- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Beneath a charcoal-gray sky, Peters finally begins the biggest game of his life. Seated behind home plate is Red Murph, the very scout who discovered Ryan more than 25 years before. Peters gulps, twists through his quirky windup and throws. Ball, too high. He is nervous and slightly pale. His next pitch is low, but swung on for a strike. Then Peters throws two more strikes for a K. He strikes out the second batter. Then the third. Pressure that.
Hastily, as if to spare his teammate as much angst as possible, Cubs right-fielder John Schulte lines the first pitch from Consolidated's Brent Ives for a double. One hitter later, Peters singles to right to knock Schulte in. Peters 1, Consolidated 0. Is Jill watching?
The Cubs come up with another for a 2-0 lead, but when Peters returns to the mound, he begins to falter. He walks the first A & M hitter, then, with two outs, walks another on four straight balls. The unthinkable go-ahead run is at the plate. Another ball, his fifth straight. Had he invited the world to his own funeral?
He takes off his cap to wipe his brow. On the underside of the brim, where no one can see, he has written one word: NOLAN.
Two hellacious fastballs later, he moves the count to 1 and 2, wastes one, then punches the batter out on a curve. It is 3-zip in the third when Peters whiffs the side again. And when Brenham lights up A & M for five more runs and an 8-0 lead in the bottom half of the inning, the question is not will Peters get No. 51, it's will he have the audacity to do it with a no-hitter?
"I was standing in the dugout," he would say later, "and I was thinking, Nolan lost his no-hitter the other night [with one out in the ninth to Toronto]. I'm not gonna lose mine."
That settled, he opens the fifth with two strikeouts—his 11th and 12th in 14 outs—then allows Consolidated its deepest penetration of the night, a popup to the shortstop no higher than a Pop Warner punt.
In Texas high school baseball, a team that is ahead by 10 runs in the fifth inning is the winner, and now the question is whether the Cubs can secure Peters' no-hitter without his having to go back to the mound. Two runs will wrap it up. Brenham's Tadd Maass triples to start the inning and is singled home by pinch hitter Joel Wellmann. It's 9-0. Another single and an out later. Nix approaches the plate with the game-ending run at second base. "Go up there and end this thing right now, O.K.?" Peters says in the on-deck circle.
But Nix has a better sense of theater than that. He strikes out, leaving Peters with a delicious chance to consume the night totally. He can not only write the Great American Novel, he can star in the movie, too.
Two outs. The photographers and the minicams creep closer to the base paths. Four thousand or so edge forward on their benches and lawn chairs and roofs and forklifts. Even the Santa Fe guards turn their backs to the tracks to watch.