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Brock Weirather makes Pioneer history with a perfect game

Photo by Andrew Tucker

2021 Iowa College Media Association award winner, First Place – Best Print/Online Sports Reporting

“What’s the secret to success today?”

As he walked on to the field this past Sunday, April 25, Brock Weirather `21 asked his teammate Quentin Jehn `24 for his thoughts.

“Breathe man, just breathe” said Jehn.

The gameday started as any other: a lighter breakfast, some music and stretching. “I always do the same stretches. I am a little superstitious,” said Weirather. Four innings later, however, the normalcy began to fade as the idea of a perfect game permeated the Pioneers’ dugout.

“After the fourth inning, nobody was talking to me. They didn’t want to mess anything up,” said Weirather. Fast forward three more innings, and Weirather stood, hand shaking, atop the mound. “Why not? Let’s go try it,” he thought.

For baseball fans, “Why not?” may not capture the gravity of a perfect game. Unlike a no-hitter, a perfect game means that no batter ever reaches a base – not by hit, walk, error or being hit by a pitch. Since 2000, only 18 perfect games have been thrown in all of NCAA Division III baseball, and there have been only three this year. That being so, when the seventh inning rolled around on Sunday, Weirather tried not to focus on what this game could be; he was focused only on the three batters that stood in front of him.

Why not? Let’s go try it. – Brock Weirather

Knox’s first batter, Cole Shepard, sent Weirather’s second fastball racing towards Grinnell shortstop Riley Guieb `21. “It was actually hard ground ball,” said Weirather. “Riley made a good play. … Everybody collectively took a deep breath. We were scared, man.”

But Weirather’s focus held, and after Knox’s Christopher McTeague struck out swinging, Benjamin Bucher, their best hitter, stepped up to the plate. Perhaps unbeknownst to Bucher, he was now all that stood between Weirather becoming the second Pioneer in history to throw a perfect game, the only other being Jake Chavez `01 in 1999.

Weirather quickly got ahead with a count of 0-1 and then threw what he felt was a perfect fastball. The umpire disagreed, however, and the count came to 1-1. Bucher fouled the next two fastballs, and Weirather adjusted his grip.

“I have the change-up gripped in my glove, and I get up to the mound, and Justin puts down a fastball, outside.” Weirather stepped off, re-gripped, and returned to the mound. “If I’m going to lose the perfect game, then he’s going to have to hit my best pitch,” said Weirather. “I’m going to throw this fastball harder than anything I’ve thrown in my life. It’s gonna be his day or mine.”

Bucher swung hard, but Weirather’s fastball was already nestled in the mitt of Grinnell catcher Justin Williams `21. With that final pitch, Weirather cemented his place in Pioneer history.

“I looked back at the dugout and was like, ‘Let’s go!’, and then I just threw my hat down and sprinted and jumped into Justin’s arms,” recalled Weirather.

Weirather jumping into the arms of his catcher as he completed the perfect game. Photo by Justin Hayworth.

“I give just as much credit to Justin Williams as I do myself,” added Weirather. “He really caught an amazing game.”

As the Pioneer bench emptied and players dogpiled Weirather and Williams, Weirather’s mind returned to that moment: the final pitch. Having played baseball since he was three years old, that single moment was the culmination of almost twenty years of training, competition and a love for the game. What made it even more special for Weirather was that his dad – the man who taught him to pitch, who took him to fields every Sunday, who threw him countless baseballs – was there to see it.

“Once it was over, … I talked [to] the team for a minute, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to go see my dad,’ … and he was just bawling,” said Weirather. “It was surreal. One of the best moments. I will never forget it.”

Weirather embracing his father after the game concluded. Photo by Justin Hayworth.

After graduation, Weirather is headed to Virginia to play for the University of Richmond Spiders, and despite his excitement for the competition of Division I baseball, Weirather is focused on making the most of his final spring in Grinnell. “Right now, I’m just trying to soak it in and enjoy my last year as a Pioneer,” said Weirather. “[Grinnell] baseball has meant pretty much everything to me. My best friends are on this team. … it’s really been like my family.”

Since Weirather’s perfect game, he has received some national recognition. Most notably, honored the Pioneer as the “D3 Pitcher of the Week” and days later the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named him the division’s “Top Pitcher of the Week”.

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