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Mesa's Gabe Wojtulewicz makes history on mound

Apr. 23—Gabe Wojtulewicz was going through his normal in-game routine every time he stepped on to the mound against North High School back on March 18.

He waited for his catcher, Stetson Crewse, to give him his signal. He then entered into his pitching motion. However in this game, things seemed to be clicking better than ever.

Batter after batter, North was unable to get on base against Wojtulewicz. By the time the fourth inning came around, North coaches took notice as to what was happening.

"I didn't really know about it until the other coach said something to his team," Wojtulewicz said. "You're not trying to throw [a no-hitter], you're just trying to keep executing strikes and the game plan trying to get everyone out. I was just trying to execute."

Mesa Head Coach Ray Figueroa made it a point not to mention Wojtulewicz's active no hitter when he returned to the dugout after each inning. Wojtulewicz kept quiet, too, not alerting any of his teammates — even the ones who knew — to how he was feeling or the pressure that was beginning to mount.

At the same time, Wojtulewicz kept his composure. He wasn't aiming for a no-hitter. He simply wanted the win. But as the final out was recorded and Mesa came away with a 12-0 win, commotion came from the stands.

A parent that was seated close to Wojtulewicz's grandma, who was keeping score, kept track herself. She couldn't help but blurt out two of the rarest words in baseball as it relates to a pitcher.

Perfect game.

"Even summer ball, this is the first time I had ever seen one of be involved in one," Figueroa said. "He's a special kid. He's good people and his family is good people. He works his butt off and he deserved it.

"It was special. It was very cool."

It took time for Wojtulewicz to realize what he had accomplished for Mesa. He became the first player to do it under Figueroa, and perhaps the first player ever to record a perfect game at Mesa High.

In the big leagues, just 15 perfect games were recorded from 1983-2023 — 44 seasons. In the 100-plus seasons prior to 1983, there were only nine.

"It's special," Wojtulewicz said. "Just to hear another person's mom tell me congratulations, it was awesome. My family was proud. They were cheering me on. They do that every day. They try to give me confidence."

It takes much more than Wojtulewicz's arm to capture such a feat. The defense for Mesa that game was on fire behind him, fielding grounders and making perfect throws to get runners out at first. The outfield was also on top of every fly ball.

Behind the plate, Crewse was making perfect calls for Wojtulewicz, who also happens to be one of his best friends. He was unaware of what was transpiring even in the game, despite catching for his fellow senior. He knew he was throwing well, but never could have imagined what it would turn into.

"I didn't really pay attention to it too much, I didn't really know about it myself," Crewse said. "I was just trying to lock in and get him strikes and stuff. We let the defense work, and it worked out. I'm proud of him."

Crewse was in the same boat as many of the players on Mesa's roster. At first, they thought he had accomplished only the no-hitter. It wasn't until they were on the bus when Figueroa and other coaches said it was a perfect game.

There were many cheers and congratulations thrown Wojtulewicz's way. Some players also poked fun at the situation as he garnered local media attention.

It was a bright spot in what was a tough season for Mesa. The Jackrabbits finished 5-13 and missed the playoffs.

Regardless, they've set a new standard for the Mesa program, one that centers on accomplishing amazing feats on the field and celebrating those accomplishments off it as family.

"We were all here four years and we all contributed a lot," Wojtulewicz said. "We were all close and we all tried to inspire the next generation. There are a lot of young players on this team that look up to us.

"Seeing how they do in the next few years will be very special to me."

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira.