As they took the field to warm up for their game against Huntington Ross, the Notre Dame Lady Titans were unaware of the history that would be made just a few hours later. It was just a typical game night for the Lady Titans, or so they thought, as the game was about to begin. By the end of the game Maggie Whitman would have achieved a feat not achieved by an area softball athlete in many years, a perfect game.
Tuesday night’s game started out like any other game of the season, according to Notre Dame softball coach JD Whitman.
“I could tell, I was talking to my assistant coaches and I told them Maggie seems to be really hitting her spots today,” Whitman said. “Her balls were moving good and the location was good, but you know, you’re never thinking a perfect game.”
The sophomore pitcher for Notre Dame had found a rhythm on the mound in Chillicothe, Ohio that evening. Her accuracy was pin-point, and all of her pitches seemed to be working for her.
None of the Lady Titans were thinking about a perfect game, as they were more concerned with getting the win, but after the game continued to roll on, one of Notre Dame’s assistant coaches realized none of the Huntington Ross batters had reached base yet.
“My assistant Hadsell took me to the side, and said, ‘coach, Maggie has a perfect game going,’” Whitman said. “I told him don’t mention it to any of the girls or Maggie.”
Whitman didn’t want any distractions coming to his players, as they were all completely focused on the game.
After realizing the possibility of a perfect game was in reach for his young pitcher, Whitman acknowledged he started to get nervous, especially in the sixth and seventh inning.
Whitman noted his pitch selections were getting tougher to make in the later innings, because he knew a wrong pitch selection could not only ruin a potential perfect game, but may also be the beginning of a Huntington Ross rally.
“We just kept mowing them down, and we went into the seventh inning,” Whitman said. “I was probably more nervous than anyone, because I was calling the pitches. I wanted to make sure I was calling the right pitch, because you know we have a chance to do something that doesn’t happen very often.”
Whitman recalled the seventh inning against Huntington Ross.
“She threw very few pitches in the last inning, it was just one, two, three,” Whitman said. “It was pretty amazing. I never imagined, there’s so many things that can happen. An error blows it, a walk blows it, and of course, a hit. We just seemed to have everything going for us that day. It was pretty special.”
Throughout the game, none of the Lady Titans went to a member of the coaching staff inquiring about the possibility of a perfect game. The closest remark came from Notre Dame’s center fielder, Hagen Schaefer.
“The only thing I heard during the game was Hagen Schaefer,” Whitman said. “She told Maggie, ‘dang Maggie, you’re zipping right through these girls.’ I heard her say that, but I didn’t hear anyone say we have a no-hitter going on, or anything. They probably didn’t realize it.”
There was plenty of support for Maggie’s perfect game. Offensively, the Lady Titans were sparked by a home run by Caitlyn Ball, which helped lead to the 6-0 win over Huntington Ross.
Maggie got some help in the field, by a clutch catch by Schaefer.
“There was a ball that was hit into shallow center field,” Whitman said. “Schaefer ran up and caught it just before hitting the ground. It was a shoe-string catch.”
After the final out was recorded, Whitman was first glad his team was able to get a win on the road.
“I was happy we won the ball game, and I was happy for Caitlyn Ball for hitting a home run,” Whitman said.
Once the game was over, Hadsell and another assistant, Bubba Webb, became excited and quickly spread the word about the perfect game.
“We shook hands and went out into the outfield to discuss what happened and when the next game is,” Whitman said. “Of course Caitlyn got her ball for hitting the home run, and I told the girls that something special happened tonight, and they all just looked at me, and I told them Maggie threw a perfect game, no runs, no hits, no errors, and that doesn’t happen very often.”
The Notre Dame sophomore had no idea the game against Huntington Ross would be such a special one. She knew her pitches were hitting right where she wanted them, but wasn’t feeling any different than from any other game.
Maggie credits her team’s defense, and her ability to place her pitches with great accuracy for her perfect game achievement.
“It was definitely our defense and where my pitches were going,” Maggie said. “Everything was just going the right way for us.”
About halfway through the game, Maggie began to realize none of the Huntington Ross batters had successfully reached base, but didn’t say anything about it.
In the final two innings, Maggie was completely concentrated on the game, and trying to continue to get batters out.
“I just didn’t want to mess it up,” Maggie said. “It was really cool.”
Her team’s defensive play Tuesday night against Huntington Ross gave Maggie more confidence throughout the game.
“I was very impressed with the way they were playing, and was very proud of them,” Maggie said.
Obviously excited for a team win, and for a no hit performance on the mound, Maggie didn’t really begin to understand what she had done until later in the evening after getting home from the game.
“It didn’t seem like a big deal at first,” Maggie said. “Once I got home and talked to my dad about it, it sunk in, and I just thought wow, that’s really cool actually.”
Looking back on the perfect game a few days later, Maggie thought of all the hard work she has done since she first started playing, at the age of eight years old.
“It’s always been a dream to play college ball, and reach all kinds of goals, during my high school career,” Maggie said. “It was cool to find out I threw a perfect game, and now it’s even more cool to realize it is extremely special.
Looking into the future, the Tuesday night in Chillicothe when no Huntington Ross batters were able to reach base, will be something Maggie plans on telling her future kids, and possible grand-kids.
Maggie is not completely satisfied with only a perfect game, as the young sophomore wants to see her team playing for a state championship before her time at Notre Dame is over.
To earn the perfect game, all 21 Huntington Ross batters had to be retired in order, without Maggie giving up a hit, walk, or any error from her or her teammates that would allow a batter to reach base.
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.