Around the world of amateur baseball, the name Tony Kley is a familiar one. He was the 2015 Class C State Tournament MVP, and is arguably one of the greatest amateur baseball pitchers this state has ever seen.
Throughout Kley’s amateur baseball career, there’s been plenty of highlights; winning a state title in 2015 as a draftee with Plato, winning CRVL MVPs and Pitchers of The Year, and many more. When you’re as good as he is, there’s plenty of memorable moments.
In the years of covering the Winsted Wildcats, I have one memory of Kley that sticks out like no other. It wasn’t when he helped lead Plato to the state title. It wasn’t one of his many dominating seasons in the CRVL.
It was simply one game he pitched. In that game I’m talking about, he didn’t get the win on the mound. He also didn’t get the loss. Instead, he earned a no decision, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best no decision performances I’ve ever seen or heard about at any level in baseball.
Let’s set the scene. It’s the 2016 CRVL playoffs and the Winsted Wildcats are set to square off with the Mayer Blazers in a best-of-three-game series. There was no doubt who would get the start in Game 1 for Winsted, and you could even say there was little doubt of who would get the win with Kley on the mound. The Wildcats were one of the top teams in the CRVL all season long, while the Blazers were at the bottom of the league. It seemed like an easy win on paper for Kley and the Wildcats.
Well, on the mound, it was an easy matchup for Kley, as he dominated the Blazers throughout. The only problem was, the Wildcats couldn’t score a run either.
In Game 1 against the Blazers, Kley had a no-hitter through eight innings. That no-hit bid was finally broken up after a single by Tanner Luebke.
It was the only hit Kley allowed in the game. A one-hit shutout should be good enough to get a win, right? Wrong.
After nine innings of play, Winsted and Mayer were still scoreless as the Wildcats were unable to pick up a single run to back up Kley’s dominant performance on the mound.
After dominating the Blazers through nine innings, Kley came out for the 10th inning and looked even stronger.
The Wildcats failed to score in the bottom of the 10th once again, ending Kley’s day as Brady Jenkins came out to pitch in the 11th.
Kley’s final stat line looked like this. He pitched 10 innings, allowed just one hit, struck out 21 batters, and still didn’t get the win.
Looking back at it now, it’s still crazy to think that those numbers weren’t good enough to get Kley a win. Instead, he had to settle for a no decision.
If that isn’t a weird enough ballgame, here’s how the game ended. The Blazers and Wildcats were still scoreless entering the bottom of the 12th inning. Mayer still had just one hit to their credit, and in the bottom half of the inning, the Wildcats finally pushed the winning run across that Kley deserved.
How did that winning run score? It wasn’t a walk-off hit. It wasn’t an error. It wasn’t even a live play.
With the bases loaded, Cullen Schultz was hit by a pitch, scoring Matt Elsenpeter and giving Winsted a 1-0 victory in 12 innings.
Kley had one of the most dominant pitching performances of the season for the Wildcats in that game, and they just couldn’t scratch across a run. Whenever Kley is on the mound, you have to love your odds of winning a game if you can score just a single run, as Kley was capable of shutting down any lineup with his electric stuff. It just wasn’t in the cards for him this time.
Looking back on that game three years later, it’s still crazy to think that a guy can throw a one-hit shutout in 10 innings with 21 strikeouts, and not get the win. I guess that’s part of the craziness and beauty of baseball and why we all love the game. After all these years, and covering hundreds of other sporting events, I can vividly remember a no decision in an amateur baseball game.
Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter.