Somewhere on the grassy patch between the mound and home plate, baked into the awkwardness that was the Maryland baseball team’s celebratory group jump-hug, senior Jake Stinnett had already decided enough was enough and it was time to move on from the no-hitter he just pitched.
“Everyone’s patting you on the head, trying to give you a hug or something, saying great job,” Stinnett said, “while I’m just standing there like: ‘All right guys. Thank you. I’m good.’ ”
This is not to suggest Stinnett somehow couldn’t appreciate the magnitude of how he mowed down visiting Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon in College Park, striking out nine and walking two over a complete game. He had never pitched a no-hitter before, not in Little League or summer ball or high school back home in California. But Stinnett had also learned to avoid overstating the importance of single baseball games, so after all the fist-bumps and congratulations, Stinnett returned to the dugout ready to, in his words, “flush it.”
Forgive his Terrapins teammates, some of whom returned to the locker room in between their doubleheader sweep and immediately uploaded their exuberance to Twitter, if they need more time, because Stinnett now counts himself among esteemed company. Not since May 13, 2008, had a Maryland pitcher thrown a no-hitter. Now, over the past three games, Stinnett has faced 68 batters and retired 62 of them.
The hard-throwing sidekick to Jimmy Reed’s left-handed dominance in 2013, drafted in the 29th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Stinnett moved into the team’s ace role this spring and has delivered. Last week, he threw a one-hitter over eight innings against Bryant and struck out a career-high 11. The ACC named him its pitcher of the week. Chances are he earns it again next time, too.
As the afternoon plodded along and Stinnett showed few signs of letting up, his teammates kept their conversations normal. Certain plays in the game. Scouting reports for opposing hitters. Things like that. Stinnett was following his normal pitch selection plan, somewhere around 70 percent fastballs interspersed with 20 percent sliders and 10 percent changeups.
Everyone noticed the goose egg under the visiting “H” column on the scoreboard in left-center. Stinnett certainly did. But unwritten baseball rules bans any mention, under the threat of whatever strict punishments derive from breaking superstition – mainly, that the no-hitter goes away.
At the last out, Stinnett wasn’t sure what to do. Catcher Nick Cieri approached the mound and gave his pitcher a hug. Then the players slowly leaked from the dugout, but by that point Stinnett had enjoyed his fill. He was happy, of course, and memories from the game haven’t yet faded, but he was already thinking about the next Terps game, and how he could contribute. Besides, the standard postgame routine was enough. The parents of some roommates often take the players out to dinner, so maybe Stinnett could celebrate there.
“We love the Silver Diner,” he said.