The beat goes on?

High schools: Fifth-year senior Andre Gardner will make a pitch for his fourth straight no-hitter the next time he takes the mound for Towson.

May 04, 2000|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Andre Gardner is a testament to the value of persistence, and the rewards have been just short of perfect.

The 19-year-old, fifth-year senior at Towson High was academically eligible only once in his first four years of high school. That was at the end of last spring, when the right-handed pitcher went 2-0.

Gardner needed another year to graduate, and since he wouldn't turn 19 until this past October, he was eligible to play.

Now, he has turned his life around. In the classroom, his grades are in order, and he's on course to graduate and go to college. On the mound, in his first full varsity season, Gardner has thrown a Maryland-record three consecutive no-hitters.

"I told myself it was time to straighten up," said Gardner, a 5-foot-11, 165-pounder who said he plans to play for CCBC-Essex if he doesn't get a pro opportunity.

"I was basically a class clown and my grades were failing because I wasn't doing the job. Thanks to [Towson] Coach [Bill] Yosca sticking with me, I'm using my brain now for all the right things he taught me to do."

Gardner, who lives in east Towson with his grandmother and 13-year old brother, said he was "pretty down at the end of last year."

Said Yosca: "I think the experience has been very good for him, not only baseball, but he's become a better person for it. He's grown up emotionally and has incentive to graduate."

Despite Gardner's labeling himself a "class clown," Yosca said Towson principal Gwendolyn Grant told him "no one had ever issued a complaint about him, never been a behavioral problem," and for those reasons he was given a chance to return.

"I thank the school for allowing me to come back and get my diploma," said Gardner, who earned two A's on his last report card by "spending the time necessary."

His maturation has helped him deal with all the media and in-school attention he has gotten this week.

"It's been pretty amazing, but I'm dealing with it," Gardner said.

"Everybody around school has been great. I've been getting all kinds of congratulations from teachers and classmates, and it's made me feel really good."

Gardner, who is 4-1 with 67 strikeouts, seven walks and 14 hits allowed in 33 2/3 innings, has also spent a lot of time in Yosca's baseball weight-training class and is a lot stronger. His velocity has improved to "the mid-80s and could go up as he matures," according to Yosca.

Gardner's first no-hitter came April 14, a six-inning, 11-0 perfect game against Pikesville, in which he struck out 15. He followed that April 26 with a seven-inning, 8-0 gem over Woodlawn, in which he again struck out 15.

Learning that Gardner would be seeking his third straight no-hitter at home Monday against his Catonsville team, coach Doug Campbell faxed a note to Yosca on Friday. It read: "Knock it off, Bill, enough is enough."

But it wasn't. Gardner had another one left and struck out 18 Comets. The only run was unearned, and it came on a dropped fly ball in the seventh inning with one out.

Gardner set a state record for no-hitters in a season and tied the Maryland career record, set by Al Beckett of J. M. Bennett High in 1971 and '72.

Gardner's shot at a fourth straight no-hitter likely will come Tuesday at home against No. 10 Liberty (12-2).

Yosca said yesterday that since Gardner threw 116 pitches Monday against Catonsville that he is "not likely to pitch at Dundalk tomorrow. We'll see what he can do against the big dogs [Liberty]."

No-hit repeater

Maryland public school pitchers with two or more no-hitters in a season:

Name .........................School .......................No. ..........Year

Andre Gardner ...........Towson .......................3 ...........*2000

Chris Jackson ............North County ...............2 ............1997

Matt Cooper ...............Bowie ..........................2 ............1993

Brian Rolocut............. Arundel .......................2 ............1992

Steve Johnson ...........Glenelg .......................2 ............1989

Bill Callandrelle ..........N. Hagerstown ............2 ............1980

Scott Wharton ...........Old Mill........................ 2 ............1978

Frank Parriera ...........Arundel .......................2 .............1976

Moose Haas................Franklin ......................2 ............1974

Al Beckett ..................J. M. Bennett ..............2 ............1972

Source: Pat O'Malley

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