Most perfect games and no hitters feature a signature defensive play, a masterpiece put on in the late innings that keeps intact whatever it is the pitcher is chasing, gives onlookers a quick scare and gets remembered.
That came with two outs in the eighth. Maryland starter Ryan Ramsey had sent 23 straight Northwestern hitters down without any reaching base. After a questionable call kept the at bat alive, a ball was stung over the head of right fielder Troy Schreffler. Tracking back, he leaped with his glove extended above him and found the sailing baseball.
Twenty-four down, three to go.
Entering the ninth, Ramsey could sense the energy. The fans who remained late Friday night grew quiet. His teammates and defense that surrounded him had stayed clear of the junior left hander.
“He was sitting right next to me and I wasn’t going to say a word to him,” Chris Alleyne said.
“Nobody said a word about it,” head coach Rob Vaughn said. “If they would have, I’d have sent them home or cut their scholarship or something.”
Ramsey started the inning with a fly ball to right field caught by Schreffler. Then, a strikeout, his 10th of the game. To end it, a ground ball to third base. Ramsey turned to watch Nick Lorusso field it and throw to Maxwell Costes.
Seconds later, teammates spilled out of the dugout and rushed in from the outfield to meet him for celebration at the mound, a moment Alleyne said there’s nothing comparable to. Costes made sure to find and secure the ball, which now laid on the turf, that was featured in the final out of Maryland’s first perfect game since 1959.
“Overwhelming,” Ramsey said, noting that his cleat slipped off during the moment of excitement.
For one night, Ryan Ramsey was perfect. Alongside an offense that went nuclear, Maryland took down Northwestern in the weekend series opener, 13-0.
The Maryland offense, which led the Big Ten in home runs entering the night, added to its lead with four long balls. They were all solo shots, and the first came from the conference’s home run leader Alleyne in his first plate appearance. An inning later, Costes and Bobby Zmarzlak went back-to-back.
Around this time, Ramsey did something he never does and hates doing. He checked his stat line.
In the third, Maryland’s offense pounced on the Wildcats’ young pitching staff. Five hits, two walks and a wild pitch allowed the Terps to grow their lead by five runs, now leading by nine. After a quiet fourth, Maryland added three more on another solo home run, this one from Lorusso, then two two-out doubles from Schreffler and Costes along with a Zmarzlak triple to make it 12-0.
Quickly, the Terps held a lead that Ramsey held at bay. He collected whiffs on his offspeed pitches and weak contact to cruise through the Wildcats’ offense.
“A lot of changeups,” Ramsey said. “Mostly fastballs and changeups then mixing in… a slider.”
Through three innings, he collected three strikeouts on 32 pitches. After four, five punchouts on 43 pitches. Through six, Ramsey’s pitch count sat at 70. A 16 pitch seventh inning had him at 86 before the final two innings.
Vaughn told a reliever to get up and warm in the bullpen in the event Ramsey’s perfect game bid came to a premature end.
“Well, if something happens, should we go to [Will] Glock?,” pitching coach Mike Morrison asked Vaughn, dancing around the word the team was avoiding all night.
“Yes,” Vaughn replied, scared to use the word himself. “That was the end of the conversation.”
There were some scares: a few hard hit balls to the outfield, some ground balls that forced infielders to range far to their lefts and rights and complete difficult throws and a couple of counts that reached three balls.
Still, Ramsey remained perfect. Pitching on Friday night for the first time this season after Vaughn reconfigured the order of his weekend rotation, Ramsey used the confidence his coaches showed in him to his advantage. He acknowledged pitching under the lights felt different than the Saturday afternoon sun.
With a 13-run lead, Ramsey entered the ninth prepared to do what he’d done so easily all night. He worked quickly, fooled hitters and induced weak contact. Even quicker than Ramsey could retire an opposing batter, the dugout and defense jolted to join Ramsey near the mound after the final out.
“A night like tonight, you don’t ever dream of nights like that,” Vaughn said. “I might coach the rest of my career and not have another one.”