ALTOONA – Mark Faanes celebrated his 500th win as Pizza Hut/Post 53 American Legion baseball manager.
And he did it in style.
“It was really great to do it on a no-hitter,” said the city native who has been involved in city baseball for nearly a half-century.
The no-hitter was tossed by Levi Schaller in the team’s first game 7-0 win over the Altoona Reds Tuesday night at Greg Bement Field. Pizza Hut completed the sweep with an 11-5 win in the second game.
That leaves Faanes with a 501-265 record in his 19th season.
“It’s a credit to the players, coaches, parents and an understanding wife,” Faanes said. “The game still makes the adrenalin run. I don’t get the same feeling fishing or golfing as I do being in the dugout with the guys.”
Zac Stange and Tanner Halvorson are two Pizza Hut veterans who have played under Faanes for four years.
“In four years, I’ve grown up a lot and he has had a lot to do with it,” said Halvorson, who was the state high school pitcher of the year for North last summer. “He is really good with the players, always super positive as a leader.”
Stange, who just finished his first year of college successfully at Winona State, was just as grateful to play under him.
“He’s a great coach, he knows what he’s doing and he finds a way to win,” he said. “He social and so good with the players. It’s an honor to play for him.”
Stange, Halvorson and all their teammates contributed in Tuesday’s wins, which gives defending state champion Pizza Hut a 5-2 season record.
Schaller struck out 13 and allowed five baserunners on walks before leaving with two out in the seventh due to the pitch count.
“It’s been awhile since I pitched so I was a little rusty,” the Immanuel Lutheran product said. “I mixed it up and went to the curve early.”
Pizza Hut pitchers weren’t as sharp in the second game as starter Jacob Salonek, Jaelin Williams, who came on in the third, and winner Logan Rasmussen, who worked the last 2 1/2 innings to get the win, were guilty of issuing 13 bases on balls.
But they were able to survive as they allowed just four hits, forcing Altoona to strand 11 runners.
And they had good bat support from their mates. In the two games, the Pizza 53s rapped 26 hits, 11 for extra bases.
“We’ve struggling a little, not being able to score like we’re capable of,” Faanes said. “We got that going tonight and I hope it continues.”
In the first game, Stange ripped two doubles while Jaelin Williams and Jaxon Kostka each belted a double and triple.
In the second game, Kas Palzkill, Ryan Venne, Draeson Marcoux, Rasmussen and Ethan Kjellberg slammed doubles and it helped lead to eight runs in the first two innings.
Venne had five hits in the two games and Palzkill four while Kjellberg and Rasmussen each hit safely three times in the nightcap.
Atloona got steady pitching from Mitch Adrian in the opener while Jake Nelson had problems early and took the loss in the second game. Nelson was tough at the bat, however, rapping three hits and driving in two of the Reds runs.
The Pizza wins came over an Altoona program that obviously doesn’t reach out to the numbers of the Eau Claire team. And Faanes is well aware of that.
“They’re a good class A team and will do well as the season goes on,” he said. “They played well, but we had a little too much firepower for them.”
Pizza Hut is scheduled for a 4 p.m. doubleheader Friday at 4 p.m. at Carson Park against La Crosse.