being interviews after the Williamsport Crosscutters' 8-2 win over State College on Sunday.
As David was being asked about his parents, he looked up to find where they were standing, and seeing his mother's waving hand, a smile grew across his face. It wasn't nearly as big as the ones on his parents'.
The Whitehead family had waited more than a year for this moment. David was drafted out of Elon University last June just over a month after having Tommy John surgery performed on his right elbow. He was selected in the 34th round by the Phillies despite the surgery and the accompanying rehabilitation which would go with it.
Sunday was the first time he stepped on the mound to pitch in an official game as a Phillies minor leaguer. The 22-year old didn't disappoint, throwing six no-hit innings, striking out five and leading the Crosscutters to their first win of the year.
“It was awesome they were here,” David Whitehead said. “They've been waiting just as long as I have and going through the rehab with me. It was a lot of fun.”
Whitehead combined on a two-hitter with relievers Frank Rivas and Keivy Rojas. Whitehead and Rivas combined on 6 2/3 no-hit innings before State College's Rowan Wick singled through shortstop when Malquin Canelo was shaded up the middle. The only other hit was a two-run home run by Nick Thompson in the ninth inning with the game all but out of reach.
With a Phillies farm system craving any kind of pitching help, Whitehead's debut yesterday was a breath of fresh air. The right-hander topped out at 93 mph with his fastball, about where his velocity was before his injury.
His only blemishes were a two-out walk in the first inning, and a one-out walk in the second inning. The moment was never too big for him, not even after not having pitched in a meaningful game since April of last year.
“You can't throw much better than what he did,” Cutters first-year manager Shawn Williams said. “He's shown it before, but he was fun to watch. He was using everything, but especially his fastball, and he was locating it. He was pitching. That was fun to watch.”
“That was pretty cool,” said Cutters designated hitter Sean McHugh who scored and drove in a run yesterday. “I'm sure he was nervous at how he was going to be coming back. But he was low in the zone and got guys out. He put on a show.”
Whitehead attacked the strike zone yesterday, keeping everything down in the zone. Even when he missed his target, he missed low. The only time he missed a ball up was a hanging breaking ball in the first inning which ended up being a fly out to left field.
He did struggle to find an out pitch at times leading to five three-ball counts. But he still managed to throw more than 16 pitches in an inning just once, and threw as few as five in an inning.
He finished with 82 pitches, throwing 55 for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 20 batters he faced. Of his five strikeouts, four came on fastballs as he struggled to get his breaking ball over.
“Usually my curveball is my (out pitch). I was struggling with it to get the sharp one, the good one,” Whitehead said. “But I kept throwing it and it got better. (Catcher Wilson) Garcia did a good job of working with me to overcome that.”
“He had a really good fastball and he used all of his pitches well,” Williams said. “He's not scared of contact. For me, that's how you have to pitch. You can't be scared of contact, and he says here it is, hit it.”
The Crosscutters' offense did more than enough to back Whitehead, handing him his first professional win, by pounding out 10 hits. After squaring up some balls but not being able to string hits together through the first two nights of the season, the Cutters found ways to make productive outs and move runners to set up big innings Sunday.
Wilmer Oberto's double in the fourth inning set up and RBI groundout from Robinson Torres and a sacrifice fly by McHugh, an 18th-round draft pick out of Purdue last weekend.
Williamsport added six more runs in the sixth inning, more than it had scored in its first two games combined. Torres and Jan Hernandez added sacrifice flies, and Malquin Canelo, Cord Sandberg (2 for 5) and Jiandido Tromp all added RBI hits.
All nine Crosscutters hitters reached base Sunday, and seven of the nine recorded a hit.
“We found ways to score runs,” said McHugh, who was making his pro debut. “If it wasn't a hit, walks and hit by pitches were getting guys on base and then someone was there to drive them in. It was a complete offense.”
“We did a really good job situationally. We were moving guys and getting guys in from third,” Williams said. “We were finding some holes. Even balls that weren't hit that hard were finding holes. Just good at-bats, and that's what we're trying to get these kids to have, just good, consistent at-bats to where those things to happen.”
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