TAMPA — So far this season, Tampa Catholic coach Pat Russo's rules to handling his four-armed pitching monster have been ironclad.
Each member of his trusted quartet rarely gets more than 50 pitches an outing to state his case.
But when junior left-hander Ian Ham strolled off the field Tuesday already past his quota against Class 3A-10 rival St. Petersburg Catholic, there was a little bend to the rules.
"I thought I was done," Ham said later, his arm and shoulder in a wrap.
Ham ended the afternoon with a season-high 82 pitches — and gave the Crusaders 42/3 no-hit innings — in Tampa Catholic's 5-0 win over the Barons for its sixth straight victory.
Ham and relievers T.J. Owen and Keith Garcia combined for a two-hit shutout, extending the Crusaders' conference scoreless streak to 14 innings after a shutout win over Berkeley Prep.
Just this winter, the 6-foot-5 Ham was fighting painful back spasms — his pelvis rotating over his spine caused by growth spurts and the torque of constant throwing — that forced him to visit a chiropractor three times a week and made walking a burden.
But this season he's one of the reasons — with the left-handed Owen, right-handed Adam Sproat and sophomore Derek Martin — that the Crusaders (7-1, 3-0) have erased any doubts about their pitching.
"Honestly, I was worried," Russo said. "We knew we could run and swing the bats, but we were a little suspect on the mound. They've kept us in every game."
On Tuesday against SPC (7-4, 2-2), the Tampa Catholic offense held up its end quickly, scoring four first-inning runs on Barons ace Justin Tedder.
Designated hitter Nick Perez was 3-for-3 with two RBIs, including an RBI triple down the rightfield line in the first that started the scoring. Shane Rowland then scored Perez on an infield single and shortstop Nick Alfonso added a two-run single.