Moline pitcher Jordan Benson is a believer in baseball's superstition about not mentioning possible no-hitters.
"I knew I had one because I heard them talking about it in the dugout," Benson said of Thursday's Western Big Six game at United Township, playfully pinning blame on sophomore second baseman Sam Monroe for the no-hitter getting broken up at United Township.
Benson, though, wasn't the one to fall prey to the murmured mention. With the Maroons up 10-0 in the bottom of the sixth, he gave way to lefty reliever Carter Schiebrock. One out from the gem, UT's No. 2 hitter, Cole Stevens, rifled a single to right field. Schierbrock then picked up his third strikeout of his inning of work to close out the mercy-rule win.
"Benson was pitching on short rest of four days and not his typical week," said Moline coach Craig Schimmel, noting he had thrown 100 pitches at Quincy on Saturday. "We are looking down the line there where instead of a no-hitter today, he can possibly help us to a regional championship or a tournament win. So, we err on the side of caution."
Actually, Benson was very close to a perfect game through his five innings. The only Panthers to reach base against him were Davin Thiem on a third-inning, wild-pitch strikeout and Payton Swan on a fifth-inning hit-by-pitch.
Another cause of Benson coming out of the game was the seven runs Moline (12-2, 4-0 WB6) put up in the fifth and sixth innings.
"Five innings (work) is just right," Benson said. "I think it was a good outing. My arm is a little tender."
UT pitcher Bobby Neal was nearly as efficient through the first four innings, retiring eight of the first nine he faced and trailing 3-0 because of being unable to stop Nick Drobushevich, who doubled in two in the third and had an RBI-single in the fourth. Drobushevich is hitting 10-for-14 in four Western Big Six games.
"Bobby attacked the strike zone early," UT coach Michael Meyers said. "He did a good job today."
Schimmel noted Moline's patience in getting to Neal. Brody Harding and Monroe walked to lead off the fifth, setting up that big inning.
"Those leadoff walks showed good patience," the Moline coach said. "Walking before the bats of Drobushevich and (Eric) Maffie, good things are going to happen."
Maffie got a two-run home run in the sixth, preceded by a Harding double, a Monroe walk and a Drobushevich sacrifice fly.
"It's not just the top of our lineup," said Harding, Moline's leadoff hitter and shortstop. "Our hitters one through nine are capable of coming through." No. 6 hitter Noah Sebben had two hits, including a double.
Benson struck out nine in moving his season record to 4-0.
UT (1-10, 0-2 WB6), with a starting lineup that included four sophomores and a freshman, saw more promise than just Neal's start. In the top of the second, freshman left fielder Davin Thiem threw a strike to sophomore catcher Stevens for the third out, with Sebben trying to score on a Dan Anderson base hit. That kept the game scoreless at the time.