Stevens hurls a gem for Sleepy Eye

CHASKA — Sleepy Eye’s Avery Stevens had never pitched a no-hitter before Thursday. The senior righthander picked the perfect opportunity to get his first.

Stevens was unhittable, striking out 15 as Sleepy Eye advanced to the Class A state semifinals with a 6-0 victory against Hinckley-Finlayson at Chaska Athletic Park.

Stevens used his fastball to get ahead in the at-bat and his curve was just as effective. He walked just one batter, that coming in the sixth to break up the perfect game.

He was well aware of the no-hitter and he was also aware that he needed to mix up his pitches late.

“After the fourth inning, my fastball wasn’t really working today so I relied on my curveball and they just didn’t hit,” Stevens said.

Senior shortstop Zach Haala watched the gem and was happy for his teammate.

“It’s been a long time coming for Avery especially,” Haala said. “He’s thrown so many great games, he just hasn’t been able to get that perfect game or no-hitter. But we’ve been playing good baseball at the right time, our section was really tough. We got rolling come playoff time and going through that has really given us momentum.”

Sleepy Eye used a six-run fourth inning to give Stevens more than enough run support. Prior to that inning, neither team had much going offensively.

Stevens was on from the beginning. He struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced and the Jaguars didn’t put a ball in play past Stevens until a flyout to right field in the seventh inning.

Stevens helped his own cause in the fourth as he delivered an RBI that scored Carter Brinkman. Later in the inning, Haala drove in a run with a single and Nathan Walter doubled to score two runs. The six runs put the game away as Stevens was still locked in.

Sleepy Eye will now play at 2:30 p.m. on Friday against South Ridge. The winner of that game plays at 10 a.m. on Saturday for the championship at Target Field and the loser plays at 5 p.m. for third place in Chaska.