Warming up before a recent start, St. Louis University pitcher Cody Luther struggled with his control.
He couldn’t spot his pitches. He didn’t know where the ball was going.
“I didn’t feel that good,” he said. “But everyone says those can be your best days.”
It turned out to be the best day by a SLU pitcher in more than half a century.
Luther pitched the first nine-inning no-hitter on the SLU records since 1961, a drought of about 2,600 games.
The no-hitter was the first for Luther at any level and featured only one real threat — a line drive into the outfield gap that was run down by center fielder Corrigan Bartlett in the third inning.
No-hitters in the college game are not a rarity. In fact, there were a record 23 during the 2018 season. From 1961 to 2018, there were 501 recorded at the Division I level.
But the last one at SLU was so long ago that records made it unclear who had done it last. SLU lists Larry Scherer with the last nine-inning effort on May 1, 1961. After Luther’s outing, officials were informed that John Marcum threw one in 1966.
“A lot of things have to go right,” SLU coach Darin Hendrickson said. “You would think someone would have gotten one with a lot of the good players that have been here. But Cody was really good that day. It was fun to be a part of and put some life into our team.”
Luther followed up by working eight innings and allowing one run on four hits at Fordham on Friday to improve to 6-2. SLU has struggled this season to a 17-21 record (6-6 in the Atlantic 10), but Luther has been a positive development.
The 6-foot-5 righthander is not overpowering, although he has recorded 11 strikeouts in each of his last two outings.
His speed peaks in the high 80s, and he relies on off-speed pitches and movement. He generates a lot of ground balls with his sinker.
“Usually one will sneak through at some point,” Hendrickson said. “But nothing did.”
That mix has put him on a good run. He was perfect for four innings the weekend before the no-hitter.
Despite the poor warmup, Luther started the no-hitter with a three-pitch strikeout. He followed with another strikeout. St. Bonaventure had its first base runner when Luther issued a walk to start the fourth. The Billikens wiped out the runner with a double play.
“I kind of look at the scoreboard every inning, so after the first inning I saw no hits and thought, ‘Good. Keep it that way,’” he said.
Hendrickson said he had preached to his pitchers in previous weeks about trying to be more efficient. He wanted to see his starters work deeper into games.
The Billikens don’t have the type of starter they had last season in Miller Hogan, who logged 105 innings. Luther leads SLU with 62 innings thrown and no one else has more than 53. He has now thrown the team’s only complete game.
In doing so, the Billikens’ dugout took the usual approach.
“When he got through seven innings, people started to notice,” Hendrickson said. “But it was the old adage of not jinxing the pitcher or talking about it or bringing attention to it.”
The final out was recorded on a ground out to third baseman Shane Benes. He bobbled the ball and then made the throw in time.
“He told me he was going to make sure that if the guy was going to be safe, he was going to air mail it,” Luther said of Benes.
Because SLU had a doubleheader that day, Luther didn’t check his phone for another few hours. By the time he did, word of his achievement had spread.
“It was pretty blown up,” he said. “People I haven’t heard from in awhile, people from high school and my travel ball team had texted.”
Said Hendrickson, “He’s had a great year. He’s been our best pitcher for sure as a starter. It’s a neat way to cap off his senior year.”