As Dylan Iglesias squatted behind home plate, he could feel the tension rise. The Carle Place catcher's mind raced through every conceivable scenario for the next pitch.
"I was ready for anything," Iglesias said. "My heart was just pounding and my adrenaline was pumping. It was a moment I will never forget."
Iglesias looked out at junior righthander Mike Delio, who stood on the bump 60 feet, 6 inches away. The two were on the verge of doing the unimaginable in baseball. They were one strike away from the ultimate high school perfect game -- not just 21 consecutive outs, but 21 consecutive strikeouts.
"I took a deep breath and looked in on Dylan's sign," Delio said. "He wanted a fastball. I was thinking one thing -- throw it by the batter."
Delio reached back and threw a fastball that got Romar Marion swinging for the final strikeout of the perfect perfect game in Tuesday's 15-0 win over Hempstead.
It is almost inconceivable that a pitcher could strike out every batter in a high school game -- that no batter could manage to put a ball in fair territory.
It is hard to believe that Delio struck out every batter, 21 in a row, to complete the greatest of pitching achievements -- better than even the usual perfect game.
"I wanted it so bad," Delio said. "It's still unreal to me. I think about it all the time and it's really shocking."
Making the feat all the more impressive, it was Delio's first varsity start. He threw 84 pitches, 70 for strikes. Perhaps the only imperfection in the perfect game was that he actually threw 14 balls.
He went to a three-ball count only once in the game. The leadoff batter worked a 3-and-1 count before striking out.
Who knew that for the remainder of the game, Hempstead would be unable to put a ball in play -- not a fair bunt attempt, not contact by accident, nothing. Delio was overpowering.
The 6-2, 185-pound Delio wound up striking out 16 batters swinging and five looking. His fastball sat between 83 and 84 miles per hour and his knuckle curve was nasty.
Carle Place first-year coach Brian Krummenacker was an accomplished pitcher at Hicksville and Marist College. He's seen thousands of baseball games and is still looking for the right superlatives to describe Delio's gem.
"It really is unbelievable," said Krummenacker, who coached junior varsity ball for eight years. "I'll remember this for the rest of my life. I'm three games into my varsity coaching career and he does the unthinkable."
Krummenacker credited Delio's command and ability to throw first-pitch strikes as the key to the achievement.
"He was in complete control," Krummenacker said. "He threw 18 first-pitch strikes. He fell behind 2-0 on only three batters."
The guy with the best view of the diamond was Iglesias, who wasn't even scheduled to catch at the start of the day. That all changed when varsity catcher Anthony Pepe was out sick. Krummenacker summoned Iglesias during the school day and told him he would be making his varsity debut.
"I was comfortable with him," Krummenacker said. "I had him on JV. They were familiar with each other and he's a great athlete."
Iglesias rewarded Krummenacker's confidence with a flawless performance. His shining moment came in the fifth inning when Delio struck out a batter with a knuckle curve in the dirt. Iglesias blocked the pitch, but it ricocheted off his shin guards and bounded up the third-base line.
"The entire perfect game rested on that play," Iglesias said. "I jumped out, got the ball and fired to first for the out. My heart was in my throat."
He was everything a catcher needs to be. He had lightning-quick judgment, fast feet and a powerful arm. Any hesitation and the runner would have been safe and the perfect game gone.
What is most often overlooked in a perfect game is the guy on the receiving end. While the pitcher receives the lion's share of the praise, and justifiably so, the catcher knows he had a profound impact on the outcome. Iglesias kept Delio in rhythm, had him pounding the zone and gave him the confidence to throw the knuckle curve in the dirt with two strikes.
"You have to trust that your catcher will block the pitch and throw the batter out at first," Delio said.
All too often, great pitching is wasted without a skilled catcher. Trust and communication is vital for a successful outing, and Delio and Iglesias built that bond on the JV level a year ago.
In the sixth inning, Hempstead failed in its only bunt attempt on an 0-and-1 pitch.
"I was getting nervous, especially on the attempted bunt," said Delio, whose next start will be at East Rockaway on Thursday in the Class B/C opener. "But I kept the ball low after that and hit my spots."
Krummenacker said there's no better pitch than a well-placed fastball.
"We didn't want to speed up their bats with off-speed stuff," he said.
"We got the last batter with an 0-2 fastball," Iglesias said. "And the celebration was on."