CARY, N.C.—In its first game at the National High School Invitational, Aliso Niguel (Calif.) High got a rude welcome from Dyer County (Tenn.), which pounded 20 hits off Aliso pitching in a 16-1 victory that ended an inning early thanks to the tournament mercy rule.
Aliso Niguel ace righty Kyle Molnar, a junior already attracting plenty of attention from scouts, made sure the team’s second game would not be a repeat. Molnar didn’t give up a hit until the sixth inning and drove in three runs himself with a pair of hits as the Wolverines beat ThunderRidge (Colo.) 8-1.
“It was tough on us; I don’t think we expected to come out to this tournament and lose 16-1,” coach Craig Hanson said. “Dyer beat us in every facet of the game, and we’re usually pretty competitive. So we challenged our group to bounce back and do what it took to compete today.”
Coach Hanson said Molnar threw a no-hitter March 15 against Los Alamitos back in SoCal, and sent his ace back out for the seventh to go for another no-no. Right fielder Blake Sabol, whose older brother Stefan plays in the Mets farm system, preserved the no-no in the fifth inning with a fine diving catch. ThunderRidge’s first hit was a hard smash off the chest of third baseman Domenic Colacchio, officially scored a hit but which Hanson scored an error. Hanson wanted Molnar to have a shot at another no-no, but Molnar wound up pitching 6 1/3 innings (using 89 pitches), allowing two hits and two walks as well as a seventh-inning run.
He struck out nine, using an 87-90 mph fastball that was still reaching 90 in the seventh and touched 92 twice. Molnar had excellent control of the fastball, which featured good life both to his arm-side and at times up in the zone. He used the fastball to set up an effective changeup, which Hanson called “his best secondary pitch today,” and mixed in an effective, though more erratic, breaking ball.
“It was important for us to bounce back, and we got some timely hits today; I think that’s the most runs that we’ve had all year,” Molnar said. “I knew in the third inning I had a no-hitter. I had that same feeling, and I tried to do the same routine—sit in the same spot in the dugout, not talk to anyone, drink the same amount of Gatorade.”
Molnar also had three RBIs at the plate, while left fielder Anthony Sommer, who also got the final two outs on the mound, had four RBIs, with his two-run single in the eighth giving the Wolverines an 8-0 lead. Sabol added two hits and two steals.
Aliso Niguel now plays Milton (Ga.) this afternoon in an elimination game, with Aliso in its third game while Milton plays its second.