(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Paul Fox could not be touched.
The Charleston starter accounted for 18 of the game's 21 outs on his way to a no-hitter Thursday night during the opening round of the Fighting Squirrels Classic at Hillhouse Park in Charleston.
Riding the left arm of Fox, the Squirrels advanced to the second round winner's bracket after a 6-0 win over Calvert City, Ky.
Charleston will play the undefeated Poplar Bluff Thunder tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the second round.
"I just felt unstoppable tonight," Fox said. "It was a good feeling to have. I'm just glad it all worked out."
The ever-consistent Fox threw 110 pitches -- 65 for strikes 45 for balls. He fanned a whopping 15 batters with an array of pitches that baffled Calvert City to the fullest.
"He accounted for 18 outs himself. That's tremendous," Charleston manager Michael Minner said.
Whether he struck out a batter or let one slip away with one of his two walks, Fox did it with the same demeanor and poise. After all, three batters that reached base were eventually erased by Fox with one of the more deceptive pick-off moves in the region that had runners frozen solid just feet from first base.
Needless to say, he was confident first base was as far as they would get.
"I feel really comfortable with my pickoff move," Fox said. "With the left hand, you've got a little bit more of an advantage. When you've got a guy on first, it's not that big of a deal as it would be for a right-hander."
Minner knows all to well about Fox and the arsenal he can bring to the hill.
During the 2011 high school season, Fox, a Bloomfield native, battled Minner and the Charleston Bluejays during the district championship which Fox ultimately lost. Charleston's James Naile out-dueled the Bloomfield pitcher in a 2-1 decision.
"The thing that I love about him is that even after he hit a guy, he walks around the mound, grabs his hat, hits the mound and picks the guy off," Minner said. "He's just going to go out there and compete. He's never in bad shape out there."
Fox, who was congratulated with an ice bath by teammate Ethan Browning for accomplishing the no-hitter, threw nearly every one of his pitches for strikes -- including his devastating curve and his flummoxing knuckleball.
"I think I threw my knuckle ball more than my curve," Fox said. "It was one of those rare nights when everything was working real well for me."
It was a common sight to see Fox get ahead early in the count by throwing one of those curveballs making it nearly impossible for Calvert City to get to him.
"You saw a ton of swings and misses tonight because he's throwing curveballs and everything else for strikes," Minner said. "He just mixed it up so well. He was as advertised tonight."
Although he didn't need it, Charleston gave Fox plenty room for error.
The Squirrels gave Fox a five run lead after the first three innings after scoring two in the first, one in the second and two more in the third. They added one more run in the bottom of the sixth.
"I thought offensively we did some good things," Minner said. "We had a few blunders, but we've just got to learn each other and when that happens, we'll definitely be comfortable."
Fox made a complete night of it leading Charleston (8-8) with two of their eight team hits. Tim Fox added a double for the Squirrels as well.