What becomes of NCAA Perfect Game Pitchers?

University of Miami senior Javi Salas became only the 23rd pitcher to throw a perfect game in college baseball history. Salas went the full nine innings in a 17-0 drubbing of Villanova. The game had a human interest element as his brother Jorge Salas was in the broadcast booth and had the honor of calling his brother’s perfecto.

Salas joins a rare company of Division One pitchers who have thrown a perfect game in college; only 22 others have done so, the exact same amount of perfect games thrown in Major League baseball. Salas’ perfect game was the first one since UVA’s Will Roberts tossed one against George Washington almost two years prior. Part of the difficulty in throwing a perfect game in college (prior to Roberts’ perfect game, the last one was thrown in 2003 by Ohio State alum Greg Prenger. against Oakland (Michigan)), may be attributed to the increased offense that came with the introduction of supercharged metal bats. While the metal bat was introduced in 1974 to NCAA baseball, the estimation was 1988 when the supercharged metal bat era began. Incidentally it was the year prior that two perfect games, thrown by Memphis’ Mark Bowlan and Miami’s Kevin Sheary were thrown. Post Bowlan, a total of 8 perfect games were thrown, with the closest time between games being 381 days.

The focus however of this article is what happens to the pitchers who throw these perfect games. Did any go on to become all-stars? Major Leaguers? Drafted?

Here is the list of Division One Collegians that have thrown a perfect game as well as the year they did it. Note that all pictures are of players in college uniforms:

* indicates a 7 inning perfect game, ** indicates a 5 inning perfect game

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2014: Javi Salas (University of Miami)

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2011: Will Roberts (University of Virginia)

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2003: Greg Prenger (Ohio State University)*

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2002: Eric Brandon (Auburn University)

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2000: Chad Blackwell (University of Iowa) *

1997: John Stewart (Western Michigan University) *

1996: Chris McConnell (St. Francis University)

1991: Jason Johnson (Auburn University) *

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1987: Mark Bowlan (University of Memphis)

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1987: Kevin Sheary (University of Miami)

1980: Cliff Faust (University of Nebraska) *

1980: Joe Housey (University of New Orleans) *

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1973: Joe McIntosh (Washington State University) *

1972: Jim Jacobsen (Oklahoma State University) **

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Photo Courtesy of William Balfoort. I kid you not.

1971: Bill Balfoort (SUNY Buffalo) *

1971: Larry Angell (Washington State University) *

1968: Rick Austin (Washington State University) *

1967: Bruce Baudier (Louisiana State University) *

1967: Larry Gonsalves (Fresno State University)

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1965: Bob Schauenberg (University of Iowa)

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1965: George Dugan (Murray State University)

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1963: Don Woeltjen (University of Georgia)

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1959: Dick Reitz (University of Maryland)

If you had no idea who any of these pitchers were, don’t be disappointed. Out of the 23, only one went on to pitch in the Majors: Washington State’s Rick Austin. And if you think Austin had a long and prosperous career as a major leaguer, think again. Austin spent parts of four seasons pitching for the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers. His best season was his rookie season in 1971 when he went 2-5 with a 4.79 ERA, three saves and 53 strikeouts.

It’s not to say that none of the following didn’t go on to play baseball, in fact all but 6 were drafted to play. However, only one is currently playing professionally, Roberts, who’s in the Indians’ system and finished the previous season in Double-A. Roberts in all likelihood will be pitching for the Indians Triple-A team after spring training, and with his 24th birthday not until August, He does have a chance to pitch for the big league club at the rate he’s going, but in no way is Roberts an elite prospect, and in all likelihood, he’ll be a solid long reliever/spot starter.

Going back to the most recent perfect game pitcher, Salas, it’s likely he will be drafted, but not in a high round. Perhaps he’ll labor through the minor leagues, but unless he absolutely dominates, I see no reason that he makes a major league roster. College seniors come with an accelerated clock, meaning their window of opportunity closes a lot faster than a college junior. Unless the collegian is a reliever or a really bona fide early round draft pick, like Mark Appel, there is almost no reason to put stock in them.

So to answer the question, what becomes of NCAA perfect game pitchers, it’s quite simple: almost nothing. Sure, they get a weekly award from their conference, are enshrined in their school’s athletic hall of fame, maybe if they’re lucky, also the College Baseball Hall of Fame, and they most likely get drafted, but unless they’re really good, that college no-hitter is probably going to be the high point in their athletic career.

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