Is this kid considered high among this year's draft class?
By Bill Kindt
LISLE — Normally, it isn't a good thing when teammates give you the cold shoulder and treat you like you have some weird form of communicable disease.
Except, that is, in the case of Aurora University pitcher Alex Chapple Saturday afternoon at Benedictine University. For Chapple, working on a no-hitter, it is one of baseball's unwritten rules that you never talk to the pitcher with a no-no on the line.
"They (the Spartans) didn't talk to me at all," Chapple said. "Nobody talked to me. No one wanted to jinx me. So, I just sat there. I wanted someone to talk with me but nobody would."
The Spartans closed their mouths until after Chapple completed the no-hitter and AU walked off the field with a 10-0 victory in the first game of a Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference doubleheader.
Ryan Brooks singled off the right-field wall to drive in the winning run in the 14th inning of the second game, giving AU a 10-9 victory and a sweep of the doubleheader. Jay Zimmerman drove in five runs with a three-run homer and a two-run single for the Spartans, 22-7 overall and 12-0 in the NIIC.
Chapple tossed a masterpiece. He struck out 10, including seven of the last nine outs, and walked only one batter. He faced just one batter over the minimum 21, facing four hitters only in the first inning when he started the game by plunking BU leadoff hitter Teddy Ostrowski with a pitch.
It was, to say the least, less than an auspicious start.
"As soon as I threw that pitch I thought it was going to be a long day," Chapple said. "It turned out all right though."
Gee, ya think.
Chapple, a senior, was never in any trouble. Ostrowski was the only Eagle to reach second base and he made it there on Kyle Bruett's sacrifice bunt. Chapple walked Pat McNamara with two out in the second but McNamara was thrown out trying to steal by catcher Chris Forbes.
The only other runner to venture on the base paths was Chris Musielak. He was save on an error to open the third but was the front out on a double play liner off the bat of Anthony Anichini.
Once Chapple got in the groove, Benedictine had no chance. Chapple retired the last 14 Eagles, striking out the side in the fifth inning.
"I started thinking about it (the no-hitter)," Chapple said. "I looked at the scoreboard and I said 'you know, they don't have any (hits) yet (and) if I can get one more time through the lineup, then I've got this.'"
Aaron Thor (2-for-3, three RBIs) gave Chapple all the run support he needed with a long homer to left in the first inning. Thor also homered in the second game.
The Spartans knocked out 14 hits and put the game on ice with a seven-run sixth. Thor had a two-run double and Nick Weber a two-run double.
None of it was needed since Chapple had everything under control.
"I don't know that I've ever seen two back-to-back dominating performances like he's had," AU head coach Shaun Neitzel said.
That's right. Saturday's no-hitter is Chapple's second consecutive. He also tossed a no-no at Concordia University a week ago.
Chapple joins the company of former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Vander Meer who tossed consecutive no-hitters in June of 1938.
So, how is the Neuqua Valley High School graduate getting the job done.
Well, for one, he always gets ahead of the hitter, normally by getting the first pitch in the strike zone.
"Location, location, location," Chapple said. "I'm as good as the guys behind me. If they pick it, I feel like we're going to win every game."
Chapple seldom had to work from behind hitters. Most of the time, the 6-foot-5 right-handed standout, had the Eagles in 1-and-2 or 0-and-2 holes.
"Any time you can get 0-1 or 0-2, you have the hitters on the defensive and you can pretty much do whatever you want," Chapple said.
Now 6-1 with a glittering 1.76 earned run average, Chapple is quickly taking over as the ace of the Spartan staff and, along with fellow senior Brady Salter, gives Neitzel a wicked one-two punch.
"I always want to go all the way to save our bullpen," Chapple said. "I never been this focused in my life."
Could there be a third straight? Why not.