For Water Mill's Chris Pike, Friday night's final out was personal.
Pike, the Oklahoma City University senior who had pitched the 24th perfect game in NAIA history a week earlier, was working on a second consecutive no-hitter and only Aaron Ibarra, Southwestern Christian's cleanup hitter, stood in his way.
Ibarra ended Pike's bid for a second straight perfect game with a full-count walk in the second inning. It also ended his streak of retiring 29 consecutive batters dating back to Feb. 28.
So here was Pike, staring down Ibarra and dipping into his three-pitch arsenal that includes a 93-mph fastball, hammer-like curveball and nasty changeup.
"He got it all in one at bat," said Pike. "I had him 0-2 in the count before the walk. And it was a borderline ball four. I wanted him more than any other batter."
Pike dusted Ibarra with a 1-2 fastball up and away to put the exclamation point on his second consecutive no-hitter as OKCU drubbed Southwestern Christian, 18-0, in a Sooner Athletic Conference game. He finished with 17 strikeouts, including a span of 13 in a row and four innings in which he struck out the side.
Pike, a righthander, leads the nation in strikeouts per game with 15.88 and is second in the country with 62 strikeouts in 33 innings.
"They tried everything to get on base," said Pike. "There must have been half a dozen bunt attempts and we had a huge lead."
OKCU coach Denney Crabaugh called Pike's perfect game the best pitched game he'd ever seen. He searched for superlatives after Friday's second no-hitter.
"I told him welcome to the club," said Crabaugh, who threw back-to-back no-hitters during his collegiate career at Southeastern. "It was another dominating performance. He was in total control."
As Pike continues to climb the draft ladder, he has found happiness in Oklahoma City. The gifted senior opted out of his scholarship at Fordham University this spring and went west to play his final season at OCU.
"It's tough to play three years at a university and then pick up and go, especially when you've had success and built relationships," said Pike, who was a freshman All-American and was set to break many of Fordham's pitching records this season. "I'd never seen Oklahoma City University, but they had a winning tradition and the warm weather was the key. So it was a calculated risk."
Pike left behind friends and family and an athletic scholarship and headed to Oklahoma City.
"This is the make-or-break year to get drafted," Pike said. "There are no tomorrows."
Pike, a 6-1, 185-pounder, fired a perfect game in the Stars' 5-0 win over St. Gregory's in a Sooner Athletic Conference game on March 7. He struck out 18 and only allowed three balls in play. He struck out the side five times.
"His fastball was at 91-93 and his curveball just fell off the table," Crabaugh said.
Pike completed his latest gem using 85 pitches. He fanned 13 Eagles in a row from the last two outs of the bottom of the second to the second out of the sixth.
"I'm comfortable and riding this wave of confidence," Pike said. "I'm challenging hitters and pounding the zone."
Crabaugh agreed Pike took a huge chance coming to OCU.
"My first impression was, 'Man, he's little,' because our starting rotation has three guys that stand 6-7, 6-8 and 6-9," Crabaugh laughed. "He's soft-spoken and polite but has that game face. He can be flat-out nasty throwing all three of his pitches for strikes . . . Truth be told, he took a risk coming here not knowing the level of competition within our own team. He was tired of throwing in 20- and 30-degree weather. Now he's in a nationally ranked program."