The Valdosta Daily Times
On Saturday night, Nick Fogarty was perfect.
The senior left-handed pitcher threw just the second perfect game in Valdosta State’s 58-year baseball history Saturday night, coming in a 12-0 win over the Paine Lions.
Fogarty joins Leroy Purdy, who did it against Abraham-Baldwin Agricultural College in 1970, as the only pitchers in VSU history to throw a perfect game, and just the fifth pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter in school history.
“It is overwhelming, really,” Fogarty said. “You never expect to do it. You never go out thinking you are going to do it. Then it just happens. In the fifth inning, I thought to myself, “Wow, I’ve really been cruising. I need to keep barring down.’
“It is crazy. I never thought it would happen to me. It is overwhelming. I am speechless at this point. It will hit me, eventually.”
Fogarty dominated the Lions, receiving ample support from his offense and defense, as the Blazers secure the 12-0 win in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader at Billy Grant Field. The Blazers won game one, 6-0.
Fogarty’s performance Saturday followed up his seven-inning, 12-strikeout performance last Saturday against Lynn. In that win, which earned him Gulf South Conference Pitcher of the Week, Fogarty needed over 100 pitches to get through the seven innings of work.
On Saturday, Fogarty was as efficient as ever, needing just 77 pitches to get through his seven innings of work, striking out nine batters in the process.
“I had a rocky year last year; I broke my hand and I really didn’t have a good year,” Fogarty said. “So I went home over the summer and worked with a couple different coaches and I said to myself that I was going to come back and prove that I was the person they thought I was going to be.”
Cruising through the first five innings of the game, with the exception of a deep fly ball out in the first inning, Fogarty didn’t allow his first ground ball out until the fourth inning.
“I looked after the fourth inning, it dawned on me,” Valdosta State head coach Greg Guilliams said. “Where they were in their order, and with this being a seventh inning game, you think about it. In a nine-inning game, I don’t think I would have thought that. After the fourth is where it first dawned on me.”
It was in the sixth inning, though, where Fogarty needed major defensive help.
After Fogarty struck out the first batter of the sixth inning, Paine’s Justin Williams hit a hard grounder to Michael Gouge at third base. Gouge dove to his left, landing on his side, and managed to jump up to his feet to throw to first for the out.
The following at-bat, Fogarty received help from behind the plate when catcher Clint Carr caught a foul ball pop-up behind home plate, juggling it a few times until it went into his glove.
“Everyone was there. It all kind of fell into the pieces of the puzzle,” Fogarty said.
Again in the seventh inning, Fogarty received nice defensive help when Nick Rodda shuffled to his left to field a hard-hit grounder to short, completing the throw to first. The next two at-bats, a fly ball to right field and a hard-hit chopper to first base.
“To get a perfect game, the defense has to make plays and our defense played great,” Guilliams said. “They made huge plays. That was a big fact, and, obviously, Nick was on tonight.”
Before heading to the seventh inning, Fogarty had to sit in the dugout for an extended bottom of the sixth inning, which featured the Blazers batting through the lineup, scoring five runs on 34 pitches from the Paine pitching staff.
“I was like, “Come on, guys. Let me just get in there. We are beating them to death. I need to get back in there,’” said Fogarty, who admitted that a few players talked to him in the dugout during the final inning. “I decided to go over there and throw with the first baseman for a little bit.”
The Blazers started the game two scoring in the third inning, when Bryant Hayman scored on an RBI single by Jamie McMillan.
VSU added four more runs in the third fifth inning. Hayman started the inning by reaching base on a single. Gouge followed up after reaching base on a throwing error on his sacrifice bunt attempt.
The following at-bat, McMillan drove in Hayman and Gouge, connecting on a single. McMillan scored the following at-bat, coming on a Rodda single. Rodda scored two batters later on a fly out by Carr.
VSU added two more runs in the sixth inning. Jake Fields scored on a McMillan grounder and Hayman scored on a single by Rodda.
The Blazers added five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Blazers batted around in the inning, with Fields, Hayman, Gouge, McMillan and Rodda all scoring in the inning, making the score 12-0.
“In baseball, it is kind of taboo,” Guilliams said. “If someone has a perfect game or a no-hitter, you don’t say anything,” Guilliams said. “So I just tried to keep everything going like it normally would, not doing anything different. So, nobody said anything in the dugout and we kept doing what we do.”
In game one, Valdosta State received a strong pitching performance from senior left-hander Pete Whittingslow, who looked like a lock for Pitcher of the Week in the conference before Fogarty’s performance later in the day. Whittlingslow struck out seven batters in seven innings of work on Saturday.
Whittingslow allowed just four base runners on the day, all coming on base hits.
On three of those occasions, Whittingslow immediately helped himself out, by forcing the outs off pickoff moves.
After allowing a single to the third batter of the game, Whittingslow used a pickoff move to first base to catch Paine’s Chris Johnson in the base path. He later caught Johnson in the base path again in the seventh inning.
Whittingslow used his pickoff move magic again in the sixth inning, when he caught Paine’s leadoff batter, Richey Jonathan, with his move to first.
The only inning Whittingslow allowed a base runner to stay on base was in the fifth inning. After recording an out to start the inning, he allowed a base hit to Paine’s Luis Serrano. He followed it up with back-to-back to strikeouts to get out of the inning.
With Whittingslow dominating on the hill, the Blazers got their offense going into the third inning. Rodda started the inning by reaching first base on a throwing error from third base. He scored two batters later when Carr drove him in on a single.
The inning continued when Jake Montgomery connected on an RBI single, followed by back-to-back singles from Dan Hoover and Fields, which made the score 4-0.
An inning later, the Blazers added to their lead when McMillan scored on a sacrifice fly from Carr.
VSU closed out its scoring in the sixth inning. Rodda reached base on a hit-by-pitch and advanced to second on a stolen base and to third on a wild pitch. He scored later in the inning when Montgomery connected on a single, making the score 6-0.
On the day, every Blazer batter reached base at least once. Once on the bases, VSU took advantage of poor catching by Paine and stole 12 stolen bases between the two games, including seven in game one.
“That is one of our strengths. We do have a little bit more speed, so we are going to try and utilize that,” Guilliams said.
McMillan led the Blazers from the plate, finishing the day 3 of 6 with 3 runs scored and five runs batted in, all coming in the second game. Rodda finished 3 of 5 with 4 runs scored and 3 RBI, while Carr finished with 4RBIs on the day.
“Jamie (McMillan) needs to be a big part of our offense,” Guilliams said. “He was hurt for much of the fall. But his bat needs to be a big part of this offense.”
VSU and Paine conclude the three-game series today at 1 p.m.