May 23—Warming up in the bullpen, Thursday's baseball game against Bakersfield High wasn't really anything out of the ordinary for Frontier pitcher Hudson Barrett.
There was a certain degree of excitement for the junior left-hander, but then again, there always is when he prepares to take the mound.
But what Barrett didn't know at the time was that this day was going to be different. A day unlike he's ever experienced before — and perhaps may not experience ever again.
Ninety pitches. Sixty-seven strikes. 11 strikeouts. And no hits.
Barrett was dominant from his opening delivery, retiring the first 17 batters he faced in posting his first complete game, a no-hitter that stole the show during his team's 18-0 victory over the Drillers. It was the first no-hitter in school history.
"It didn't seem real at first," said Barrett, who also went 2 for 3 at the plate with a home run, a double, three RBIs and two runs scored. He has homered in three straight games and is hitting .500 (15 for 30).
"I finished the game and looked over at the dugout and saw them all running toward me, so I knew that they knew I did it. I had it in my mind in the fifth inning, but I decided to not think about it because I knew the baseball Gods would not let me have it. I just decided to block it out and keep pounding the zone."
The 17-year-old, who has committed to play at UC Santa Barbara, took a perfect game into the sixth and retired the first two hitters he faced, before a fielding error and a walk gave the Drillers their first baserunners. Barrett recovered to get Andrew Diaz to ground out to end the inning, and keep the "no-no" intact.
Barrett struck out the first two batters he faced and then hit pinch-hitter Sergio Flores with a 2-0 pitch as the drama began to build. After throwing a ball on his first offering, he enticed Nolan Arnold to hit a soft liner to shortstop where sophomore Jaycob Villalpando tracked it down to end the game.
"It was like do or die," said Villalpando, who started the game at second base but shifted to shortstop a few innings earlier as part of several Frontier substitutions. "You get it and you save his no-hitter and if you don't then he did all of that work for nothing. So no matter whether I had to dive or not, I was going to get it."
When the ball left Arnold's bat, Barrett wasn't so sure it was going to be caught.
"He hit it and I was like, 'oh no, that's going to fall, that's gonna fall,'" said Barrett, whose 90 pitches were all fastballs. "And I turned around and he peddled back and he caught it and I didn't know what to feel to be honest. I looked over at the dugout and guys were running at me, and I was like, 'I just did this.' It was just an amazing moment. I will never forget it."
Neither will Frontier coach Brandon Boren, a former standout at Stockdale, Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield. It was the first no-hitter he's been a part of.
"He's been incredibly consistent all year, pretty dominant and I know the record doesn't really show or do his performances justice," said Boren of Barrett, who is 2-3 with a 3.08 ERA this season, but had yet to pitch into the sixth inning prior to Thursday's gem. "He's had some real tough-luck losses. Today, watching him warm up, it looked like he just didn't have his normal stuff. His velocity was down a little bit and we're kind of interested to see (how he'd do), but his fastball command was just incredible. Command of both sides of the plate, got ahead in the count of pretty much everybody. He was just on point with his fastball all day. He was dominant with it.
"So it was fun to watch. There were a lot of 0-2 counts. Which is something that we preach. And he did that today, it was awesome."
After the last out, Barrett's teammates converged on him and Titans sophomore catcher Diego Rios, celebrating on the field and showering them with water.
"I was just shocked, pretty much," said Rios, who was making just his fourth varsity start after being called up from JV a few weeks back. "I was super, super proud of him. We just have a really good connection and pretty much celebrated the rest of the day."
As the players and coaches celebrated on the field, the Barrett family did the same with each other. Seated behind home plate for the game, Barrett's father, Kevin, mother Mikie, brothers Greyson and Carter and sister McKenna had the perfect vantage point for the action.
Greyson, a former baseball standout at Centennial and Taft College, had just returned a few days before from college where he plays at Texas Wesleyan. He had never seen his younger brother play a high school game prior to Thursday.
"It was fun," Mikie Barrett said. "It was a really special day. We've seen all of our kids do not-great and have those hard days where we know they're capable of more and then we've had these days where we've been fortunate enough to watch a lot of their special days, even if it's sometimes on livestream when they're out of town, but we're very, very grateful that we were able to be there."
Kevin Barrett, who played a season with the Bakersfield Fog and four years as either a player or assistant coach with the Condors, had a premonition before the game that there was something different about this game. As things began to unfold, and his son began to retire more batters, he and his family grew speechless.
"We didn't say a word," Kevin said. "We all sat together and 1-2-3 first, and a 1-2-3 second and I think after that no one said anything. I think strangely enough I think we all knew something was about to happen.
"It was just one of those days. Just something in the air. Heading to the game, I thought it was just different, I don't know how to explain it. It was just one of those things where no one said a word the rest of the way and we just kind of watched it play out."
And after that last out?
"It was one of those things like, 'Oh no,'" said Kevin as he watched the flight of the ball on the final out. "And then we saw the shortstop get under it ... It happened in slow motion to be honest ... and when (he caught it) ... for me, it was special because everyone got to see it. All those times where we've traveled all over and split up, and tried to get everyone to their events, to be able to watch it and share it with everyone, it was really special."
Heading into this season, Barrett had struggled with arm problems and pitched in only one game as a sophomore. But he was determined to improve and spent much of the past year working on getting stronger and improving as a pitcher.
"Hudson has always had a lot of personality, but now he is finally growing into his body and able to back up that personality with his performance," said Mikie Barrett, who started to leave the game after the fifth inning to take 8-year-old Carter to his baseball practice before being stopped by her husband. "We knew that was coming. He has worked so hard, even through COVID and everything, he's been working out in the garage or in parks or with his friends, or early in the morning when the gyms were closed and everything, he really has not taken his foot off the gas during this whole time. And I couldn't be prouder of that because it's hard to stay motivated when everything is closed and there's no things to go to and even be with his peers. So it's paying off for him.
"We've kept telling him, just keep doing what you're doing. My husband always will tell him, the baseball Gods will reward you for doing the hard work and doing the right thing. Just keep doing it and it will come. And sure enough it has. And this is really a little taste. I really think that he's capable of a lot more."