By Rob White
That was Metropolitan State University of Denver pitcher Cade Crader on Saturday, March 27.
The right-hander twirled a nine-inning perfect game against CSU-Pueblo – 27 up, 27 down – striking out 10 in what is believed to be the first no-hitter in program history.
The Roadrunners won 13-0, hitting five home runs in support of Crader, but all the focus was on the zeroes. Zero hits, zero walks, zero errors, zero baserunners.
“Probably around the fifth or sixth inning, I kind of glanced up and realized a good portion of the game had gone by and I hadn’t given up any hits,” Crader said. “The adrenaline was pretty high going into the last inning, but I was just trying to keep composed and just finish it off and not think about it too much.”
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Crader has flashed a dominant pitching arsenal since returning from injury during the 2019 season. His win Saturday put him at 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA for the season. In 30 2/3 innings, he has given up 18 hits with a ratio of 51 strikeouts to six walks.
“I’m so happy for Cade,” MSU Denver coach Ryan Strain said. “It couldn’t have happened to a better person. He has worked so hard. I’ve been around this game my whole life, and it’s the best pitching performance I’ve ever seen as a player or coach.
“Cade is a tremendous person, student and pitcher. We are all very lucky to have been a part of today’s performance.”
A couple of nice plays were made behind Crader, but he was pretty much in control all day.
“The defense did a great job,” Crader said. “There were definitely a few kind of mistake pitches that made me a little nervous right off the bat, but just knowing our infield and outfield, there shouldn’t have been any reason to be worried. They’re great at what they do.”
As the tension began to build, the age-old unwritten rules – don’t mention the no-hitter, and avoid the guy throwing it – became the dugout order of the day.
“They were trying to be quiet,” Crader said. “I was trying to get them to talk to me so I would have some sort of distraction. I was trying to chat with them.
“I could feel the nerves for everybody, so I was trying to loosen it up.”
Said Strain: “It was the most quiet I’ve ever heard a dugout. I barely said anything from the seventh on. Everybody knew what was going on and didn’t want to say anything about it.”
In the ninth, Trey Vasquez struck out swinging, Adrian Martinez struck out swinging, then JP Hopkins grounded to third baseman Chase Anderson, who threw to Jake Williams at first, and then the celebration began.
“There was a lot of yelling,” Crader said.
After innings of pent-up nerves, the release of energy was long and loud in the on-the-field mob scene.
“That was better than anything,” Crader said. “In the back of my mind, that was the one thing I was thinking about during the game, just the celebration. Because I know that every guy on the team is a team guy and will be there for me, no matter what would have happened in that outing. I was really excited to get there because I knew every single guy was going to be excited.”
In a season that continues to get better by the day, Crader’s perfect game was just the latest heroic effort.
The No. 18 Roadrunners improved their best-ever start to the season to 17-1. They are 13-1 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
They scored at least 11 runs for the sixth straight game.
Williams was 2-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs, and Owen Reynolds was 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs. Alex Gonzales hit a homer and drove in three runs. Cody Schultz also homered. Anderson extended his season-opening hitting streak to 18 games, 19 dating to the final game of last season.
“It’s been awesome,” Crader said. “We’ve got a lot of great guys on this team. I want more than anything to keep it going as long as we can.”
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