MARION — With a fastball that tops out at 90 mph, Harrisburg righthander Isaac Crabb can get a strikeout almost any time he wants.
But the big junior understands movement trumps velocity, which is why he tossed a six-inning no-hitter Wednesday as the streaking Bulldogs won their 14th consecutive game with a 13-0 blanking of Marion.
It’s also why Crabb is already sifting through multiple Division I suitors who like his size, his pitching style and his combination of speed and life. And it’s why Harrisburg (25-8) will be a difficult out in the Class 2A postseason.
“At the beginning of the game, Isaac didn’t really have his best stuff, but he really got stronger as the game went along,” said Bulldogs coach Jay Thompson. “He threw better in the fifth and sixth than he did in the first and second.
“He’s a competitor, man. He goes after guys.”
You would too – if you had Crabb’s stuff and his defense. Relying mostly on a two-seam fastball that produced 10 outs via grounders, Crabb whizzed through the first three innings on just 29 pitches. He obtained his outs in the second while using only five pitches.
While Crabb knows he can reach back for a little extra at any time, he has figured out that it’s easier on him if he gets his outs in three pitches or less.
“If you don’t trust your team behind you to make plays, they’re not going to trust you to throw strikes,” he said. “It’s all about trusting the team. If you let them hit the ball, you can throw fewer pitches, keep your pitch count down.
“All throughout a game, I just try to keep walks down, not hit guys and control what I can control. I know the guys behind me will help me.”
There was plenty of help all the way around for Crabb. Before he even threw a warmup pitch off the mound, he had four runs of cushion. As it has done during its extended run, Harrisburg did major damage with two outs in an inning.
Wildcats righty Lucas Johnson had a chance to escape the first without any damage. But with runners at second and third, Noah Boon’s bouncer up the middle eluded Johnson’s glove and died in the grass for an infield hit that initiated scoring.
After Javie Beal singled home a second run and Connor Phalin slapped a two-run single to center, the Bulldogs owned an advantage only a grand slam could erase. And with Crabb retiring his hitters quickly, Marion was as good as done.
“He was really dealing today,” Wildcats coach Marty Manfredo said of Crabb. “I thought we put some decent swings on the ball early, but it seemed to go right at them. You get four runs down in the first against a good pitcher and a good team … we just couldn’t respond.”
Crabb mowed down his first 11 hitters until issuing a two-out walk to Parker Holland in the fourth. Two other batters made it aboard thanks to errors, but there were no spectacular plays required for Crabb to secure his first no-hitter.
Crabb polished off the no-no in style, retiring the last hitter with a high fastball for his sixth whiff of the day. He threw only 81 pitches in the masterpiece, reaching three-ball counts just three times in 21 hitters.
Before he really starts thinking about who to choose from a list that includes Tulane, Tennessee and Illinois, Crabb is eager to help Harrisburg make some noise in the playoffs.
“We’re super-pumped,” he said. “We think if we play to our potential, we can go deep into the postseason.”
While the Bulldogs try to keep their roll going, Marion (16-5) wants simply to get back on the scoreboard. It’s been blanked in two straight games, albeit against power arms in Crabb and Carbondale’s Bodie Jones.
Weather permitting, the Wildcats play a critical South Seven game Thursday at Mount Vernon. They’ll be without shortstop Josh Griffin, who’s in concussion protocol after being blasted on a play at second base in the fourth inning. On a steal attempt, a baserunner knocked him over instead of sliding.
The runner was booted and, per IHSA rules, will sit out a game. Griffin may be out of the lineup for multiple games.
“You know how concussions go,” Manfredo said. “We’ve got to take care of him first.”