The problem with throwing a perfect game is that you’ve thrown a perfect game. With that as a benchmark, the first blemish in any subsequent outing can feel like failure.
So by Potomac Falls senior left-hander James Pearson’s recently heightened standards, his performance Tuesday night in his team’s 10-2 home win over Loudoun Valley was not particularly noteworthy, even though he struck out eight and walked none against the second-place team in the Virginia AA Dulles District, and even though it kept the No. 10 Panthers in the hunt for a third unbeaten district regular season in five years.
“I always want to throw a perfect game,” said Pearson, who did not feel as loose as he usually does or have the same command. “I was really excited when [the perfect game] happened, but it’s kind of like every time I go out after that I kind of have to get it out of mind.
“When I give up a few hits, it kind of sticks in the back of my head when I’m pitching: ‘Don’t want to walk anybody. Don’t want to give up a hit. Want all my infielders to make plays. Want all my outfielders to make plays.’ It’s kind of nerve-wracking.”
Okay so Tuesday night was not exactly like April 16, when Pearson hurled his five-inning perfect game against Loudoun County. Nor was it his 13-strikeout one-hitter against Loudoun Valley on April 2.
Even so, it was effective enough to keep Potomac Falls (13-2, 13-0) unbeaten in the district and to beat the Vikings (12-5, 10-3) for the fourth time in the teams’ last five meetings.
“He would go down in the count 1-0, but then he always came back 1-1,” Potomac Falls Coach Joe Terango said. “Any time you can do that, I think you’re going to have success. His second pitch was always there for a strike.”
“This time he wasn’t as dominant,” Loudoun Valley Coach Wayne Todd said. “You can’t take first-pitch fastballs for strikes. You’ve got to go after him early. Once he gets two strikes on you, he brings a little extra in and that’s when he gets you.”
Pearson, one of the top players in the area who has not yet committed to a college, moved to Loudoun County from the Outer Banks area of North Carolina before last season, and he had to wait his turn behind other pitchers. He got his opportunity late last season and was earmarked to be an ace his senior year, when the Panthers would be breaking in several new regulars.
Potomac Falls collected 11 hits Tuesday, nine of which came in their five-run first and fifth innings, when the Panthers batted around in each. Second baseman Jared Goldberg, shortstop Brandon Orbe, catcher Brendan O’Brien, all seniors, and junior first baseman Joey Larimer had two hits apiece, and senior outfielder Zack Engelmann joined Larimer and O’Brien in having a multi-RBI night.
“Since we lost around nine seniors last year we figured it would be a little different talent-wise,” Goldberg said, “but I haven’t seen a team this close together all four years that I’ve been here. I think we just trust each other more.”
Potomac Falls, which lost to Bridgeport (W.Va.) on Saturday on a grand slam inside-the-park home run in the eighth inning, can maybe begin to think about an unbeaten Dulles season.
“We don’t really talk about it,” said Orbe who pitched the seventh, “but we all have it in our head that it’s a possibility and that’s what we’re going for.”