Tim Corbin is the only person in college baseball who can stop Jack Leiter right now, and on Friday night, he did.
Corbin is Leiter’s coach at Vanderbilt, and as much as he loves having the right-hander on the mound, Corbin’s choice was clear: there was nothing he could do except end Leiter’s bid for a second straight no-hitter.
Leiter, who put up all zeroes against South Carolina on Saturday, striking out 16, was twirling another gem at Missouri, this time with 10 strikeouts and two walks through seven innings. The problem was, Leiter was at 101 pitches, having thrown 124 to complete his no-hitter last weekend.
The game was already well in hand with an 11-run lead for the country’s top-ranked team, but even if it wasn’t, Corbin is entrusted with Leiter’s obviously bright future. It would be irresponsible to have let him go further, and Corbin didn’t.
And, hey, a team no-hit bid is still plenty exciting. The Tigers couldn’t touch Chris McElvain, who struck out three and walked one in the eighth inning, then freshman lefty Nelson Berkwich came on for the ninth and got a strikeout and a walk. The bid came to an end with pinch-hitter Tre Morris, who singled to right-center field on an 0-1 pitch. After Chad McDaniel reached on an error, Torin Montgomery blasted a three-run homer to spoil the shutout.
Leiter moved to 6-0 with a 0.25 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 36 innings this season, having allowed only seven hits for an .062 opponents’ batting average. For perspective on how good that is, because yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds, Bartolo Colon had an .084 average in his major league career.
Such dominant pitching had former No. 1 overall draft pick Ben McDonald thinking that he was watching a pitcher following in his footsteps. Vanderbilt already has had two top picks, with David Price in 2007 and Dansby Swanson in 2015. The funny thing is, it’s long been thought that Kumar Rocker could be this year’s No. 1 pick, and Rocker went to 6-0 himself in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, holding Missouri to two runs (one earned) on five hits with five strikeouts and two walks in six innings — his ERA is now at 0.73.
Could Leiter and Rocker, in one order or the other, be the top two picks in July? To answer the question of whether that’s ever happened before, no it hasn’t, and that — not making no-hitter history — is what Corbin is rightly focused on facilitating.