Twenty-seven up, twenty-seven down.
Hard to do any better than that.
That’s why they call it a perfect game.
Duke’s Bryce Jarvis became the 31st pitcher since the NCAA started counting in 1957 to throw a perfect game on February 21st, when he mowed down Cornell in an 8-0 win.
Jarvis struck out 15 batters, with 10 ground outs and two fly outs.
He only reached a three-ball count once, while throwing only 94 pitches.
“This was the best that I’ve felt in the bullpen in a long time,” Jarvis said. “My mindset was to go out there and control what I can control. Once the ball leaves my hand, there’s nothing that I can do about it. I have to trust that my defense is going to make a play if they put it in play. After the pitch leaves my hand, it’s on to the next one.”
No one could ever expect a perfect game of course. But if anyone from Duke was going to pull it off, it was going to be Jarvis, selected a pre-season All-America by the National Collegiate Baseball Coaches Association and D1 Baseball and the Golden Spikes watch list.
Jarvis’ father Kevin pitched 13 seasons in the majors, going 34-49.
Bryce went to high school in Franklin, Tennessee, near Nashville, where he attended Brentwood Academy. No, he was not recruited by Vanderbilt, which he says doesn’t bother him at all because he would have gone to Duke anyway.
Perfect Game—the organization, not the accomplishment—ranked him as the nation’s 347th best player, 115th best pitcher. He was voted 2017 Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association Division Player of the Year.
In other words, a major recruit for Duke.
Jarvis had a solid freshman season, mostly as a midweek starter and spot reliever. But he really came into his own down the stretch last season after presumptive aces Graeme Stinson and Adam Laskey were shut down with arm injuries after giving Duke 12 and 9 innings respectively.
Duke opened their NCAA-Tournament run in Morgantown, West Virginia, the third seed in a regional hosted by West Virginia. Duke opened with an 8-5 win over Texas A&M. Jarvis got the start in the winner’s bracket game, matched against Mountaineers ace Alex Manoah, the 11th pick of the 2019 MLB draft (Toronto).
Jarvis responded with a masterpiece, eight shutout innings to fuel a 4-0 Duke win. On the road, in the biggest game of Manoah’s career.
“It was one of the best jobs if not the best job, of just managing the moment.” Duke coach Chris Pollard said after the game, “and not letting everything that’s going on around you affect your ability to perform.”
“We knew we had to make it through that game,” Jarvis recalled a few weeks ago. “Just kind of taking it one game at a time, one inning at a time, one out at a time. Me going out there and trying to put zeros out on the board and keep our team in it.”
Another win over A&M and Duke was at Vanderbilt for a best-of-three Super Regional matchup, the winner advancing to the College World Series.
Duke stunned the college-baseball-universe with an 18-5 win in the opener.
Jarvis was matched against Kumar Rocker, the nation’s best freshman pitcher in the second game.
Jarvis was magnificent, seven innings, one run allowed.
But Rocker was beyond magnificent, a no-hitter, with 19 strikeouts and only two walks. The Duke bullpen allowed two more runs, Duke lost 3-0 and lost the rubber-match the next game.
Vanderbilt went on to win the College World Series.
Jarvis had spent the 2018 summer pitching in the prestigious Cape Cod League. But he ended 2019 with 75.2 innings, leading Duke with 94 strikeouts.
That was enough pitching for the year.
But Jarvis did not rest on his laurels.
He worked in the weight room, adding 15-20 pounds and 3-5 miles per hour on his fastball. He’s 6-2, about 200 pounds, up from 170 as a high-school senior and hits 95 miles per hour on the radar gun.
He also spent time working with Driveline Baseball, a performance training company.
“It was more pitch design, tweaking my slider to make room for the addition of my curve ball. My slider has always been a little unpredictable. Sometimes it’s more vertical, sometimes it’s more horizontal. So focusing in on what I needed to do to make it more horizontal so I could have that vertical curveball was a thing I needed to do.”
That improved fastball?
“I’m not much of a pitch-to-contact guy. I’ve had a fair amount of strikeouts but the added velo definitely helps. Overall that will help with the swing-and-miss. That was one of the main goals in order to be an established starter in the ACC and at the next level. Guys are throwing harder and harder. It was something that needed to be done.”
Pollard certainly noticed.
“Probably never in my career have I been in a position where you go into a season with a guy slated to throw Friday night that has Bryce’s combination of experience, pitchability and competitiveness. He’s got the stuff to go along with it. He’s bigger and stronger. He’s spent the off-season working on his body. He’s worked to incorporate the curve ball to be a really good fourth pitch. And he’s added velocity. He has the best resume of anybody I’ve had in my career to slot into that Friday night slot.”
Have I mentioned that Jarvis is majoring in mechanical engineering and is an academic All-ACC selection? His roommate, Duke closer Thomas Girard, shares that major, which means the duo spend a lot of time together.
To their benefit.
“We butt heads a lot,” Girard says “but we grow by spending time together and having struggles together.”
“It’s great to have someone to work through baseball stuff, school work,” Jarvis adds. “We challenge each other to get better every day, whether it’s throwing or lifting weights or whatever. We complement each other nicely.”
Hard work and talent. A pretty good combination, perhaps one that will enable Jarvis and the Blue Devils to take that last step to Omaha.