Throwing a no-hitter in high school will put you in the local paper without question. You may get some national coverage if you’re a draft prospect. Now, being a draft prospect and throwing four straight no-hitters? You can’t hide from that.
Patrick Schuster, a lefthander from Mitchell High in New Port Richey, Fla. has done just that. April 20 was his most recent outing and Schuster shut down Dade City, Fla.’s Pasco High by tossing seven no-hit innings for his fourth-straight no-hitter. The first came against Land O’Lakes (Fla.) High on April 3. He allowed an unearned run in that game, but has had shutouts since.
"Everything is working. From my defense to my command to my offspeed pitches to my defense," Schuster said. "Everything is going so well for me and the team right now. It’s so much fun having this team together."
Schuster has the same motto as most pitchers. The best pitch is a first pitch strike. He enjoys pounding the zone early and is seeing the success firsthand.
"I really consider (hitters) dead meat if I get them with an 0-1 pitch," Schuster added. "If I get them 0-1, I have three or four pitches that I can throw wherever I want. Get them to chase. Throw a strike. Make them watch."
While Schuster is confident in his command and enjoys using his slider as an out pitch, he is quick to acknowledge the support he gets from his teammates.
"We’ve been together for four or five years," Schuster said. "We moved our third baseman to first when I pitch and have a freshman at third. This kid is doing unbelievable. It’s just absolutely ridiculous. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be in this situation right now."
The freshman he is referring to is Joe Kohler. Kohler made two errors in his first two games, but has been perfect since.
Schuster’s season numbers are almost Nintendo-like. He’s now thrown 55 innings, struck out 110, walked 24, allowed nine hits and is sitting pretty with a 8-0, 0.64 record. The most recent no-no gave him five on the season. The first was in the season opener.
Opponents are hitting .054 off of Schuster. He insists it isn’t easy though. Mitchell High is in the largest classification in Florida, 6-A, and arguably one of the toughest districts that includes Tampa’s Alonso High, Gaither High and Sickles High. But there is a kryptonite for Schuster and his name is Scooter Gennett.
Gennett is a lefthanded-hitting middle infielder at Sarasota (Fla.) High and an apparently a pest for Schuster.
"There’s not one tiny pinhole of a hole in his swing," Schuster said. "You can put a ball anywhere around the plate, it doesn’t even have to be a strike, and that kid can put the bat on it. It’s unbelievable. I’ve made up pitches to throw to him and he still hits them."
The two play together on a summer team and Schuster is always the first to object to being separated for showcase events.
Schuster was No. 79 on the Baseball America Top 100 Draft Prospects (subscriber only), which was posted back in November. That ranking would put him in the back of the second round, but things have probably changed since then. If Schuster were to forgo a pro contract he would end up at Florida along with two other highly touted lefties, David Holmberg of Port Charlotte (Fla.) High who got off to a torrid start, and Brian Johnson of Cocoa Beach (Fla.) High.
Holmberg is No. 52 on the High School Top 100 (subscriber only) while Johnson checks in at No. 85. That would be a formidable trio of southpaws that apparently already has opposing schools talking.
Schuster said: "I was talking to (Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan) and he told me Florida State head coach (Mike) Martin asked ‘You’re not going to throw me those lefties next year are you?’"
"You’re going to see every single one of them back-to-back-to-back."
But Schuster added the unfortunate thing is that Gennett is committed to Florida State so it won’t be all Gators.
In the meantime, Schuster is more focused on the high school season. He admits that he knows what the date June 9 means, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. And he certainly is trying to avoid knowing that the national record for consecutive no-hitters is six, done twice according to the National High School Sports Record Book. He’s just happy to be graduating on such a high note with his teammates.