Edward Little pitcher Clay Robbins throws to catcher Will Cassidy during practice Friday in Auburn. Adam Robinson/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Clay Robbins has been a part of two no-hitters this season for the Edward Little baseball team and is 4-0 in his starts. 

Robbins’ second no-hitter was earlier this week in the first round of the Class A North preliminary round when the eighth-seeded Red Eddies defeated the ninth-seeded Mt. Blue Cougars on Monday.

In that game, Robbins threw the first three innings before freshman Drew Smith came in and finished off the final two innings to secure the win. Robbins’ first no-hitter was against Cony earlier in the season. 

Heading into EL’s quarterfinal clash with the 2019 A North champion Oxford Hills on Thursday, Robbins said his confidence was “sky-high.”

“I had already pitched against them twice and done pretty well, but I walked more guys than I wanted to,” Robbins said. “I just went in to attack and I knew my fastball can beat people. I felt great and so I kind of got in the game, struck out the side and felt great so I kept it rolling.”

Robbins almost pitched another no-hitter in the Red Eddies’ 6-2 win over top-seeded Oxford Hills. He held the Vikings without a hit before he reached his pitch-count limit with one out in the seventh inning. He also struck out 14 batters.

Robbins’ fastball hasn’t always been the focal point of his arsenal on the mound. 

Two years ago, Robbins wasn’t nearly as tall as he is now — “6 or 7 inches” shorter, according to Edward Little coach Dave Jordan. So, as a sophomore, a smaller Robbins had to work with what he had, and learn the ins and outs of the pitching craft while developing a curveball. 

“My whole baseball career I had kind of been a pitch-to-contact guy and always succeeded off my knowledge of pitching, and not overpowering stuff,” Robbins said. “Then I started throwing a curveball, and that was really good, it was my pitch for a while because I wasn’t throwing fastballs very hard. Now I throw with above-average velocity, so I’ve been able to combine my stuff with my pitches with my pitching IQ, which I have always used to succeed; so combining that has been a good formula.”

Edward Little baseball coach Dave Jordan talks to his team prior to the team’s practice during Friday in Auburn. The Red Eddies play at Bangor in the Class A North semifinals on Saturday. Adam Robinson/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Robbins’ skills have made further strides this season, as have those of the entire Edward Little pitching staff, and that has translated to higher team morale, increased confidence and better results. 

“We work hard and these guys put the time in,” Jordan said. “A couple years ago, I think it was proof to these guys that it’s not where you start but where you finish. We were almost able to beat a fantastic Oxford Hills team, and that shocked everybody. Not us, but everyone else. We just wanted to compete at the right time, and these guys are following a similar course.”

NO CINDERELLA

Edward Little next takes on fifth-seeded Bangor in an A North semifinal on Saturday.

While the Red Eddies entered the playoffs as the eighth seed, they don’t consider themselves a true low seed. The coaches and players say that injuries, players missing time due to COVID-19 quarantines and the year off due to the canceled 2020 season contributed to the Edward Little’s seeding.

“We don’t believe we are a Cinderella team,” Jordan said. “We don’t believe that as an eighth seed that we are an underdog. We believe we can compete with anybody that’s left.”

Roster inconsistency this spring has hampered the Eddies’ ability to get in a rhythm for an extended period of time, but the team’s fortunes have changed recently. The roster is set, and the consistency is reflected in the results.

“They’re playing with a higher level of confidence and we were able to work in a couple scrimmages between the regular season and playoffs, and that’s helped reset some stuff, and we’ve changed some things in the lineup,” Jordan said. “Our pitching and defense continues to keep getting better.”

Adds catcher Will Cassidy: “The same nine guys are playing at the same spot, so now we know it’s consistent at this point.”

PITCHING, PITCHING, PITCHING

Robbins hasn’t lost as a starter this season, and others, including Alex Avila, Drew Smith, Campbell Cassidy, have grown  and improved on the mound. So Edward Little feels confident with whoever it is on the mound at any time. 

“I’d say even with Clay and Alex, who I have caught my entire life, as well as Campbell and Drew, they’ve matured and been more comfortable,” Will Cassidy said. “Drew pitched in a playoff game as a freshman, which I wouldn’t have been able to do. Everyone’s more comfortable, they’ve been able to throw strikes; it’s livened us up and guys have just gotten comfortable. We lost Clay for a few games, so having our number one back is good.”

Edward Little’s Colin Merritt watches catcher Will Cassidy take pitches during practice on Friday in Auburn. Adam Robinson/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Cassidy has been doing his part from behind the plate. Jordan and Robbins both call him a “coach on the field.”

“A few of us are former catchers here, and in the past we have called a lot of the pitches. But now, Will, he’s such an intellectual baseball player and he knows the game so well and knows what we are looking for that he calls probably 95 percent of them now,” Jordan said. “He’s just playing with a lot more confidence and is able to verbalize the information with his teammates.”

Infielder Colin Merritt, who also pitches, said that confidence has spread to the rest of the team.

“Drew being a freshman and throwing as hard as he does, and Clay having the consistency, it’s like that with most of our pitching and it definitely helps as a fielder knowing you have pitchers like that,” Merritt said. “(Cassidy) is just a brick wall back there, you can’t complain. There aren’t many passed balls, he’s got a good arm and a good jump on kids.”

The Edward Little baseball team listens to coach Dave Jordan speak prior to Friday’s practice in Auburn. Adam Robinson/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

MORALE IS UP

Anson Perry, a utility player off the bench, said that the team grown closer throughout the season.

“My role on this team has been to support my guys and just do the best I can off the bench. I keep them going, keep the attitude up, I’m just there to pick up the guys whenever they need it,” Perry said. “… We’ve definitely come together as a team. Thanks to the Smiths, after the first playoff win they had us over in the pool. Last night after our big win against Oxford we had a fire just having a blast bonding together. It’s been awesome.”

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