'A blur': Kirby tosses UVa's fifth no-hitter of last 50 years - Cavalier Insider: Cavalier Insider

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

'A blur': Kirby tosses UVa's fifth no-hitter of last 50 years

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Posted: Saturday, April 5, 2014 11:05 am | Updated: 12:48 pm, Mon Apr 7, 2014.

PITTSBURGH — After the mob finished using the third base side of the infield as a trampoline and the man of the last three hours was finally given a chance to escape, Nathan Kirby started dishing out hugs like he was at a family reunion.

The Virginia pitcher wrapped up Daniel Pinero, the rangy shortstop who, moments before, lunged just enough to his left to keep history alive.

Kirby embraced Whit Mayberry, the right-handed reliever who spent the ninth inning throwing in the bullpen, hoping to never touch the mound.

Kirby saved his tightest squeeze for Nate Irving, the veteran catcher who doubled as guidance counselor when the pressure mounted.

In the background, the glow of the Charles L. Cost Field scoreboard provided reason for the spontaneous celebration.

It was just past the 11 o’clock hour on Friday evening — April 4, 2014 — and Nathan Kirby had just tossed UVa’s fifth no-hitter of the last 50 years.

“It’s kind of cliché,” Kirby said after he was done with the teammate affection, “but it was a blur.”

The headliner to No. 1 Virginia’s 4-0 win over Pitt is impatient by nature. 

“I hate waiting more than anything,” Kirby said. 

All week, the western Pennsylvania forecast called for heavy rain when the Cavaliers and Panthers were scheduled to begin their three-game series.

A 3 p.m., Friday, start was wishful thinking and a noon press release confirmed it. Kirby wasn’t going to throw his first pitch until after 7:30 p.m.

With an extra four hours to kill, the sophomore tried his best to pass the time by playing cards with his fellow staff members in the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn.

“We just kind of hung,” he said.

The Wahoos were eventually greeted at Cost Field by whipping winds and a dark cloud hanging over the left field wall.

Another storm meant another delay. 

Kirby’s initial delivery — a 93 mph fastball that missed high — wasn’t fired to Pitt’s Stephen Vranka until 8:20 p.m.

His final offering — a grounder-inducing breaking ball to Dylan Wolsonovich — came at 10:59 p.m.

In between, Kirby authored an epic performance.

“The velocity on his fastball was really overpowering,” said UVa coach Brian O’Connor. “He had a great fastball with location. He was working ahead in the count. And he had just that devastating curveball that he could throw with two strikes underneath those right-handed hitters.

“It was just special.”

Kirby recorded 18 strikeouts, missing an ACC and program record by one K, and issued just a single walk. 

He struck out a ridiculous 10 consecutive batters from the second inning to the beginning of the fifth.

“I was just trying to throw strikes,” Kirby said.

Mission accomplished. On 122 pitches, 87 found the zone. He got into a three-ball count on just three occasions.

“I’m speechless,” Irving said. “The adjustments that he made throughout the game, the poise and composure that he showed, I’m speechless.”

Keeping with baseball tradition, talk of the potential no-hitter was non-existent in the dugout.

“He just sat there,” O’Connor said. “Nobody said a word about it. We just kept moving and going on. We had a lot of base-runners tonight, obviously, so there were some times there when he was sitting for a while. It wasn’t a fast game from the other side.

“But nobody said anything like normal and we waited to see what would happen.”

Kirby entered the bottom of the ninth inning with 108 pitches already on his valuable left arm.

“We had Whit Mayberry ready down there just in case we had a base hit,” O’Connor said.

But that never came.

Flirting with history, Kirby got in a 3-0 hole to leadoff man Manny Pazos, prompting a Irving visit.

“It’s not physical anymore,” Irving told Kirby. “It’s not you being able to outlast or you being able to throw strikes. It’s you being able to mentally focus for these last three outs to be able to keep doing what you’ve been doing for the past eight innings.”

A strike followed. Then a fly-out to Joe McCarthy in shallow right field.

“He’s basically my backbone out there,” Kirby said of his junior catcher, a three-year starter.

Crucial out No. 2 was the final strikeout of the night — a breaker that might have actually missed the outer part of the plate, freezing Vranka.

“It was one of those nights where the umpire and I were on the same page a bunch of times,” Kirby admitted. “I got a couple close calls, questionable calls.”

Wolsonovich was Pitt’s last chance. On a 2-2 pitch, the righty sent enough of a poke toward the middle of the infield to threaten the moment.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Pinero was playing Wolsonovich to pull the ball, favoring the third base side of his position.

“I was like, ‘God, I got to get to this,’” Pinero said. “I just stuck out my arm, caught the ball. It was cold weather, so the only thing I was really worried about was the throw. I got the throw off. Kenny [Towns] picked me up there and we got the no-hitter.”

In his 11 successful years at Virginia, O’Connor has been on the dugout’s top step for plenty of jaw-dropping pitching shows — see a perfect game from Will Roberts in 2011 as Exhibit A.

But what Kirby did Friday, taking the No. 1 spot on SportsCenter’s “Top Plays,” improving his record to 6-1 and lowering his ERA to 1.03 a year removed from 4-1 and 6.06, won’t soon be forgotten.

“This one’s really special,” O’Connor said, “because of him and where he’s matured and where he’s come from.”

 

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