The season was on the line for the Rosa International Middle School baseball team.
After a slow start to the season, Rosa entered the final game needing a win against Winslow Middle School to the have a chance to qualify for the playoffs in the South Jersey Middle School Baseball League.
With the biggest game of the year upon him, eighth-grade pitcher Jared Hernandez responded with the biggest performance of his young career.
Hernandez threw a no-hitter, the first at any level, as he helped Rosa to a 3–2 win over Winslow on May 5.
Hernandez said he didn’t realize he was throwing a no-hitter until deep into the game.
“In the fifth inning, I started to realize no one had hit me so far,” he said. “In the fifth inning, the pressure started getting there.”
After cruising through the first five innings, Hernandez battled through fatigue in the sixth and seventh, walking four hitters and hitting batter in the final two innings. Those baserunners allowed Winslow to score two runs and close within one. Hernandez came through in the seventh, however, inducing a pair of groundouts to the final two hitters to close out the win for Rosa.
Jared’s dad Ed is the head coach of the team and also teaches at Rosa. He described his team as resilient after struggling through a slow start to the season.
“We started 1–5, and we had to win at least four of the last five games to try to get into the playoffs,” he said.
Rosa had recovered the in the finals weeks thanks to an improved effort in all facets of the game. Entering the final day of the season, Rosa needed a win and a loss by Evesham’s DeMasi Middle School to force a tiebreaker for the league’s final playoff spot.
Entering the game, Ed told his team to worry only about winning the final game and not about what DeMasi may be doing on that afternoon.
“We didn’t know if we were going to get in or not,” Ed said. “We just had to do our part with winning the game.”
It was Jared’s turn in the team’s rotation to pitch in that final game. Jared had helped put Rosa in a favorable spot during his last start.
“It fell for him to throw on that Tuesday,” Ed said. “He had pitched the Tuesday prior against Moorestown.”
The no-hitter was a total team effort, as Rosa’s defense helped preserve the no-hitter for Jared. Great defensive plays from shortstop Marc Basehore and center fielder Ellis Schwartz kept Winslow hitless throughout the game.
Ed said the team’s defense was one area where Rosa improved drastically during the season.
“At the beginning, the defense wasn’t at his best,” Ed said. “But during that last game, everyone came together.”
“It was helpful,” Jared said. “There weren’t many errors so it helped out.”
After recording the final out, Jared said he was enveloped with a sense of relief after coming through for his team in one of the biggest ways possible.
“It felt good, just realizing the game was on the line just getting that last out and finishing,” he said.
The season ended for Rosa later that day, as DeMasi won its game to eliminate them from playoff contention. However, the no-hitter allowed Jared and the team to end its season on a high note.
“It felt good, finishing the season with a no-hitter,” Jared said.