Pitcher Jesse Scholtens thought his days of playing Division I baseball might be over once he transferred from Arizona back to his native California to attend a junior college.
But Wright State, which has recruiting ties in the state, swooped in and offered him a second chance. And to third-year Raiders coach Greg Lovelady, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-hander has been an ideal fit.
“He’s literally one of the best teammates I’ve ever seen. He works so hard. He cares about the team,” Lovelady said.
“You always worry about pitchers, especially because it can be boring for them when they’re not playing. Not for him. Everything matters for him. He’s always on the top step, cheering everybody on.”
Scholtens had coaches and teammates pressing against the dugout rail and cheering him on against Dayton on Friday while he notched the program’s first perfect game, recording 27 consecutive outs.
There have been 20 perfect games in the NCAA since records began being kept in 1957. There have been 23 in the major leagues.
But Scholtens knew he had something special in the works in the early stages of the 1-0 win over the Flyers.
“I was actually aware in the second inning, only because I noticed nobody got on base yet. I was thinking, ‘Let’s see how many guys I can retire before someone gets on.’ Then it just kept on going,” he said.
Scholtens, whose no-hit, no-run game was the first for the Raiders since 1993, relied mostly on a fastball in the low-90s and a wicked slider. He didn’t reach a three-ball count and didn’t fall behind 2-0 until the first two batters in the ninth.
Catcher Jason DeFevers kept the perfect game going by throwing out about a half-dozen Flyers at first after they whiffed on pitches in the dirt. And center fielder Ryan Fucci made a diving stab that took away a potential hit.
Scholtens finished the game with his 12th strikeout.
“I looked to see what everyone else was doing (after the final out), and it just turned into a giant hug-fest,” he said. “Those guys are my brothers. To share a moment like that was pretty cool.”
Word about the feat spread quickly.
“I was on the phone for an hour and a half afterward talking to everybody. I heard from guys I hadn’t talked to in 10 years,” he said.
In his first season at Wright State in 2015, Scholtens helped the team reach the NCAA regionals by going 7-4 with a 3.08 ERA.
He was struggling a bit this season before some recent tweaks from pitching coach Jeff Mercer. Scholtens is 2-0 in four starts with a 4.10 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings.
He’s one of nine D-I pitchers to throw a nine-inning perfect game. He kept the lineup card and ball and plans to have them mounted.
“It’s pretty cool to think my name is going to be there for the rest of time. That’s pretty nuts,” he said.
“You can be in this game for 40 or 50 years as a player or coach and never have a chance to be a part of something like that,” he said.
“It was a lot of fun to be a part of it, because you know it will never be done again.”