OK, so Konner Wade pitched a complete-game shutout at the College World Series. He's not alone. It's been done 78 times. Dave Winfield did it, and who even remembers that he played anything except right field?
The troubled Steve Howe did it, and so did future major-leaguers Burt Hooton, Dave Giusti and the co-goat of the Red Sox 1986 World Series, Calvin Schiraldi.
So did Rincon High grad Jim Crawford, who was probably the greatest pitcher in CWS history. The Arizona State lefty pitched 21 innings from 1969 to 1972 and didn't allow an earned run. Career ERA in Omaha: 0.00.
But for theatrics and the unexpected, you've got to go a long way to match Arizona's six CWS shutouts. The only thing those games have in common is that the opponent finished with 0 in Omaha.
Arizona arrived at the 1955 CWS shaken and stirred. Part of it was that an engine to the DC-3 that carried the Wildcats from Tucson to Omaha conked out briefly and caused all aboard to think more about meeting their maker than their opening-game opponent, Western Michigan.
No wonder the Wildcats were shocked 4-1.
But in Game 2, the UA's legacy of Goose Egg pitching took flight. Carl Thomas struck out 15 Springfield College hitters, allowed two hits, and was so dominant that Springfield coach Archie Allen told this newspaper, "He is a pitcher out of this world. He's a major-leaguer right now."
Thomas was in the big leagues by 1960 and remains the gold standard of UA pitching history, 35-5 overall.
Before the Wildcats advanced to Game 3, the pressure intensified. Colorado State coach Pete Butler became The Big Story when he told reporters that Arizona belonged in the CWS only "over my dead body."
"They're a bunch of ringers," he protested, arguing that Arizona played a pro-type schedule (spending 12 days in California) and didn't properly attend to academia.
To silence Butler, the UA trotted out Tucson High grad Benny Rincon, a big-game pitcher who would go 21-1 in his final two UA seasons and twice pitch the THS Badgers to state championships.
Arizona won 20-0, in effect, making Butler a dead baseball body.
"I even hit a home run," says Rincon, who is retired and living in Pinetop. "People say Colorado State wasn't very good, but look it up: They beat USC before we beat them; they were exceptional."
CSU went to Omaha nine times under Butler, but on a day Rincon struck out 10 batters, UA coach Frank Sancet showed no mercy. He left Rincon in the entire game.
"I was watching Wade pitch Sunday night," says Rincon. "But I went to bed before he completed his shutout. "
Why not? He'd seen it before.
Shutout No. 3 in Arizona's Omaha history came a year later, 1956, when Donnie Lee pitched a two-hitter, striking out 12, in the opener against NYU.
"One of those hits was a bunt," Lee remembers. "I had lost three straight games at the World Series, so I was very motivated. There were about 40 big-league scouts in the stands, and I was at my best."
That wasn't rare for Lee, a major-leaguer from 1957 to 1966. He was 36-7 as a Wildcat lefty with a career ERA of 1.77. Shutouts weren't rare for Lee; he is the UA's career leader, with eight. (How good is that? Current Arizona ace Kurt Heyer has three.)
Arizona's CWS shutout No. 4 came two days later, June 11, 1956. It might have been the most dramatic game of the 35 Arizona has won in Omaha, and that includes the remarkable comeback to beat Maine on Dave Shermet's pinch-hit homer in 1986.
Pitcher Ernie Oosterveen (who was also a starter on the UA basketball team) shut out New Hampshire through nine innings, striking out 11 on four hits. But the Wildcats had not scored either. Precipitating a huge controversy to lead off the bottom of the ninth, Wildcat outfielder Harry Messick was hit by a pitch - or not. He later admitted it had hit his bat, not his arm.
Incredibly, Arizona won with three consecutive bunts by Tom Clarkson, Craig Sorensen and pinch hitter Glen Festin.
Messick scored on Festin's suicide squeeze down the first base line giving Arizona a 1-0 victory.
After the game, rather than relish Messick's resourceful run or reflect on Oosterveen's shutout, Sancet moaned about "our terrible hitting. … It stinks."
Sancet was correct; three days later the run-challenged Wildcats were eliminated 12-1 by shortstop Jerry Kindall's Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Shutout No. 5 came in 1980 when Craig Lefferts beat Michigan 8-0. It was surely unexpected; it was the only shutout of Lefferts' college career. Nor would he pitch a shutout in 12 major-league seasons.
And now, Konner Wade, who was born 36 years after Carl Thomas pitched Arizona's first CWS shutout, makes it a Six Pack.
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or firstname.lastname@example.org