There are difficult decisions to be made in life. One would be to leave a terrific opportunity behind and seek a better one. Water Mill's Chris Pike did just that.
The gifted righthanded pitcher opted out of his scholarship at Fordham University this spring and went west to play his senior season at Oklahoma City University.
"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. His life-changing decision over the summer has reaped rewards.
"This is the make-or-break year to get drafted," Pike said. "There are no tomorrows."
Pike etched his name in NAIA baseball history last Friday when the 6-1, 185-pounder fired the 20th perfect game in NAIA history in the Stars' 5-0 win over St. Gregory's in a Sooner Athletic Conference game at Jim Wade Stadium.
"His fastball was at 91-93 and his curveball was a hammer and just fell off the table," OKCU coach Denney Crabaugh said. "He was in full control and challenging hitters. He just dominated."
Crabaugh, who has won 1,199 games in his 25 years at the school, agreed Pike took a huge chance coming to Oklahoma City.
"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."
Others have sought greener pastures and fallen into the "whatever happened to" category. Pike's bulldog work ethic and confident demeanor never considered that possibility.
"We have a chance to win a national title," said Pike, who is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA and ranked third in the NAIA in strikeouts with 45 in 36 innings. "The coaches and my teammates have been great. I felt this move to a warmer weather area and a great program would also help me get drafted."
Pike became the first OKCU pitcher to throw a perfect game since Mike Miotkowski accomplished the feat against Hastings (Neb.) College in 2005.
Pike struck out 18 and only allowed three balls in play. He retired the first batter on a groundout to second base before striking out the next 14 hitters. He struck out the side five times, including the seventh inning.
Pike, who led Southampton High School to consecutive Long Island Class B championships in 2009-10, is the only pitcher to earn the win in two L.I. title games. The two-time Newsday All-Long Island selection went 18-1 with 246 strikeouts in 1271/3 innings and a 0.48 ERA in his final two years.
"I never threw a perfect game at any level and I thought about it in the last inning," said Pike, who threw 84 pitches -- 62 for strikes -- and never went to three balls on a batter.
"He's a strike throwing machine," said Tom Downey, the area scout for Philadelphia. "He's matured into an aggressive pitcher with command of three pitches. He's a prospect."
"He has savvy and knows what he wants to do out there," Crabaugh said. "He has that moxie. Pike will certainly pitch beyond college. He's not a thrower, he's a pitcher."
At Fordham, Pike logged 2532/3 innings and struck out 198 with an ERA of 3.94. His record was 16-9 in 34 starts.
Pike's next start is scheduled for Friday at Southwestern Christian University in Bethany, Okla.
"I threw two no-hitters in my senior year at Southeastern and told him he needed one more to tie me," Crabaugh said. "And ya know what Pike said? He said, 'Did you do yours back to back?' I loved it."