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Kieran Gibson delivers a pitch

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Kieran Gibson took the mound at the Prout School on Saturday for the first and potentially the last time.

And boy did he make it count.

The Prout School senior pitched a no-hitter with 16 strikeouts as the Crusaders beat Classical 10-1. It was the first no-hitter for a Prout pitcher since Mason Feole’s playoff gem in 2016, and the 16 strikeouts tied a school record.

“Going into it, I felt really confident,” Gibson said. “I knew I could pitch well today. I felt great. And I knew I had an amazing team behind me. They got the runs and I got the strikeouts. It was amazing.”

Gibson is in his first and only year with the Crusaders. He was born in the United States and grew up in Belgium. With hopes of playing baseball at the collegiate level in the United States, he played Connie Mack baseball in Rhode Island the last two summers while staying with family here. He’s attending Prout this year as a senior and had already made a splash with a 15-strikeout game earlier in the season.

Remarkably, he was even better on Saturday, and it came at a good time. He had yet to pitch at home. His mother, Véronique, was in from Belgium for senior day festivities, joining his father, Jeff, who has been with him this school year. His Ocean State family members were also in attendance. It added up to the perfect capstone on a special year.

“It’s been really great,” Gibson said. “The Prout School is amazing. I love the teachers, all my classmates. It’s been one of the best years of my life.”

A rainout last weekend gave Gibson about two weeks between starts. The extra rest didn’t hurt, and both he and his catcher had a feeling there would be the potential for something special.

“I texted him two days ago and said, ‘We’re going to throw a no-hitter on senior night,’” said senior catcher Carter Grimm.

In the 15-strikeout performance earlier in the season, Gibson got stronger as the game went on. That happened again this time, but he started from a very good place. The right-hander struck out the first two batters he faced, then fanned the side in the second inning. It was clear that he had fantastic stuff.

“He started off with that high intensity and high energy,” head coach Ty Cosgrove said. “I think senior night got him going. He just came out with a little extra today, for sure.”

Gibson hit a batter in the third inning. The next hitter reached on an error, then leadoff hitter Tyler Lee drove in a run on a fielder’s choice. He was left on first base as Max DeLuca struck out, and no Classical hitter would reach base again. Gibson retired the last 13 batters he faced in order, striking out 10 of them.

“Everything was working,” Grimm said. “We fed off his slider predominantly for his strikeout pitch. And they couldn’t touch his fastball. I called fastballs outside and he hit my glove every time.”

The biggest question mark was whether Gibson would have too much run support, as the 10-run mercy rule loomed. The Crusaders got two-run singles by Jack Kesner and Matt Pari to power a five-run second inning. They added a run in the third on an RBI by Mason Bissitt, then made it 9-1 in the fifth on an RBI by Mike Bogosian. Bogosian drove in another run in the sixth and the Crusaders had the run that would have invoked the mercy rule at second base when Kesner grounded out to end the inning

Gibson breathed a sigh of relief as the potential anti-climactic ending was avoided. Then the nerves took over.

“I just tried to put it out of my mind and focus,” Gibson said.

He succeeded in the final inning. Gibson struck out Classical’s 3-4-5 hitters on a total of 12 pitches. He was mobbed at the mound after the final strike three.

“It’s really special,” Grimm said. “We knew he could do it and we’re thankful that he did it.”

The performance made it a memorable day for all the seniors. It’s a group that was thrust into leadership roles this season following the 2020 cancellation. They’ve stuck with it through a rough start and now have the Crusaders moving in the right direction before the playoffs. Saturday’s victory was Prout’s fourth straight.

“Great group of guys,” Cosgrove said. “We’re so lucky we have the kids that we do. They’re all buying in and they’re working hard.”

Two games remain in the regular season. Then it’s on to the playoffs. It’s a safe bet no one will want to be lined up against Prout’s ace.

“We’re really confident heading into the playoffs,” Grimm said. “We’re on a little win streak. We’ve got a couple of more games coming up and we’re looking to keep our foot on the gas.”

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