Spencer Mraz almost threw Miami baseball’s first no-hitter since 1980 by using only one pitch.
During his April 13 start against Bowling Green, the junior starter fed the Falcons 110 consecutive fastballs and, for seven innings, he looked to be writing his name in the record books.
Mraz completed seven full frames before allowing his first and only hit of the afternoon — a single to Neil Lambert.
After Mraz got one more out in the eighth, his head coach, Danny Hayden, removed him. The righty ended the game with 13 strikeouts and only dished out two runs, three walks and one hit while earning his fifth win of the season.
But, during the outing, no one congratulated him. Not even his coaches dared to talk to him, and he was OK with that.
“I don’t even think anyone was looking at me when I was in the dugout,” Mraz said.
Junior catcher Cal Elvers gave Mraz a fist bump at the end of every inning before heading for the water cooler and leaving his batterymate alone.
The RedHawks didn’t want to jinx what they knew was turning into a special performance.
Coming into the game, Mraz felt like he had his good stuff.
“I was extremely confident,” Mraz said. “My [pregame bullpen session] was one of the best I’ve had this year … My curveball was looking really good and so was my changeup in the bullpen. But, after the first two innings, we [Mraz and Elvers] realized we didn’t really need them, to be honest.”
Indeed, Mraz didn’t need them. He located his heater well, especially down around the hitters’ knees. The majority of his career-high 13 strikeouts came on pitches at the bottom of the strike zone.
“He just froze them,” Elvers said. “It was just gross. It was coming in very hard, and it was the best I’ve seen him throw.”
Mraz utilized two fastball variations: a two-seamer and a four-seamer. His velocity stayed right around his normal clip, hovering between 91-94 miles per hour.
After the first five innings of catching those bullets, Elvers started to become aware of what his teammate was doing.
“Right after the fifth inning, I walked into the dugout, and I looked up,” Elvers said. “I was like, ‘Wow, he’s striking guys out with just a fastball. He’s got no hits.’ And then in the sixth, he went out and did it again. It was just like, ‘Ah, I think he might have a shot to actually throw a no-hitter here,’ which is pretty impressive, and I was excited to be a part of it.”
Though, for Mraz, it wasn’t meant to be.
He gave up that leadoff base hit to Lambert to open the eighth but immediately turned his attention toward throwing a nine-inning shutout.
He followed the hit by allowing a walk and then striking out his final victim of the afternoon.
With a 9-0 lead, Hayden decided to pull Mraz after 7 1/3 frames, leaving two runners on base. Both came around to score later in the inning, tagging Mraz with two earned runs. The RedHawks eventually won 15-2.
“When coach came out to pull me, I was like, ‘Damn, I know I should’ve had that,’” Mraz said. “But, that’s baseball.”
And, for Mraz, baseball doesn’t always have to be complex. Some days, he needs only one pitch.