It doesnâ€™t take many runs to give James Clift a comfortable lead when he pitches against Pampa.
He needed just one when he threw the opening game for Sweetwaterâ€™s baseball team Thursday at its newly named Wes Bishop Wood Bat Classic at Sportsmanâ€™s Park. But Clift got four runs while pitching a no-hitter against Pampa, the first of his varsity career.
Clift is now 3-0 over Pampa in the past year. This was his second straight shutout since last March when he pitched Sweetwater to a 6-2 win over Pampa at the 2013 Wood Bat Classic.
Clift followed with a 1-0 win in eight innings in the opening game of a best-of-3 area playoff vs. Pampa this past May. He has 19 straight shutout innings dating back to the first win over Pampa at the Wood Bat Classic.
This time was extra memorable. Not only was it a no-hitter, but on Cliftâ€™s 18th birthday as well. He said he knew he was on to something special after awhile.
â€śI was thinking about it,â€ť he admitted after the game. â€śBut I told the guys not to say anything to me. I had a no-hitter going another time but lost it after they started talking about it.â€ť
Clift said he threw fewer curveballs in Thursdayâ€™s game than he had the last time he faced Pampa. â€śI saved my curveball more for when they were looking fastball, because they were struggling with it,â€ť he said.
Clift was especially dom-inant in the early part of the game, striking out eight of his first 10 batters, and had a 4-0 lead before Pampa had its first baserunner in the fourth inning. He finished the game with nine strikeouts and only two walks in seven innings. His only other strikeout came in the fifth when Pampa advanced a runner to third base after he reached on an error, stole second and came around to third base following a passed ball with one out. After the strikeout, Clift retired the next hitter on a bouncer in front of the plate to end the inning.
After giving Clift a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Mustangs used two hits, a couple of errors and three walks to go up 4-0 in the third inning. Kaleb Hoover had an RBI single to score Stephen May and make it 2-0, and two runs scored after a wild pitch and error.