For everyone involved, what was possible came at different times.
Maryland left-hander Ryan Ramsey turned to the scoreboard for the first time in the sixth inning, a habit he wished he hadn’t had, and saw a slew of zeros along. The catcher, Luke Schliger, sensed that something special was brewing in the seventh, but he pretended nothing was out of the ordinary. And coach Rob Vaughan turned to pitching coach Mike Morrison in the eighth, sharing a look and nothing more.
“You don’t want to say anything,” said Vaughan.
Because if he said anything, the chance for perfection may have been lost as quickly as it took for the possibility to exist.
As it was, Ramsey, Schliger and Vaughan stood on the field at Camden Yards’ Oriole Park on Monday afternoon as a result of what happened Friday night, when 27 Northwestern batsmen went to the plate and 27 were sent back into the dugout. Ramsey threw the 20th nine-inning perfect game in NCAA Division I history, the first Terps pitcher to do so since Dick Ritz on April 10, 1959.
When that final out was over, all the sides involved let their guard down. Ramsey charged towards Schliger, his battery mate, and jumped into his arms.
“I don’t even know how he put me there,” Ramsey said. “I was literally wrapped around him. He had completely embraced me.”
It wasn’t until Schliger’s second round, when the jumping and yelling stopped and he settled for a more traditional handshake with the starting pitcher, that the magnitude of the achievement settled in.
“We just did something really special that hasn’t been brought to College Park in 50 years,” Schliger told Ramsey.
The right play is part of one of the best seasons in Maryland baseball history. The Terps (35-9) are one win away from equaling their most regular-season wins to date. Vaughan’s squad is pushing to host an NCAA regional in College Park, a change led by a veteran lineup and the presence of a major weekend rotation that includes Ramsey, Jason Savacool, and Nick Dean.
To get here, within a considerable distance of the Big Ten Conference title, Vaughan said it started with recruiting. Transfers, experienced batters, and surprising contributors have propelled Maryland to number 19 nationally, according to Baseball America’s rankings.
“It’s a perfect storm of experienced lineups with young talent,” Vaughan said. “It’s been a fun ride, man. I think this group can play a little longer.”
When Ramsey got through the Northwestern lineup for the second time, what stood out most to Vaughan was Southeastern’s ability to work efficiently. Vaughan moved Ramsey from the Saturday role to the Friday night slot for the first time that weekend, although Ramsey said the only thing that changed was pitching at night instead of during the day.
The other thing that changed was his scorecard. However, there were plays in the field, which helped keep the outing going. Troy Schreffler Jr. went back to the sprint, leaped and made a catch, off a sharp hit ball in right field to end the eighth inning.
“That’s when I was like, ‘Holy cow, this thing could really happen,'” Vaughan said.
Ramsey faced a three-ball count five times as part of his 118-pitch outing. Those were the moments when his heart raced a little, knowing that a missed spot could wreck his right game. But Ramsey took over the nerves, going right after the hitter and came out on top.
With a day off from practice on Monday for the Terps, the Orioles invited the team’s coaching staff, Ramsey and Schliger, to Camden Yards early. He stood on the field, met with manager Brandon Hyde and watched the batting practice. The entire team was also in attendance for the first match of Monday’s series against the Minnesota Twins, which earned recognition for a historic achievement.
“It’s really cool for our program on the national scene, just to get a little bit of recognition,” Vaughan said. “The boys are turning in a great year. It’s really neat to reach out to the city of Baltimore and the Orioles organization about wanting to do that.”
There have been only 20 such occasions in Division I history, and the last time a Maryland pitcher turned in a perfect game was five years after the Orioles moved to Baltimore.
So with that final out achieved, the lid holding tight to avoid spoiling the perfect game was quickly removed on Ramsey’s way of leaping over Schliger. They will never have to pretend they will never notice a zero on the scoreboard again.
“Ryan is a big kid, older than me, but he jumped into my arms,” Schliger said. “You have to appreciate that moment right there, because baseball is a special sport.”