Braden Spano threw a five-inning no-hitter for the Providence Academy Middle School baseball team last Saturday versus Hampton in the championship game of the Little Watauga Conference tournament. Little Watauga Conference is made up of Providence, University School, Happy Valley, Hampton, Unaka, Cloudland and Johnson County schools.
The Knights won 11–0 in the run-rule shortened final. Hampton had made it to the championship game by winning the losers’ bracket championship over University School in convincing fashion earlier Saturday morning.
Having just won, Hampton entered the championship game with loads of enthusiasm and confidence and immediately threatened Providence. Leadoff hitter Landon Street reached base on a free pass, stole second, and made it to third with one out on a passed ball. With Bulldog first baseman Dalton Rouse at the plate, it appeared Hampton would certainly get at least one run, but Street tried to take home on a passed ball which Knight catcher Cade Backus deftly fielded and tossed to Spano who was covering the plate for the 2-1 putout. Spano then froze Rouse on a 3-2 fastball at the knees on the outside corner for the strikeout and end to the Bulldog first.
Providence pushed across four runs in their half of the first as Colby Backus earned a walk, stole second and scored on Spano’s double to deep left center field. Spano scored on an RBI single by John Stallard and Josh Gregory scored on another RBI single by Cade Backus. Stallard later scored on a Bulldog error.
The four runs were more than Providence needed as Spano breezed through the Bulldog line-up. When the dust settled he had given up no hits, struck out seven, issued four walks and hit one batter. Hampton shortstop Weston Street almost snapped the no-hitter in the second on a flare to short left field. However, Providence shortstop Caleb Zepeda was having none of it and made an over-the-shoulder catch to rob him of a hit. In the fourth, Hunter Haynes also attempted to break the no-hitter on a well hit ball to right field. Again, the Knight defense was up to the challenge as right fielder Tim Easterling ranged to his right and made the catch.
The Knights scored in every inning, plating two more in the second, one in the third and four in the fourth. John Stallard led the offense with a three-for-three effort that included two doubles, one of them nearly out of the park and three RBIs. Colby Backus, Rylan White, Cade Backus and Spano all had one hit each.
The win Saturday capped a 13–1 season in which the Knights outscored their opponents 197 – 77. The Knights also averaged 11 hits per contest with a team batting average of 0.398 and a slugging percentage of 0.561.
The win was also the last middle school baseball game for the six eighth graders on the team: Colby Backus, Timmy Boccarossa, Josh Gregory, Braden Spano, John Stallard, Jackson Tumlin and Caleb Zepeda who ended their careers with back-to-back tournament championships plus the 2016 regular season title.