Almost every pitch Kenny Roder delivers is accompanied by a bit of theatre reserved for a magician.
Right from the windup, Roder is a novelty, starting from a unique crouch that squares more toward first base than to home plate. He sprinkles in a sense of mystery, peering in to the target with eyes barely visible to a hitter as they peak through the dental-floss thin slit between the low-riding brim of his Hoboken hat and the glove that holds the item he’s about to make disappear.
As he explodes to the plate, the 5-8, 140-pound senior left-hander is a testament to value of mechanics. Every action serves a purpose, from the wand-like sweep of his left leg to the torque of his hips to the wicked snap of his left arm that delivers the show stopper, a blazing fastball that transforms into practically a vapor on its path to the dish.
The velocity can range anywhere from 87 to 90 miles per hour but the one thing that rarely changes is how efficiently he can make it miss bats before re-emerging in the waiting mitt of catcher Danny Barron.
On Wednesday, Roder put on a command performance in the truest sense. Behind the pinpoint control that made Barron look like a statue receiving each offering, Roder was more honing device than pitcher, ringing up 15 strikeouts to punctuate his second no-hitter of the season in leading Hoboken to a 1-0 victory over St. Peter’s Prep at Cavens Point in Jersey City.
“His perfect game was good, but I think this was his best of the season,” Barron said of his batterymate’s gem when measured against the perfect game he spun against St. Anthony on April 20. “All I have to do is set up and he just hits the spots. He throws hard and right where you want it. As a catcher, it’s easy to receive him. And, it gets easier as the game goes along because he gets better.”
Roder issued a leadoff walk to Anthony Rinaldi in the bottom of the first and another to Matt Halchak with one out in the third. From there, he was a picture of poise and perfection, retiring the last 12 batters he faced in a 90-pitch masterpiece.
He recorded at least two strikeouts in each inning and struck out the side in the fourth. After getting a ground out to start the bottom of the seventh, he wrapped up the no-hitter with two strikeouts to finish one shy of the 16 he notched against St. Anthony.
Not bad for someone who was dealing with some mild discomfort since his last start, a 1-0 setback to Harrison on Friday in the first round of the Hudson County Tournament.
“My shoulder was killing me the whole week,” Roder said. “I woke up and it was fine. But, I was babying it. I didn’t want to hurt anything but by the fourth inning, I was ready to throw harder.”
One aspect that demanded Roder be so fine was the slim margin for error he had to work with.
Hoboken (12-11) manufactured the game’s only run in the top of the first. Isaiah Mateo led off with a walk, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Danny Grossi, who went 1-for-2 with a double.
From there, it was all Roder, who needed to be sharp considering the job his counterpart, St. Peter’s Prep left-hander Anthony Pacillo did, limiting Hoboken to four hits while striking out six in absorbing the hard-luck loss.
But, Roder is getting used to working under intense circumstances. The triumph marked the fourth straight 1-0 game he’s been involved in.
“It makes me more motivated,” said Roder. “I have to get outs because a runner on base could cost us the game.
Roder emphasized the point in the first. After Rinaldi walked, he stole second and went to third on a grounder. But, that was as far as he got as Roder slammed the door with an inning-ending strikeout.
Having issued just four walks all season entering the game, Roder missed on a 3-2 pitch to Halchak in the third but made up for it when he picked him off first to erase the last St. Peter’s Prep batter to reach base.
“Every single time he puts us in a position to win,” Hoboken coach Jack Baker said of Roder. “He has to deal with a lot of pressure protecting a one-run lead. And, that only intensifies as the game moves along. But, he has such a clear head. He handles the pressure tremendously. He invites it. It was good to get a run early and watch him have a miraculous day.”
Gregg Lerner covers baseball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner