John Bapst’s baseball team was about to play its fifth game in seven days, with another game scheduled for the following day.
Head coach Jason O’Reilly had some decisions to make when it came to pitching for the game on May 11, as some of his pitchers were ineligible because they reached pitch count limits. That’s when he turned to reliever Dylan Sawyer, a senior who had never started a varsity baseball game.
“I was excited because my role on the team was typically reliever or closer, depending on who was throwing,” Sawyer said. “I knew we were going to have to have someone like that pitch because we had four games in five days and were running out of starters because of the pitch limit. It was between three of us relievers, and I didn’t expect it to be me.”
Facing off against Hermon, Sawyer went five innings on the mound, walking two batters and recording outs on every other at-bat, throwing a no-hitter for the Crusaders in a 10-0 victory. He didn’t record a strikeout, but Sawyer trusted his defense and reached the milestone in his first-ever varsity start.
“I’ve been doing this for nine years here and was an assistant at Nokomis before and I don’t recall seeing this,” O’Reilly said. “It’s not something you see every day.”
Sawyer is used to coming in to pitch during a game, and sometimes for innings at a time. During the previous weekend, John Bapst traveled to face Caribou in a doubleheader and Sawyer pitched for a few innings in the first game, which saved pitch counts for the Crusaders’ starting pitchers.
Heading into the Hermon game, O’Reilly learned he would be down a starter that was on a field trip. He had three relievers to choose from and went with Sawyer.
“Dylan had the most experience of the three guys available, and he got the start,” O’Reilly said. “He may roll into a lot of games ready to pitch but never as a starter. I am sure it was a bit of a surprise to him, but I check in with my pitchers all the time and what they have in the tank. He probably suspected he would be on the mound either Thursday or Friday but maybe not to start.”
Sawyer settled in well and didn’t even think about going through the opening innings without giving up a hit to the Hawks.
“I got on the mound and in the first few innings it wasn’t even in my mind that a no-hitter was possible because it was my first start for varsity,” Sawyer said. “When it got towards the fourth, I realized I hadn’t given up a hit and it was in the back of my mind since then. The last few outs I was like, ‘Don’t mess this up.’”
The Crusaders have a superstition that when there is a no-hitter in progress they won’t talk about it. So in the dugout, Sawyer kept to himself during the game.
“My whole mindset was to just keep doing my thing and if it happens, great,” Sawyer said. “If not, it’s still a good game.”
Once the final out was recorded, Sawyer felt a wave of emotions.
“It was a lot of relief but it also felt great because I realized that it was my first start and I did so well,” Sawyer added. “It did loads for my confidence for the games after that.”
John Bapst is 5-4 on the season and is hoping to string some wins together heading into the postseason.
“We feel all right,” Sawyer said. “We know we have the skills to compete with anyone, it’s just a matter of going out and producing our product of baseball.”