No hits, no walks, no runs, no errors...
‘Ryan Express’ hurls Lions to rare perfect game
By Mike Maltais
It was not just another sports event; it was an art form expressed in athletic achievement.
In what can be legitimately called one of the greatest moments in Liberty Bell High School sports history, junior pitcher Andrew Ryan led his varsity baseball teammates to a perfect game against the Waterville Shockers on April 10. before a hometown crowd at the team’s season opener.
Spectators fortunate enough to be on hand witnessed a performance seldom seen on any baseball field anywhere in the nation. When it ended on the mandatory 10-point mercy rule after five innings of play the Mountain Lions owned a 10-0 win over Waterville.
The stunned Shockers did not put a single player on base.
Liberty Bell allowed no hits, no walks, no runs, and committed no errors.
The game was a no-hitter and a shutout.
The Mountain Lions forever became part of school legend by posting a performance that has never before been achieved and may never be equaled by another Liberty Bell baseball team.
Those not fluent in the pecking order of athletic milestones should know that baseball, played at any level, does not get any better than what unfolded last week on a modest diamond in a remote corner of Washington State.
Coach Don Calvert said at the start of spring practice – such as it was with snow covering the ball diamond – that he has been looking forward to this particular year with this particular lineup of talent. Fueled with only one practice since returning from a 10-day spring break, Liberty Bell’s version of The Boys of Summer welcomed the Shockers.
Ryan, who threw a no-hitter against Waterville last year, threw only 52 pitches; he faced 15 batters, struck out six and didn’t allow any of the remaining nine to reach first base. If there was a point where he struggled, it was against the very first batter in the first inning, said coach Calvert.
“He filled the count on the first batter but struck him out,” Calvert said. “The second hitter was a six-pitch strikeout; the third hit a little dribbler to Keelan (Christensen) at first base.”
Calvert observed that Ryan adjusted his choice of pitches early in the game.
“My fastball wasn’t working for me,” Ryan said, “So I concentrated instead on my curve ball.”
Ryan relied on his curve to strike out one batter in the second inning, two in the third and one in the fourth.
While Waterville will not be the toughest team Liberty Bell will face this year, they were not pushovers in any sense.
“They’re a well-coached team,” Calvert said and noted that Waterville’s coach generously congratulated him on his team’s accomplishment after the game.
Several Shockers made solid contact with the ball and that’s where the defense –which Ryan was quick to credit with saving the game – performed flawlessly.
“Buck was a wall,” Calvert said simply of senior third baseman, Buck Prib. Four of the balls Waterville hit came his way.
“Three came to me and I had to go after the fourth,” Prib said. Asked if, during the game, he allowed himself to think about what might be happening he replied; “I didn’t think about it when it was going on. That’s when you mess up.”
Shortstop Cody Cupp, who is used to seeing his share of the action, didn’t have a single ball come his way, but Milo Holsten “made a couple of good plays at second,” Calvert said. “and Keelan had solid play at first.”
Only one well-hit ball made it into the outfield and right fielder Chase Kurtz was there to make the catch.
“Yeah, I was thinking about it a little,” Kurtz admitted of the perfect game possibilities as he saw the fly ball coming his way. “I think I might have even mentioned to Ryan between an inning ‘Hey, we may have something going here.’”
When they weren’t stopping everything Waterville tried to do, the Mountain Lions were having a good day at the plate themselves.
“We were spraying line drives all over the place; about as well as I’ve ever seen them,” Calvert said.
“We scored two in the first and would have had more but one runner got caught between third and home and another was tagged out attempting to steal a base,” Calvert recalled with a nod to Waterville’s defense.
Outfielder Morgan Palm hit three-for-three, with an RBI, a double and a stolen base.
Holsten smacked a single for two RBIs and stole two bases.
Catcher Shane Higbee, who made some nice defensive plays behind the plate, connected on two-for-three.
And Ryan showed he could hit as well as pitch with three-for-four singles that knocked in three runs.
In all the Mountain Lions had 13 hits, six walks and nary a strikeout en route to their 10-0 win.
If the Mountain Lions wanted to set the bar high for the remainder of the season, they’ll now need binoculars to see the benchmark.
Years from now, long after these young men have left the field, each “will remember with advantages what feats he did that day. Then shall our names, fresh in his mouth as household words – Ryan the king (of the mound), Holsten and Higbee, Kurtz, Christensen and Cupp, Palm and Prib, be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.” (adapted from Henry V, Shakespeare.)