After striking out the first three batters, Bryce Shumaker felt something special was on the horizon.
The 11-year-old fifth grader at Braden River Elementary was right. Shumaker, a pitcher for the Nitelites of the minors division of Manatee East Little League, was on the verge of perfection.
The slender righty struck out all 18 batters he faced in a 1-0 win over Anna Maria Oyster Bar of the North River National in the District 26 Manatee County Cup Little League Tournament last Saturday.
Shumaker had never came close to tossing a no-hitter.
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He only started pitching a few years ago, because his team didn’t have a pitcher, so Shumaker offered.
He no-hit Anna Maria in a morning game after staying up late to watch Tampa Bay Rays outfielder B.J. Upton hit a walk-off home run the night before against the Cleveland Indians.
“I was tired,” Shumaker said. “When I struck out the first three batters, I thought I could (have a good day).”
He couldn’t be touched.
Shumaker only needed, on average, about four pitches to get each hitter out, which allowed him to finish the game before reaching the Little League limit of 86 pitches.
Shumaker, who throws a two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball and a circle change-up, blazed threw the six innings, as fans and teammates cheered him on as he trotted from the hill.
“I’ve never had a game like that in my life,” he said. “Never!”
But Shumaker wasn’t the only pitcher to have a great day on the mound.
Two Oyster Bar pitchers combined to toss a two-hitter.
“It was a real pitchers duel,” said Bryce’s dad, Phil, a Nitelites assistant coach.
“You have to give some kudos to Anna Maria, because they pitched a heck of a game against us.”
The Nitelites managed to sneak across a run.
Guess who scored the run? That’s right, Bryce.
He singled, stole second and third bases and came home on a passed ball.
All this from a youngster who stayed up well past his bedtime, watching magic happen, only to create his own fairy-tale story a few hours later with his team on the brink of elimination.
“The feeling is tough to describe,” said Shumaker, who is a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays.
After such an exciting game, the Nitelites went for pizza, with Shumaker ordering his favorite pie.
“I love cheese pizza,” he said.
“I don’t want meat, just cheese.”
Fitting, because that’s what he tossed earlier in the day.
Ryan T. Boyd, sports writer, can be reached at 745-7017.