Preseason Countdown #20: Best pitching performance of 2018

It wasn’t hard to find the best pitching performance of 2018.

Hunter Parsons’ two-hit complete game shutout would’ve been impressive against any opponent, but this one came against a Stetson team that won its conference tournament, hosted an NCAA regional and advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time in program history.

The right-hander retired the first 11 batters he faced, none of which hit the ball past the infield. He allowed a single in the fourth, a single in the fifth, hit one batter in the seventh, but those were the only three Hatters to reach base.

Here’s a repost of Maryland Baseball Network’s game recap from the masterful performance:

20daysBy Joe Catapano | March 25, 2018
Parsons pitches complete game shutout, clinches series victory over Stetson

Maryland right-hander Hunter Parsons was greeted with a big hug from his catcher Justin Morris after dealing his 101st pitch Sunday against Stetson. The junior had just dealt a two-hit complete game shutout—Maryland’s first since 2016—to clinch a series victory over the Hatters.

“That hug meant a lot,” Parsons said. “He called me last year when I was struggling and he’d say, ‘You just have to trust it man. You just have to trust that God’s got a plan with you right now.’  I had to fight through that and to be able to come out there and throw to him today was pretty awesome.”

Parsons continued his dominant resurgence in his sixth start of the season, also striking out a career-high nine hitters in the Terps 2-0 victory. The junior’s complete game shutout is the first since former pitcher Brian Shaffer’s in the 2016 Big Ten Tournament.

As Mike Spooner’s fourth-inning line drive dropped in left-center field for Stetson’s first hit of the game off Parsons, snow began to fall from the sky and onto the turf at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium.

The junior’s perfect game and no-hit bid were spoiled after retiring 11 straight batters on 36 pitches to start the game, but the Terps dugout still erupted in cheers at the sight of snowfall. Parsons, not phased by his first mistake or his teammates’ coincidental excitement, retired the next very next batter on three pitches to complete his fourth scoreless frame.

“At first I saw something white fly by my face and I was like, ‘What is that?’ and then it started coming down harder I was like, ‘Oh shoot, it’s snowing,” Parsons recalled. “But I think that played in our favor because [Stetson] played 21 games in Florida, it’s 85 [degrees] there and it’s starts snowing here and our dugout is cheering.”

Throughout his performance Parsons received the ball from Morris, and quickly prepared for his next pitch, holding his glove in front of his face before the opposing batter was even settled back into the box.

“When you’re stepping into the box and a guy’s attacking you and you’re feeling like you’re being attacked because it’s strike, strike, strike, the second both feet hit in and you look up the ball’s coming at you, it’s tough,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “He’s really latched onto that.”

Halfway through the game, though, Parsons had no run support to aid his strong performance. Stetson left-hander Mitchell Senger, who earlier this season threw a no-hitter, was matching his counterpart in his first four frames.

Similar to yesterday’s win, the Terps used free passes to create separation from Stetson. After left fielder Richie Schiekofer legged out an infield single, two walks loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth for second baseman Nick Dunn. Taking advantage of more mistakes, Schiekofer scored the game’s first run on a passed ball.

The following inning, the Terps used an outfield error to eventually move first baseman Kevin Biondic into scoring position. Schiekofer’s RBI groundout scored Biondic from third after a nifty slide dodged the tag at the plate. Schiekofer, a freshman, went 2-for-4 with Maryland’s RBI and run scored.

“When push comes to shove, I want a guy that’s going to grind and that’s what our team needs right now and [Schiekofer] personifies that to a tee,” Vaughn said. “So I’ve been really happy with the way he’s competed.”

Those two runs, neither which were driven in with a hit, were all Parsons needed to finish his complete game. For the sixth time of the afternoon, the right-hander worked a 1-2-3 frame in the ninth to cap off his incredible feat. Just five weeks after allowing eight runs in his first outing this season against Tennessee, Parsons recorded to a fly out to left field to record a two-hit complete game shutout.

“I’m so happy for him. He’s worked so dang hard for this,” Vaughn said. “He’s got a long way to go but what he did out there today was awesome.”