Schuster gives up hit to end streak
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It was just one hit, but still you would have expected some reaction from the pitcher, Patrick Schuster.
After all, he wasn't used to giving up any at all.
The Mitchell High School ace was going for a fifth straight no-hitter and another piece of the Florida state record book Tuesday. But a screaming double over the right fielder's head on an 0-1 count in the third inning put an end to that.
Schuster simply walked around the mound, then got back on the rubber while a standing room-only crowd of more than 1,000 applauded his effort.
"I turned around and said, 'Thank you. It's done now and I don't have to worry about it anymore,'" a dejected Schuster said what turned out to be his final high school game. Mitchell was eliminated by Gaither High School 9-4.
The lanky left-hander had put together a string of four no-hitters going into the district tournament game, and had gotten through the first two innings without giving up a hit. Then came the double by Gaither's Drew Doty.
It wasn't the last damage done against Schuster. He worked five innings, allowing five runs -- three earned -- and three hits. He struck out five, walked five and hit three batters.
Schuster captured the state of Florida record when he turned in No. 4 last week at his home field in New Port Richey, northwest of Tampa. The national record for consecutive no-hitters by a high school pitcher is six.
He escaped the first inning against Gaither after walking two, hitting a batter and allowing an unearned run after his defense committed two errors behind him. In the second, Schuster set Gaither down in order before hitting the leadoff batter in the third. That's when Doty followed with his double, the first hit Schuster surrendered since March 24.
"After warming up, my arm didn't feel as good as it did the last three games or any time I threw well," he said. "I wasn't hitting my spots well, and my off-speeds weren't moving as much as they should have. I knew I was going to have to fight to stay in the game today."
Mitchell coach Scot Wilcox said his star pitcher might have been effected by the onslaught of media attention the past week. Schuster had been overwhelmed with requests for interviews from local and national media.
"It looked like he was just getting a little bit tired," Wilcox said. "But he's a competitor. You can't go out and have perfect stuff every single night.
The 18-year-old is ranked as the 79th best prospect -- the 42nd best high school prospect -- in the country by Baseball America and has signed with the University of Florida. He has a fastball around 90 mph and some nasty breaking stuff delivered with the same slingshot motion. Experts say he'll likely be a second-round pick in the June amateur draft, with the string of no-hitters improving his status only slightly.
Schuster says he's excited to go to Florida, but won't rule out jumping right to pro ball if he goes high enough in the draft.
Going into Tuesday's game, Schuster had given up just nine hits in 55 innings this season, and was 8-0 with 110 strikeouts while helping his team to a 23-3 mark. He had 60 strikeouts in the four-game no-hit streak, which began April 3.
Schuster would have become the fourth high school pitcher to throw five consecutive no-hitters. Two players have thrown six in a row: Chris Taranto of Notre Dame High School in Biloxi, Miss., in 1961, and Tom Engle in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1989.
Taranto was signed by the Houston Colt '45s; Engle by the New York Mets. Arm problems ended their careers before they made it to the majors.
"It's disappointing for him," said Engle, an ESPN producer who was anchoring the network's coverage of the game. "Throwing a no-hitter would have been great to see, but I wanted to see him win the game."
Schuster noted one good thing that will come out of the streak ending: he can finally shave. He had vowed to let his facial hair grow while the string was alive, and he's been getting ribbed about the unruly patches of blond whiskers.
"I got the razor in my bag, and I'm ready to go home and get it over with," he said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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