SOUTHINGTON >> John Arel was dominant. There’s no other way to put it.
The senior right-hander, who is signed to play at Division I University of Maine next year, flirted with perfection and wound up with a one-hit, 15 strikeout gem in Northwest Catholic’s 1-0 victory over CCC West rival Southington on Monday afternoon at John J. Fontana Field.
“I felt pretty relaxed the whole game,” Arel said. “I was in the zone and was just doing what I’ve practiced to do for a month now.”
Aside from what he did on the mound today, Arel was just happy to get the win with his team.
With the win, Northwest Catholic (5-0), ranked No. 5 in the latest GameTimeCT Top 10 Poll, sits atop the CCC West standing with a 2-0 division record. Southington drops to 3-2, 1-1.
“Its a huge win,” he said. “Games against Southington are always huge for us. They’re always close and competitive and to get a conference win, this is huge for us.”
Three up and three down went the Blue Knights for six innings.
Not a single ball reached the outfield until Zachary Susi singled between the shortstop and third base hole with one out in the seventh to break up the perfect game.
Arel struck out the final two batters of the inning to secure the fifth win of the year for the Indians, while throwing under 85 pitches.
“That’s just outstanding for a high school kid,” Northwest Catholic coach Cory Carlson said. “If he’s getting ahead like that and throwing strikes, not wasting pitches. He did a good job getting ahead and pounding the strike zone.”
He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh and recorded two Ks in every other inning except the fourth, where he struck out just one.
“He was outstanding today,” Carlson said. “He’s gotten better as his years progressed and I told him today was the best I’ve seen him throw in four years.”
Kyle Cole pitched almost as well for Southington.
The lefty scattered four hits over seven innings while striking out five and walking two.
“When you get in a game like that, it comes down to executing,” Southington coach Charles Lembo said.
The lone NWC run came in the seventh after a poorly executed pick-off play.
Zackary Niziolek was caught off first base, but advanced to second safely. Three batters later, Thomas Meucci drove him in with a single to left.
“That’s what it came down to,” Lembo said. “We didn’t execute the play properly, he gets down to second and then that’s the winning run.”
Cole held the Northwest Catholic base-runners close, picking-off runners at both first and second multiple times but only getting two outs on the base paths.
“We got fortunate when a couple of our base-running mistakes turned out in our favor,” Carlson said. “But tip your cap to their kid too, he did a nice job out there.”
In the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Knights gave themselves a chance to tie the game with Susi stealing second, but NWC stranded him there.
“Our offense did not put pressure on their defense, so I tip my hat to the kid. He pitched a great game,” Lembo said. “Maine’s getting a good pitcher.”
A few times, Southington attempted to bunt for a hit, but couldn’t get one down.
“We’re trying to win the game,” Lembo said. “I don’t care about the perfect game or the no-hitter at that point. [In] a one-run game, you’re trying to do anything to get on base.”
Joseph Daigle was the only Southington batter not to strike out. He grounded to first and back to the pitcher in two at-bats.
“I can’t be mad at my players, [Arel] was just dominant,” Lembo said.
The Indians travel to Conard on Wednesday and the Blue Knights host Farmington.