By Ryan Hines
DEFIANCE -- Defiance left-handed hurler Jon Niese looked every bit the Major League prospect he has been claimed to be after cruising through the Celina batting order on Tuesday.
Niese threw six innings of one-hit ball and Defiance added four home runs in a 7-0 shutout win over Celina in a matchup of Western Buckeye League unbeatens.
Defiance, the only remaining unbeaten team in the WBL, now controls its own destiny as far as aspirations for a league title are concerned as its record improves to 17-1 overall and 5-0 in the WBL. Celina slips to 14-7 overall and 3-1 in league play.
Armed with a 90-plus mph fastball that reached as high as 92 and a devastating breaking ball in the cold and windy conditions, Niese struck out 14 and walked two improving to 8-0 on the season having allowed just one earned run all season long.
"Jon Niese is right up there with all the other great pitchers that Defiance seems to turn out every year," said Celina head coach Bruce Boley. "He's a nice pitcher and he can come to Celina and throw for us anytime. Wow, what can you say. We've faced him two straight years and we only have two or three hits against him in two games. He's an imposing figure on the mound out there and he's going to have a good career whether he goes to college or when he gets drafted." "Jon had really good command today and today was the best command he has had on his breaking ball all season long," said Defiance head coach Tom Held. "Hitting his 90-plus mph fastball is hard enough, but when he can throw a breaking ball like that for strikes too, he's really tough to hit."
Niese, who struck out eight straight Celina batters at one point, had a no-hitter intact until Kiel Hawk broke through with a deep double to left-centerfield with two outs in the fifth inning.
Niese came out after the sixth inning and was replaced by Tyler Burgoon, Defiance's next pitching prospect who's hitting 88 mph on the radar gun, and the sophomore allowed a meaningless single to Eric Braun before retiring the next three hitters in order.
With all eyes focused on Niese on the hill, the University of Cincinnati signee also added a three-for-three day at the plate with two singles and a solo home run. Also adding home runs for Defiance were Julian Bostelman, Kane Wagner and Graham Wagner. All of Defiance's seven runs came via the long ball on a day where the wind was blowing strong to leftfield.
"I was impressed with the way that they swung the bats," lauded Boley. "They decided to have a home run derby and didn't invite us. We got the ball up in the zone on a couple of their batters and they knew what to do with it."
"We've been swinging the bats pretty well all season long and a couple of the home runs today were wind-aided, but we'll take them," said Held. "Julian Bostleman hit a two-run home run for us in the second inning and when you can get a quick lead with a guy like Jon on the mound, it's going to make it that much tougher for the other team."
Defiance's dominance in the WBL continues with its 17th straight victory in league play while the Blue and White are outscoring opponents 41-3 in league games this season. The last loss that Defiance suffered in the league came two years ago when Celina's Brian Gagle hit a home run in the eighth inning to give the Green and White a 2-1 win. Ironically, Gagle's home run came off Niese when he was just a sophomore, who finished the season with a 1-6 mark on the hill.
Celina returns to action on Thursday hosting Wapakoneta in a WBL contest.